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Do You Need To Reshape Your Sponsorship Program?

Many trade shows and conferences fall under the business-to-business classification, but that doesn’t mean organizers need to restrict their brainstorming to the traditional B2B world.

“At the end of the day, we’re all consumers,” Mona Cotton, Vice President, Partner Relations & Business Development Administration, PCMA, said in an educational session at Convening Leaders in Austin, Texas on Tuesday, January 10. “We can learn a lot of valuable lessons from the business-to-consumer world.”

Cotton and co-presenter Meg Fasy, Principal, FazeFWD, focused on applying those lessons to one of the most essential pieces of an event organizer’s budget: sponsorships. As many organizations struggle to keep their sponsors happy, Cotton and Fasy discussed the need to embrace experiential marketing to help connect attendees with sponsors in organic ways.

“Historically, it’s been all about branding,” Fasy said.

In the new normal of sponsorship, though, printing big names on banners may not deliver the ROI that sponsors need to justify their spending. Cotton and Fasy spotlighted one of the most memorable sponsorship activations from 2016. Rather than simply paying to hang a sign at Dodgers Stadium in Los Angeles, a crew of flight attendants from Emirates Airlines took the field before a game for a fun performance that tied baseball to a typical airline safety demonstration. The airline was preparing to launch new service between LA and Dubai, and the activation captured plenty of attention. Check it out below.

Emirates looked at the sponsorship through the most important lens: the fans in the crowd. Instead of looking for opportunities to put the company’s name in massive letters in the outfield, they aimed to give fans a reason to smile. Fasy highlighted that B2B companies should use the same approach. “Reverse the order,” Fasy said. “Talk about the audience experience first and then look back toward your sponsors. Look at what attendees want, and identify the right potential partners to make it happen.”

As organizers look to develop compelling sponsorship packages, Cotton and Fasy underscored the importance of making sure that potential partners recognize that it’s not always about reaching the biggest audience; it’s about reaching the right audience. “Sponsorship may not be delivering the biggest numbers but reaching your target customers and delivering better experiences,” Cotton said.

If you’re looking for new ways to design better sponsorships, Fasy recommends starting with what can be improved. “Look at your attendee pain points,” Fasy said.

For example, an incentive event that Fasy used to oversee had one problem: it started at a resort on Sunday afternoons when rooms were rarely ready for early check-in. Attendees had nothing to do — and nowhere to go. The solution involved arranging an early outdoor sponsored afternoon reception in the sun to give attendees extra time to network.

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