Virtual Event Sponsorship: The Same (If Not More) Opportunities Available as an In-Person Event

ITA Group
ITA Group

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How do you generate event sponsorship revenue when the traditional in-person methods have gone virtual?

Traditional on-site banners, massive signage, specially named lounges or convention halls and face-to-face meetings are not an option.

If you already have sponsors for an upcoming in person event, how do you translate the feel and attention they were expecting to an online environment?

Here’s the good news: With every in-person opportunity for sponsor placement, there’s a new one for virtual events if you think big-picture and are willing to try some creative strategies.

The Rules Are the Same for Virtual Events: Align With Goals & Objectives

Running a virtual conference is very similar to running a physical event. At the end of the day, it is about providing your sponsors (and attendees, of course) with the best experience possible. Review the goals and objectives of your sponsors and attendees and map to the best virtual platform and deliverables to fulfill those goals.

Like you would for an in-person event, prioritize your audience wants and needs. Focus on providing valuable information that’s clear and easy to use, and present it through an experience that’s engaging and relevant to your audience.

Provide Clear Value to Your Sponsors

Although the cost of a virtual event is typically less than an in-person event, virtual events do cost money. Having sponsors helps to cover your cost and expand your reach with co-marketing opportunities.

In order to attract sponsors you will need to provide them with information in the form of a sponsor prospectus. Consider what you would offer sponsors at an in-person event and if those options still work. A mobile event app will still allow you to offer sponsors the same opportunities. Virtual events don’t require a complete departure from what you normally offer.

To create a cohesive and thorough prospectus, you will need to have mapped out everything from your virtual event theme to your agenda. You might think that virtual events exclusively present digital sponsorship options, but creative planners can always find a way to deliver unexpected value. Especially given the current global situation, give some thought to how you can help your sponsors provide value to your attendees.

One option is creating different tiers for sponsorships, just like you would a physical event. For example, have your highest tier include a virtual booth, a speaking spot and a dedicated email before the event. Your mid-tier might include a virtual booth and a speaking spot on a panel. And your lower tiers might include only a virtual booth.

Other ways to provide value include:

  1. Branding & Awareness
    Tying your sponsorship to engagement is a great way to make sure people are paying attention to the brand and getting maximum exposure. That’s why sponsored games, raffles, charity drives and collaborative activities work so well. Event apps can greatly help with this as many include gamification features that can be used in a virtual environment like icebreaker challenges to encourage networking or scavenger hunts and quizzes individuals or teams can compete in for fun.

    It may not be possible to hand out branded T-shirts or phone chargers during your virtual event but that doesn't mean you have to forget about physical branding entirely. If you do want to include giveaways, you have the option of sending items directly to your attendees either before or after the event. Or allowing them to pick out their own items in an online swag store.  Work with your sponsors to provide something people actually need and will feel grateful to have received from you. This could be hand sanitizer, a meal kit or snack box subscription with logos or company description on it.

    While logistically more difficult, you could take this a step further and partner with a local delivery or catering service and have lunch delivered to attendees during the event or send an electronic gift card for local food delivery.
     
  2. Messaging & Content
    Sponsored content is a perfect way to get your sponsors involved and in front of your attendees. They can provide quality knowledge, showcase a demo of their product or simply spread the word on social media.

    A more specific option could be to encourage your sponsors to share their content at their virtual booth. Or you could consider asking them to host or sponsor a session on a relevant topic. If you were hosting a physical event, part of your sponsorship package may include a session or presentation led by your sponsor. This is an opportunity you can just as easily provide with a virtual event. Offer higher tier sponsors one of the main keynote sessions and then include it among those that receive more publicity, or lower-tier sponsors a the opportunity to  prompt attendees to view a short video ad designed by your sponsor during breaks. 

    This gets their name out there while also providing quality content to your audience.
     
  3. Data & Reach
    It’s important to provide opportunities to engage 365 days of the year. Not just during the event. A benefit of virtual events is the glut of data made available by attendees’ digital footprints such as clicks, impressions, comments or any other relevant actions that attendees may be taking. This allows you to provide robust data to sponsors and stakeholders about the success and value of your event as well as tailor sponsor activations effectively, targeting the right people at the right moments, generating leads and inviting people to opt-in for follow-up content.

By collecting the data virtual events afford, you’ll have no problem quantifying key metrics like number of attendees, dwell time and engagement to provide hard evidence of the return on their investment. (And that in turn will lay the foundation for future sponsorships, both live and virtual.)

Most sponsors come for one reason: your attendees. This doesn't change, no matter if the event is live, in-person or a mixture of both. This is a time of unprecedented change in the events industry.  A hybrid or virtual event might be the perfect business solution to the COVID-19 pandemic we're currently facing. Even when we are able to return together and connect in-person, we’ll likely see a renewed interest in the additional benefits a virtual environment has to offer for both attendees and sponsors.

Another thing that will never go away is the need for demonstrating event ROI to leaders and stakeholders—it’s vital to the future of your event. Whether your meeting is virtual, face-to-face or a combination, learn how you can measure engagement against your objectives with our white paper, Measuring the Success of Your Virtual Event: 4 Considerations Not to Neglect.

Measuring the Success of Your Virtual Event