We’re seeing it all over the events industry, sponsors gave you their money to have a booth, they logo all over printed materials and other in-person returns that they expected for their support and now they want to know what they are getting since your event is moving online. 

When it comes to virtualizing your event using live streaming and other event technologies, every organization that has event sponsors needs to respond quickly to their sponsors and offer them value or risk needing to return funds or lose valuable industry relationships. 

The great news is, there is even more, yes more opportunity for you to give sponsor ROI (return on investment) for your virtual event then there was at your physical event! This is because some events are seeing a 3X increase in attendance online so your sponsors can reach a greater audience. Plus metrics are much more trackable, making it easy to measure ROI. We will cover 9 great ideas to get you started. 

What is ROI and Why Does it Matter?

ROI stands for Return On Investment and means what your sponsor is getting in return for giving you money or as is the case for “in kind” sponsorships, services or products that you need for your event. In kind sponsorships might include providing all of the graphic design and logo creation for your event and are less common, but can be even more valuable to you if you’re on a tight budget to produce your event. 

Some examples of sponsor ROI for an in person event might include:

  • Logos on printed materials like programs, banners and signage
  • A booth space where to sell products or advertise services
  • Names read during announcements
  • Branded swag (pencils, sunglasses, magnets, etc) distributed in event bags
  • Logos on event t shirt

It’s important to think critically about how to give real value to your sponsors and how to measure that value and treat them like your organization’s partners. These valuable relationships make events happen and losing sponsors can cost your organization a lot of money and may make holding your event subsequent years impossible. 

How to Create Virtual ROI For Sponsors 

Pre-Event

Sponsorship returns start as soon as your website is up and can be included on all of your digital materials. The key things to make sure you do here is have careful planning around sponsorship levels and clearing define where logos and mentions will show up for various levels. Some of these perks are things you’re likely already doing like putting sponsor logos on your landing pages and emails. Here are a few others:

  • An opportunity to wow your speakers or a list of targeted attendees your sponsor might really want to impress with a VIP experience. You send those targeted attendees a meal box, a case of wine or a service like a code for a food delivery or a car wash.
  • Speaking of sending your attendees something in the mail, send your swag bags and boxes to your attendees and include all of your sponsors’ branded swag!

During the Event

Sponsorship opportunities during the event are endless. Be thoughtful and don’t be afraid to include your long time sponsors in the planning of these activations. These relationships are so important and your sponsors want to know you’re working creatively to give them value as your partner. 

  • Sponsored posts: some event apps have the ability to give you sponsored posts which appear in your events feed throughout and are more than just pinned posts, they repost offers and content on a timed basis. These can include app downloads, special offer codes and links to products or services. Attendify is one app doing this really well, you can read more about how they handle these posts here.
  • Sponsored entertainment: Just because your event moved virtual doesn’t mean they shouldn’t have fun built into the schedule. In the virtual world some entertainment that wouldn’t be as popular in a live event might be really well received online. Keep in mind, virtual attendees might be working at home with kids. Magic acts, a cartoonist, folk duos or yoga sessions have all had great online responses in virtual environments. 
  • Instead of traditional commercials, have your MC interview sponsor representatives. Work with your MC to pull out the value the attendees want to hear.
  • And on that note, run sponsors ads during breaks or on each end of key sessions. Ask that your sponsors create their ads for your event to tailor the content and keep your audience more engaged. 
  • Have sponsors host networking events in virtual rooms. Some fun ones that people are loving are virtual cocktail hours. We’ve seen some events hire a mixologist that teaches everyone how to make their own cocktails.
  • Have sponsors give away virtual backgrounds to attendees and then host raffles in sessions for a door prize for those who used the background.
  • If your event includes gamification, give attendees points on a leaderboard for visiting sponsors’ virtual “booth” or scheduling product demos or meetings with your sponsors. 
  • Other ways that you should definitely use to provide sponsor ROI (and track it) are sending out push notifications about your sponsors deals and sessions if you’re using an event app. If you are not, utilize email notifications instead. 
  • Use banner ads in your event app or on your event webpage or social media event accounts. 
  • Make sure you give your sponsors a way to have a profile, preferable in your app, but if you aren’t using one, then on your event website. 
  • Display sponsors’ logos on your live stream on opening and closing slates and even as a rolling ticker at the top of popular sessions. 

Post Event Sponsorship ROI

The biggest thing you need to post-event is thank your sponsors and include your sponsors information on wrap up emails to your attendees. These are the people that made your event happen. Have a dedicated person on your team gather screen shots of memorable interactions online, meeting selfies and video clips from live streams. Post these to your social accounts and tag the sponsors in them. Remember to deliver all metrics to your sponsors that you may have collected about the number of links and appointments they scheduled and other data that shows they gained value. 

Remember that COVID-19 has changed the events industry forever and you’re not experiencing this alone. Face your sponsors with humble optimism and a strong sense of value for their support. Look at your attendee demographics and the demographics of your sponsors. Be specific about how many attendees your event will have in person and online and what percentage of your expected attendance you are promising sponsors in order to keep their money (70% of last year’s attendance virtually and on sight if you have one) is a good starting point. With clear information and creative ideas you’ll master getting all the sponsor revenue you need and hosting an event people will be engaged in. 
If you would like more information on having a hybrid or virtual event, get in touch to schedule a time to talk.