Adding Value to Digital Sponsorships

How to build lasting partnerships to support virtual meetings

For much of this year, meeting professionals have kept a laser focus on delivering great content for digital events. And truly savvy planners have expanded their attention to drive more value for sponsors, as well.

The fact is, 82 percent of respondents to Northstar Meetings Group’s most recent Pulse survey said many of their events going forward will be online only. Securing repeat sponsors is the key to monetizing these current and future meetings. 

Yes, it can be a challenge to create compelling packages without in-person networking or physical spaces for brand exposure. But there are countless ways to add value to digital sponsorships. These five steps can help keep satisfied partners coming back.

Step #1: Paint a clear picture

This might be the first virtual-event deal for many of your sponsors. You should help them see the full scope of the opportunity.

  • Give sponsors time to prepare. Now that most online events have more lead time, share the details weeks, or even months, in advance when possible. For example, will attendees have dedicated times to visit the exhibit hall? What are your plans for networking? How long after the event will sponsors be able to access data? Will you provide reports to help sponsors measure their return on investment?
  • Build a virtual-event media kit. Before contacting prospects, create renderings of your welcome and session pages, the exhibit hall, and booths. Include mock-ups of how ads will appear on the page, the way marketers do with other digital properties. 
  • Let sponsors access the platform well ahead of time. Even if you have no renderings, this will help ensure they come to your event prepared. 

Step #2: Make virtual showrooms sticky

When your sessions and showroom run at the same time, they compete for attention. Without careful event design, exhibitor booths can get overlooked. 

  • Set showroom times during session breaks. Make the hours convenient, instead of at the end of a long conference day.
  • Provide easy access for attendees. It can be frustrating to keep returning to the event home screen; instead, put the exhibit hall on your navigation bar and let visitors click from sponsor to sponsor. 
  • Use gamification. Allow participants to earn points for visiting booths using scavenger hunts and by scheduling appointments with exhibitors. Use leaderboards to track the most engaged participants, while raising sponsor visibility.

Step #3: Boost exposure before the event

Great sponsorship packages offer more than ads and exhibit space. They start adding value before the event starts.

  • Put sponsors in the limelight in social media posts promoting your event. Make their logos stand out on your website, registration page and confirmation emails.
  • Use matchmaking technology. These tools recommend people for sponsors to connect with based on shared interests, and give sponsors the opportunity to schedule one-on-one meetings with top prospects.
  • Send promotional emails featuring exhibitors and speakers. Showcase their logos, sessions and booths. Email marketing delivers valuable metrics like number of opens, number of downloads and how many appointments have been scheduled. You can adjust as needed to send sponsors more leads.
  • Mobilize your event app. Push notifications are another way to get eyes on sponsors. Generate interest by highlighting chat features and video demos at booths. 

Step #4: Add value with activations

In the current economy, many exhibitors will not have the extra money in their budgets to sponsor speaker sessions. Expand the opportunity with tiered sponsorships to take advantage of the accessibility of virtual events.

  • Offer five-minute speaking slots to smaller sponsors at the start of each session. Or, have session moderators highlight sponsor-related products or services that can be seen in your exhibit hall or on your sponsor page.
  • Take inspiration from YouTube and use sponsored videos as transitions between sessions. Sponsors can share useful information in two-minute videos. Add in logos and links to websites or booths to help raise brand awareness.
  • Let major sponsors follow up their speaking sessions with breakouts. Small ask-the-expert sessions can set the stage for more personalized connections between buyers and sellers.
  • Create memorable moments with sponsored entertainment. Why not feature 15-minute music breaks with live deejays? Or, switch things up between sessions with a bit of meditation or yoga.
  • Build virtual swag bags. Sponsors can offer online gifts, such as free software trials, courses, books, meal vouchers and more that speak to their brands.

Step #5: Deliver robust reports

A big advantage of virtual platforms is the ability to collect attendee engagement data easily throughout your event. The systems put everything in one place; information is ready to be pulled up at a moment’s notice. 

  • Track key metrics. Email opens, clicks on ads, dwell time with exhibitors, length of time in sessions, questions, comments, views, downloads, leads, digital networking, website traffic, and social media likes and shares should all be available for evaluation.
  • Customize sponsor reports. This will help them tie hard numbers to their ROI for the event.
  • Enable timely, personalized follow-up. Be sure to deliver reports within a day or two of your event.
  • Leverage attendee data to create affinity groups for top-tier sponsors. They can gain fresh insights on buyer preferences and pain points. This business intelligence can help them improve marketing programs moving forward.

In short, you can add value to digital-event sponsorships through social media, event apps, email marketing, content, ads, matchmaking, speaking sessions, showrooms, lunches, prizes, entertainment, reporting and more.

Kristen Carvalho is director of events and content marketing at Aventri, a global technology provider of virtual, hybrid and in-person events.