10 Fresh Sponsorship Ideas

Innovative ways to boost your event's bottom line

Maximizing Recognition
You've sealed the deal and collected the checks. Here's how to provide visibility that will please sponsors and encourage their continued support.

• Praise publicly. Verbally acknowledge key sponsors in introductory remarks. Display the names of sponsors in visible spots around the event, via banners and signs. During receptions or meals, show slides or video loops listing sponsors.

• Spread the word. Create a section of the show directory that lists sponsors and/or add a sponsor "thanks" page to the event app.

• Give them perks. Thank sponsors at a private reception held during the event. Make it even more exclusive by inviting top clients and other VIPs to the reception, giving sponsors unique access.

• Send a letter. Always send a personal note of thanks. Be sure to outline why the sponsorship was important and how you valued their participation, recommends Holmdel, N.J.-based trade show consultant Sylvia Allen. - L.A.G.

Editor's note: For even more fresh sponsorship ideas, click here 

Traditional sponsorship opportunities --
 signs, banners, show directories, to name a few -- still have their place, but why stop there? Show organizers are finding new ways to bolster their coffers by helping companies impress their target audience.

On the following pages, M&C rounds up 10 of the freshest ways to secure sponsors for meetings and events.

 1. Event apps. These are attractive vehicles for sponsors to support. Opportunities for sponsorship include the splash page (opening page) of the app or certain functions (show map, schedules, etc.). Or, sponsors might buy banner ads that appear in sections of the app.

"Sponsors like apps because they can determine how many users viewed the app or clicked their ad," notes Donna Kastner, director, expo/sponsor sales and activation, at Twinsburg, Ohio-based Velvet Chainsaw Consulting. However, she warns event organizers to keep the users in mind. "Don't get too money-hungry and line up 17 sponsors; it can jeopardize your attendees' app experience.

Users can get turned off and even stop using the app if there are too many ads to click through," she says.

Also consider whether the convention facility has enough bandwidth to support all potential users during the show. If not, even that scenario can be turned into a sponsorship opportunity: Kastner says a firm can sponsor a code, embedded within the app, that gives users faster connections and the ability to view videos via a higher bandwidth. Users access the code by clicking into the sponsor's ad.

For a detailed look at best practices on app design and usage, go to here.

 2. Interactive walls.
 New high-tech display walls are drawing crowds at events. Among the most innovative is the 10-foot-high interactive graffiti wall from 3D Media Group (3d-mediagroup.com), where up to four attendees at a time can electronically create messages or even artwork. Images can be printed on the spot as a giveaway, further extending the marketing opportunity.

The interactive video wall from PSAV (psav.com) works like an iPad. The wall, available in sizes of up to 11 feet high, is equipped with 32 touch points that can be used to display maps, games, presentations and schedules, all of which can be sponsored.

Both walls also have the ability to digitally display any sponsor's name and logo.
 3. Charging stations. Even on a crowded trade show floor, charging stations for portable electronic devices get noticed and usually are in great demand. Potential sponsors will recognize the high visibility of signage on such a well-used resource. Among firms that rent out kiosks specifically for this function is SmartSource Computer & Audio Visual Rentals (smartsourcerentals.com).

A word of caution: It's a good idea to post a notice on each kiosk that clearly states that individual users are responsible for any devices left unattended, suggests Melinda Kendall, vice president of business solutions at The Freeman Co., based in Dallas.

 4. Wi-Fi . Wi-Fi charges can be a big expense for planners. Jeremy Lus­ki, director of event operations for New York City-based Breakbulk Magazine & Events, often has Wi-Fi connectivity covered by a sponsor. "They get the recognition by having their logo on the login page," he says, "as well as on a chip we hand out during registration, which displays the login code on one side and the sponsor's logo on the other."

 5. QR-code games. Games and scavenger hunts that make use of QR codes, which attendees scan with their smartphones or tablets, increasingly are becoming popular components of trade shows. For each code scanned, users get a clue that leads them to the booth of a sponsor. Attendees who complete the hunt typically earn some type of small prize or are entered in a drawing for a larger prize (which also can be sponsored).

