February 25, 2020

Creating Conference Memories with Sponsored Experiences

Creating Conference Memories with Sponsored Experiences

The traditional approach to sponsorship—putting sponsor logos on signage, in printed materials and on apps—is supposed to create brand awareness. But does it? Do attendees pay attention to logos and ads or do their eyes glaze over them like they do elsewhere online and in real life?

Capturing attendee attention is especially challenging at events when other distractions are all around, like people to meet, booths to visit, sessions to attend, and social gatherings to check out. And that’s just the list of real-life distractions, attendees have plenty more on their phones.

More associations are realizing that the old approach to sponsorship is no longer effective or sustainable. Sponsors are looking for more value than logos and signage can provide. They want impressions that really make an impression on attendees.

Experiment With a New Approach to Event Sponsorship

A PCMA/Convene sponsorship survey found that the most common sponsorship benefit is signage (89%). Instead of relying on this old approach to sponsorship, try something more effective the next time you’re planning an event. Create sponsorship opportunities that enhance the attendee’s event experience while helping the sponsor achieve their goals.

PCMA calls these experiences “open space activations.” We’ve also seen them called “hallway activations,” “branded experiences,” and “sponsored experiences.” Only 29% of PMCMA survey participants offered activations or experiences as a sponsorship benefit, but we’re seeing lots of examples in meeting industry media.

With sponsored experiences as part of your sponsorship offerings, your association will stand out from the competition for your sponsors’ marketing dollars.

But First, Do Your Sponsorship Homework

Find examples of sponsored experiences and activations by browsing meeting industry websites, such as:

Then, start a ‘swipe’ file of ideas you can tweak for your events.

Brainstorm Sponsored Experience Ideas With Revenue Partners

Take a more proactive approach to sponsorship. Schedule time with existing and potential sponsors to discuss their marketing goals. Here are some common sponsorship and exhibiting goals to think about:

  • Create awareness and increase interest in their company, products, and/or services.
  • Differentiate themselves from the competition.
  • Establish a reputation as an industry thought leader.
  • Meet purchasing influencers and decision-makers.
  • Deepen relationships with leads, clients, and industry partners.
  • Show their support of the association and profession/industry.

You shouldn’t just show prospective sponsors a gold/silver/bronze menu of options, although some companies may prefer this approach because it seems safe. Savvy companies want to be part of something unique and memorable, something that differentiates them from competitors.

Listen to their ideas. What other sponsorship experiences have been effective for them? What have they seen that they’d like to try? You can learn from each other. Share what you’ve read about and listen to their observations about customer needs/interests and market trends.

These conversations set the right tone for a future partnership, not just a one-time or yearly marketing transaction.

Create Memories and Social Shares With Sponsored Experiences

Delight attendees with interactive activations and surprise pop-up experiences. These sponsored moments will give them something to talk about during and after your event.

At the PCMA Convening Leaders conference, several innovative hallway activations were sponsored by Convention & Visitors Bureaus (CVBs), for example, Vancouver’s mindfulness lounge, which hosted mini yoga sessions, soothing water features, and a perfect photo op thanks to a scenic backdrop.

Think about ways to provide extra value to sponsors with photogenic spaces. How can you help them preserve and share these moments for attendees? You could create a co-branded filter that the sponsor can use to take and deliver photos to attendees via text message or email—the Roaming Photographer feature of our engagement app does this.

You could also preserve those memories by giving attendees access to a mobile-friendly microsite (or digital memory bank) that collects all their on-site digital interactions, like photos and content downloads.

Create Spaces for Sponsored Experiences

Sponsors at Convening Leaders also hosted wine tastings in a café-like setting, a song confessional recording booth, and a regional chef mixing up personal seasoning mixes. If your conference is competing with a big sports event, suggest a sponsor show the game (and other games) in a sports bar setting.

A sponsored work lounge would keep attendees on site instead of heading off to a café or hotel lobby for a call or meeting. Offer plugs, hot and cold beverages, snacks, comfy chairs, and private meeting rooms.

Provide an engagement app to sponsors so they can check in attendees to these experiences and use the app for lead retrieval too. If a popular experience has limited space, you could use the queuing/fast-pass feature so attendees can reserve a spot in a virtual line or schedule a time to come back and skip the line. A product pickup feature can help sponsors track giveaway and swag pickup.

When brainstorming ideas for sponsored experiences, tap into the event’s location (local culture and history) for possible themes. Talk to the local CVB about ideas too. Or, play into the time of year for sponsored experience ideas.

If your prospective sponsor has a small budget, industry pro Dave Lutz suggests offering small sponsors “a ‘booth-plus’ opportunity, something more transactional, such as an enhanced listing and logo on the floor plan.”

To learn more about Event Farm’s solution which offers features like roaming photographer, digital memory bank, queuing, product pick-up, and more, download the Exhibitor Experience ebook now.