The Future of Event Sponsorships (and Why the Old Model Doesn’t Work Anymore)

Finding sponsors for your events is one of the most stressful parts of being an event organizer. You need their revenue to help fund the event, that’s for sure. But if you don’t handle sponsorships properly, you could erode your guests’ experience.

Sadly, the old model of event sponsorship makes your attendees feel like commodities when they should really feel like communities. That’s why it’s critical that you switch to the new model of event sponsorships.

Free download: How to Find Sponsors Who Fit the New Model of Event Sponsorship

What Is the Old Model?

You’ve undoubtedly seen the old model of event sponsorship hundreds of times before. It’s when an event sells pre-packaged sponsorship opportunities based on tiers. These tiers usually have names like “bronze,” “silver,” and “gold.” They can’t be customized very much and since they’re designed to suit all sponsors, they don’t create much value for any of them.

The problem with these kinds of packages is that sponsors are forced to choose the one that best aligns with their business. But that doesn’t mean any of the packages align much at all because the packages weren’t designed by the sponsors – they were designed by the event planner.

The old model of sponsorship makes your attendees feel like commodities when they should really feel like communities. Click To Tweet

Think of it like visiting the supermarket to buy hot dogs. You need 10 hot dogs, but the packages only come with eight, so you’ll have to buy a second package. This means you’ll either throw away eight hotdogs or you’ll have to eat hot dogs the next day too. There’s not much you can do about this problem because you can’t ask the manufacturer to make you a special package of 10 hot dogs.

Under the old model of event sponsorship, sponsors face the same problem. They can only buy what you – the event planner – are selling. And what you’re selling probably doesn’t meet their exact needs.

What Is the New Model?

The new model of event sponsorships is about bringing your sponsors into the event planning process as early as possible and designing an event that meets both your needs. This is more like building a partnership than selling ad space.

It all starts with a conversation. You’ll want to reach out to potential sponsors long before you sign the deal with the venue, book that caterer or music vendor, or build your registration landing page. The sponsor (and their needs) could greatly change the format of your event.

This doesn’t mean you should do everything the sponsor wants. You aren’t building an advertising platform just for their brand. Your focus should be your guests, of course. But if you want your sponsors to pay top dollar, you want them to get the best return for their money, which means tailoring the sponsorship package to help them achieve their goals.

When New Relic (a cloud-based software program for analyzing and tracking data) sponsored TechCrunch’s Disrupt Conference, they hosted a hackathon where participants were tasked with creating a new product in a short period of time. New Relic announced the winner and handed out prizes.

Event sponsorships
Image Source: Vela Agency

This is a perfect example of marriage between the event and its sponsor. It’s a far more impactful way to support your sponsors than hanging their logos and handing out branded pens.

The BlogHer Conference is another great example. BlogHer promotes women’s voices in the health, food, and beauty industries. They were sponsored by Hillshire Farm and Jimmy Dean. The food companies set up a massive booth on the expo floor (80ft by 20ft!) with a commercial kitchen where chefs prepared food, held competitions, and had one-on-one meetups with food bloggers.

Event sponsorships
Image Source: HapaMama

This type of sponsorship was great for guests because it created an exciting and interactive experience. But it was profoundly impactful for the sponsor because they got a chance to interact with influencers who would go on to promote their product. In this sense, the food companies gained access not just to the guests, but all of the guests’ followers.

Benefits of the New Sponsorship Model

We know what you’re thinking: “Wow, that sounds like a lot of work. I don’t have time for all of that.” Yes, there’s no doubt that this new model requires more work, but the benefits are significant.

You Can Sell Exclusivity

Exclusivity is a powerful benefit for sponsors. It makes them the center of attention at your event and makes the guests less likely to become overwhelmed by advertising. But it’s tough to offer exclusivity when you sell $300 and $400 sponsorship packages. A bespoke package, however, gives you the room to offer exclusivity.

You Can Support the Sponsor’s Mission

Tailored sponsorship packages give you the chance to spread your sponsor’s message, not just their logo. To the right sponsor, that’s a more valuable opportunity (which means you can charge more for it).

Let’s say you’re being sponsored by a water company. Sure, they want people to see their logo, but they would love people to hear about their values of health through proper hydration. You could offer them an opportunity to speak or set up a demonstration booth at your event, as long as their contribution is valuable to your guest and not just a sales pitch.

You Can Leverage Multiple Touchpoints

As the event planner, you interact with your guests in multiple ways. They attend your event, of course, but they also read your emails, explore your website, hear about you through influencers and affiliates, and view your social media posts. These are all mediums to connect your guests and potential guests to your sponsors.

Some sponsors may find these touchpoints valuable, in some cases even more valuable than a presence at the event. When you work with a sponsor to create a custom package, all of these touchpoints become assets you can sell.

You Gain Access to Sponsor Resources

If you tailor sponsorship packages to the sponsor’s needs, you invite the sponsor to a partnership. They may be willing to bring their own resources, such as people, equipment, displays, and interactive elements. All of these tools elevate the value of your event.

The Sponsor Gets Better Data

With the new model, the sponsor plays a bigger role in the experience, which makes it easier for them to accumulate data on the event’s performance. At the BlogHer conference we mentioned earlier, the sponsors had the chance to talk directly to the guests. They could gauge sentiment, collect leads, and even make sales. This is far more impactful than a sign with their logo that doesn’t correlate with any actionable metrics.

The Biggest Benefit: You Gain Content for Your Event

When you build your sponsors into the core of your event, you gain valuable content for your guests. Think back to TechCrunch’s Disrupt event. The sponsored hackathon was one of the most popular components of the event and it was fully managed and funded by the sponsor. The event coordinators didn’t have to fill that time with speakers, panels, or demonstrations. Free content!

Download this list of steps to learn how to find sponsors who fit the new model of event sponsorship.

Going Forward

As you can see, the new model of event sponsorship is better for you, your sponsors, and – most importantly – your guests. It adds action, engagement, and interaction to your events that your guests will never forget.

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