May 13, 2020

How to Deliver Marketing ROI to Your Virtual Event Sponsors & Exhibitors

How to Deliver Marketing ROI to Your Virtual Event Sponsors & Exhibitors

One of the biggest concerns about replacing an in-person event with a virtual event is recapturing sponsor and exhibitor revenue. Somehow you must convince sponsors and exhibitors that they will see a return on their marketing investment.

You prove ROI by showing them how to achieve their marketing goals in your virtual venue—the same strategy you’d use with sponsors and exhibitors at in-person events.

For example, exhibitors want to show off their product, warm up leads, and deepen relationships with clients. Sponsors want to increase brand awareness, demonstrate thought leadership, develop and deepen relationships, and show their support of your industry/profession. They can achieve these goals in your virtual event solution too.

How to Show Virtual Event ROI to Sponsors and Exhibitors

Early in the virtual event planning process, talk to potential sponsors and exhibitors about their marketing goals. Show them how they can achieve those goals in your virtual solution by giving them a tour of the platform. Post these opportunities on your event website’s sponsor/exhibitor page along with a video tour of the virtual venue.

Don’t assume they’ll visit your website, watch the video, and be convinced straight away. Because this is a new marketing experience for them, take a personal sales approach. Walk each of them through the different opportunities you offer to meet their marketing goals.

We’ll walk you through some of those opportunities here.

Sponsor Goal: Increase Brand Awareness

Pre-event meetups. Your event starts buzzing on social media when attendees begin packing for your conference. However, when they’re attending from home, they’re more caught up in regular life.

To capture attendee attention and attract late registrants, you have to jumpstart pre-event excitement. Ask sponsors to host and promote pre-event virtual meetups such as event orientations or happy hours.

Discounts and scholarships. Give sponsors a promo code to share with special guests. Ask them to fund scholarships for students, young professionals, people between jobs, chapter leaders, and award winners.

Swag. Deliver a virtual swag bag via email or mail a real swag bag to attendees’ homes. Include sponsored items in virtual swag bags, such as lunch gift cards for UberEats or GrubHub, or coupons for an online experience, like a webinar or e-learning program.

Physical swag bags could contain sponsor-branded items like headsets or earbuds, break beverages and snacks, journals and pens, face masks, hand sanitizers, or working-from-home supplies.

Pre-event emails. In your pre-event emails to attendees, promote sponsored experiences, like virtual receptions and other special programming.

On-site branding. The same branding opportunities you provide in a physical venue can be offered in a virtual venue too.

  • Sponsor logos or ads displayed on billboards throughout the virtual campus that are linked to a special landing page on the sponsor’s website
  • Sponsor logos or ads on the auditorium or classroom screen between sessions
  • Sponsor-branded areas, for example, virtual campus boardrooms, lounges, and networking areas

Event app branding. Don’t forget to take advantage of your event app during your virtual event—it offers more opportunities for attendee engagement and sponsor recognition.

  • Sponsor and exhibitor listings
  • Banner ads that link to the sponsor’s website
  • Sponsored app push notifications
  • Sponsored raffle giveaway in the app between sessions

Sponsorship opportunities during the event. Think through the event from the attendee perspective. Where could sponsors interact with or get in front of them?

  • Sponsored keynote or session: sponsors introduce the speaker(s) and moderate audience Q&A
  • Branded filters for the event’s roaming virtual photographer
  • Sponsored broadcast messages to the entire virtual campus or attendees in a specific room
  • Social media promotions
  • Ads in the digital “show daily” (newsletter) during a multi-day event
  • Sponsor-hosted breaks or receptions

Sponsor Goal: Provide Thought Leadership

Pre- and post-event sponsored content. Before the event, give sponsors the opportunity to develop and distribute sponsored content related to event topics—blog posts, tip sheets, checklists, reports, etc. After the event, build on conference content and momentum with a sponsored deep-dive webinar series and other content. Promote sponsored content on the association’s social media channels.

Surveys and polls. Attendees especially want to know how their peers are responding to current conditions. Use the app to send out a sponsored poll or pulse survey. Ask the sponsor to share results in a video, blog post, or newsletter article.

Sponsored sessions. Ask sponsors to share their expertise as a presenter or session moderator. Schedule these sessions in a branded virtual room.

Breaks. Sponsors can host break activities in a meeting room, for example, discussions on hot topics or “birds of a feather” meetups.

VIP sessions. Allow sponsors to host deeper dives or Q&A sessions with speakers in their meeting room. Let them schedule exclusive events for purchasing decision-makers.

Exhibitor Goal: Showcase Their Products/Services

30% of people are more likely to speak to an exhibitor in a virtual booth than in real life. Some people are more comfortable approaching someone in a virtual setting.

Exhibit booths and tabletops. You have many options for exhibiting in our virtual event solution, The Echo—exhibit hall booths and tabletops, offices, and meeting rooms. A vendor host is “on site” to greet and talk with attendees. Screens show clickable images, PowerPoints, PDFs, webpages, and/or videos. Exhibitors can do demos right there on the spot.

Unlike a physical expo hall, a virtual exhibit is open as long as you wish. Attendees can visit it before, between, and after sessions to view collateral and ask questions.

In The Echo, exhibit booths and tabletops are bordered by a blue line on the floor. When you walk inside the blue line, outside conversations are muted, so you don’t hear all the noise of the expo floor, and inside conversations are private.

Scheduled talks and demos. Consider scheduling a series of expo hall talks and/or demos so attendees can watch as part of a group. Attendees will feel less pressure this way than they would walking alone into a booth. Remember, exhibitors would rather teach than sell, so give them that opportunity—for a price.

Sponsor and Exhibitor Goal: Develop and Deepen Relationships With Leads, Clients, and Industry Partners

Virtual networking. Like every other attendee on your virtual campus, exhibitors and sponsors can use the private and public chat tool to message other attendees. They can also walk up to any attendee and start a real conversation.

They’ll soon see the advantages of virtual conversations because, in the virtual venue, they can:

  • See an attendee’s name over their head and not have to worry about their bad memory or surreptitiously trying to read name badges.
  • Easily take notes on conversations and follow up with personalized relevant emails.
  • See people from a distance and head their way.
  • Search for people in the directory and go to their location.
  • Send a private chat message saying, “Do you have time to meet later? How about 4 p.m. at the beach or our booth, your choice?”

Names and badges: Display the label “sponsor” along with their company name above a sponsor’s head, so attendees can distinguish them from others. Their avatar can wear a special logo badge on their shirt.

Private rooms. The virtual campus offers many private offices and meeting rooms that you can assign to a sponsor. Attendees can easily find these rooms in the directory. If they wish, the sponsor can close and lock the door for privacy. They can use these rooms for meetings with buyer teams, demos, or customized presentations.

Just like in real life, get creative with sponsored experiences, like art shows, musicians, DJs, comedians, or other entertainment. Sponsors and exhibitors are your revenue partners. Together, you can find ways at your virtual events to help them meet their marketing goals and you meet your revenue goals.


If we’ve piqued your curiosity about The Echo, our virtual event solution, and you want to see it “in person,” click here to request a tour.