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Virtual Sponsorship How-To

Virtual Sponsorships

by Laura Bickle

It’s no secret that sponsorships play a key role in in-person events. But as we have been forced to create virtual events during the pandemic—and all forecasts indicate that hybrid events are likely to become even more dominant as a result—it’s vital to understand how to create and promote online event sponsorship programs.

We spoke to the pros for their best advice on how to do just that.

“The approach should be no different than the physical event,” says Shawn Cheng, CMP, project manager, conferences at MCI Canada in Vancouver. “You still need to engage with sponsors to identify what they want to achieve and how your event can support their objectives.”

Robert Thompson, managing partner of AV-CANADA, agrees. “The value is still there for sponsors to do their dance. Just in a little different way.”

In fact, says Thompson, sponsors may be reaching even more people in virtual events. “We’re seeing a 15 to 50% increase in people who are attending in the last few months. Why? People want to be part of their community and see where their community is at.”

And that should be a lure to sponsors who want to stay engaged with their audience and customers. “The community still needs to hear from sponsors,” says Thompson.

MONEY MATTERS

Typically, a digital sponsorship will be slightly cheaper than a traditional event sponsorship, says Cheng. “But have in mind, the operation costs for the sponsors are also way down. Their investment (both to you and the cost to activate the sponsorship) will be way lower than before. This is the value proposition we need to communicate to our sponsors.”

And speaking of value, as always, data generation is key, a task that digital events are generally good at. “It depends on what you can offer at your virtual event, but in general, sponsors should be able to receive ROI faster and more accurately in a digital world,” says Cheng.

It’s important to communicate the value to sponsors at the negotiation stage. “Sponsors are hurting just like everyone else,” says Thompson, “but it’s a perfect opportunity for sponsors to be part of their community so they don’t miss out when things get back to normal,” says Thompson.

GET INSPIRED

Just like with in-person events, effective virtual sponsorship programs engage and inspire attendees, says Robert Thompson. “People still need to be entertained and now you’re only working with two senses (sight and hearing) so you have to be creative.”

Shawn Cheng agrees: “Your
virtual event still needs the social experience, and so your sponsor can help to make it happen.”

Thompson and Cheng offer these ideas to get you started:

  • The traditional presenting sponsor 
now can be the “platform sponsor” that hosts your virtual webcast.
  • While banner placement is standard, also offer pre-recorded videos or live interview slots.
  • Offer contest and prizing opportunities.
  • Co-create experiences such
as gamification, morning live streaming yoga sessions, fit breaks or a branded virtual happy hour.
  • Provide sponsor-branded materials for speakers or the audience to use while on camera (mugs, water bottles, shirts, headsets).
  • Ask the sponsor to deliver a bottle of wine to your audience, so
they can all drink the same wines during the event.
  • Have sponsors introduce sessions and speakers.
  • Offer sponsored musical or video breaks between content.
  • Consider branded interactive chats and polls.
  • Offer sponsored waiting rooms while people sign in, complete with music.

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