The best of these hunts, says Freeman's Melinda Kendall, at some point requires participants to engage directly with a live sponsor. "Don't let scanning codes be the only requirement of the hunt," she advises. "It's better to require the attendees to get answers to trivia questions by talking directly from someone in the booth."

That's how Angela Mootz, membership services director at the Austin-based Texas Society of Association Executives, operates QR-code scavenger hunts at her organization's events. "I think smaller exhibitors really appreciate it, since it gives them more traffic than they typically would get," she says.

A number of firms can create such activities; Mootz uses Scanvenger Hunt (scanvengerhunt.biz).

Luring the Big Spenders
Luring the Big Spenders
Show organizers tend to offer far too many conference elements for sponsorship, says Donna Kastner, left, director, expo/sponsor sales and activation, at Twinsburg, Ohio-based Velvet Chainsaw Consulting. Low-cost opportunities such as conference bag inserts offer little value to the attendee and, as a result, poor return on investment for the sponsor. A better strategy: Cut back on low-value sponsorships to help exhibitors and sponsors spend their marketing dollars more wisely.

Bundle the deal. Maximize the impact by offering sponsorship packages. Show how you will spotlight sponsoring firms several times during the conference cycle, including pre- and post-event, via sponsored webcasts, white papers, blogs, etc., as well as recognition posted on the conference or organization's website.

Be strategic. Consider large industry suppliers or supporting organizations that are, or have the potential to be, major sponsors of your event. Before asking a company for support, find out its key goals, challenges and growth targets. You'll be in a better position to recommend sponsorship bundles that target the company's objectives.

Go to the top. Too often, trade show sales teams have conversations with sponsoring firms' "budget spenders" (sales and marketing directors) rather than with the "budget makers" (vice presidents, COOs, CEOs). Kastner advises enlisting the leadership team to help reach the decision-makers in the C-suite, before sponsorship dollars are allocated for the event. They might see the value in making a bigger invesment. - L.A.G.

6. Keynotes and sessions. When a sponsor funds a high-profile event such as the keynote or opening general session, they often are invited to show a short video or speak about their services -- essentially a short commercial. Donna Kastner suggests breaking the mold by having the sponsor present a brief video highlighting key issues that will be discussed in this session.

Another option: Have the sponsor record a brief conversation with the conference speaker; the video can be emailed to registrants before or during the event and shared via channels like Twitter or YouTube. Kastner says this type of messaging allows sponsors to be seen as a thought leaders in the industry, rather than just product peddlers.

7. Play stations. Stress is ubiquitous these days, so why not create an environment where weary attendees can get unwind for a brief spell? Jeremy Luski recommends asking a firm to sponsor an activity zone, outfitted with pingpong and pool tables, where show visitors can unwind and let off some steam. Among suppliers who rent games and equipment is Wow! Entertainment (wowincevents.com).

8. Special offers. Donna Kastner says the most effective sponsorships give sponsors exposure to their audience before, during and after an event (see "Luring the Big Spenders," left). To that end, Michael Reynolds, president and CEO of SpinWeb, a marketing firm based in Indianapolis, recommends that event organizers create a "Groupon-style" email campaign, based on the popular daily deal service that sends discounted offers to subscribers.

"Associations can run their own mini-Groupon service by setting an expectation that every week or month, their members will receive a special email offer for a discounted product or service from a sponsor," says Reynolds, whose company specializes in new media. "The association gets revenue, the sponsor gets exposure and leads beyond the event, and members get a discount on relevant products or services."

9. Free head shots. Attendees appreciate products and services that boost their professional development and stature, and one such service is to offer complimentary head shots taken by a professional photographer in the sponsor's booth.

The New York chapter of Site featured such a perk during this year's spring education week; the sponsor upped the ante by also having a professional makeup artist on-hand to help participants look their best.
10. Green goods. Green sponsorship has been around for at least a decade, but it remains a popular vehicle for companies to have their names associated with something that protects the environment.

Consider a sustainable water station, where sponsors supply logoed water dispensers on the trade show floor or buyers' lounge. Another idea: a green pavilion, prominently displaying the sponsor's name and logo, where attendees can learn how to make their industry and events more sustainable.

For more green sponsorships ideas, contact Portland, Ore.-based MeetGreen (meetgreen.com).