Meeting and event planners are working quickly to transfer their in-person events online in light of COVID-19. But for many planners, there’s still one missing piece of the virtual events puzzle: Sponsorships.
How do you generate event sponsorship revenue when the traditional methods are on-hold? No banners or massive signage, no specially named lounges or convention halls, no face-to-face meetings. And if you already have sponsors for an upcoming event, how do you translate the placements they were expecting to an online environment?
Here’s the good news: With every lost in-person opportunity for sponsor placement, there’s a new one for virtual events if you think big-picture and are willing to try some creative strategies. Here are 17 valuable event sponsorship ideas for virtual events.
Before You Start Generating Ideas: Think About What Audiences Want
Just like you would for an in-person event, prioritize what your audience really wants. For example, don’t surprise or irritate your audience with relentless pop-up chats or ads that follow them around. That’s the wrong way to give your sponsors exposure because it won’t leave a positive impression.
Instead, focus on providing valuable information that’s clear and easy to use, and present it through an experience that’s engaging and relevant to your audience.
Pre-event Sponsor Exposure
Some of the most valuable sponsorship opportunities are before your online event even starts.
- Feature a guest blog post on your registration page
- Include your sponsors’ logos and messaging in all your email communications and on social media (both in posts and in your social media banner branding)
- Let your sponsors offer free demos or service to your registrants in the weeks or month leading up to your virtual conference, so the audience can try out their service with a trial and ask your sponsors questions at your event.
- Branded swag. If you collect addresses for registration, ship swag before the day of your event as a fun surprise.
- Consider sending a Digital Event Bag. It’s a way to curate all your sponsorship content and important event links. Then, you can grant your sponsors access to see which attendees clicked on their materials, and how they interacted with their content.
- If you can’t eat lunch together in-person, see if it’s possible to deliver lunch or snacks ahead of your virtual event.
Sponsor Exposure During Your Event
Here’s how to meaningfully incorporate your sponsors into your virtual event.
- Offer branding opportunities during your keynotes, breakouts, networking spaces, or registration pages. This can include logos, “wallpaper” background graphics, or branding on the holding slide or video you display before the session starts.
- In a completely virtual trade show or conference environment, you can add your sponsors’ branding to signage just like you would at a physical venue. You can also offer virtual sponsor booths, where attendees can chat with your sponsors directly.
- Add environmental branding like a sponsor’s logo on a speaker’s laptop cover or as a prop in the studio where you’re filming.
- Mix-in promotional videos that loop or play during breaks or the 15 mins before your keynote.
- Wherever possible, mix in poll questions and games that relate to your sponsors to increase engagement and interactivity. Sponsors know that engagement with their brand is one of the most valuable things you can offer.
- Let your sponsors moderate a panel or breakout session. Your sponsor can provide the session moderator, the Q&A moderators, and the polling questions. This opportunity is especially valuable because your sponsor can get tons of data about attendees and their engagement. Some higher-end platforms track the interaction and behavior data, too.
- Have internal presenters team up with sponsor reps to co-create content for breakout sessions. This is premium sponsorship visibility and face time.
- Sponsor a Q&A, an Ask-Me-Anything, or keynote with celebrity appearance or anticipated presenter. Some sponsors may have celebrity connections, and this can be a huge draw for your audience. You could even do a photo op will a well organized video conference, opening one video at a time allowing a few moments for meet-n-greet, and then a screenshot picture
Post-event Sponsor Exposure
- After your event is recorded, edited, and available on-demand, include short “bumper videos” promoting your sponsors ahead of the content. Bumper videos are like the short ads you watch before YouTube videos.
- Host a follow-up “Sponsor Day” that you advertise following your event. Sponsors can each get a time slot for their pitch/presentation/Q&A. Sponsors will produce and manage their own content, you simply help them advertise to your registration list.
- Plan your sponsors into your continued engagement with your audience. That can include featured blog posts in monthly newsletter, features i monthly or quarterly industry panel discussions, or other upcoming events.