The French have a saying, plus ça change. It means as much as things change, things always stay the same.
The world of corporate events is – and always will be – changing. But as much as they evolve, they’ll always need sponsorship to run.
In this article, you’ll learn how to earn sponsorship revenue from virtual events. What’s more, you’ll see sponsorship doesn’t have to be a hollow corporate relationship. They can be fun.
Reimagine them. Think of them as a collaboration, not sponsorship. If the world of high-fashion can do it, so can you.
The Importance of Sponsorship And Relevance in Virtual Events
Sponsorship has always been a big part of events, from corporate events to music festivals and trade shows. They can cover logistical expenses, guest speakers, subsidise ticket prices, and hopefully, allow you to leave the event with more money than you left.
Having burst into life due to COVID-19, event planners worldwide agree that virtual events are here to stay. Indeed, 71% of event planners plan to continue with virtual optimisation when physical events return to ‘normal’. This means that you need to know how to do virtual events well.
29.7% of all organisers admit that sponsorships are their primary source of income from virtual events. AIM group reported that 78% of corporate sponsors are fully willing to invest in virtual and hybrid events.
Well, if these stats don’t explicitly inspire you to read this article, what will?
Knowing Your Worth And What You Offer
People don’t turn up at your door, throwing money at you. You need to offer something of value. And in terms of sponsorship, companies don’t just want exposure to prospective customers. They also want a meaningful engagement with them.
You can prove your worth in two ways: cold hard numbers, and a good story. With numbers, you’re looking to show prospective sponsors how many people will be attending. Easier said than done, right?
You can pull these numbers together from your previous events, from research on other similar events and events in your location, and extrapolating data from your customer base and social media following.
Thereafter, if you really want to show off, you can provide engagement statistics, building further confidence in the sponsors. This can be done by measuring how active attendees are in activities like live polls, Q&A, live feed, networking, competitions, etc. Do yourself a favour and invest in event technology apps like Cyfe that do the analyses for you.
With this in mind, we always advise taking your post-event analysis seriously. Knowing what went wrong and what went well – and how well – is key to not only improving your events in the future but selling confidence to your past, present and future sponsors.
But first thing’s first, you need to know who your audience is. Here are some key questions to ask yourself:
- How old are they?
- Where do they live?
- What is their occupation?
- What do they like?
This is priceless ammo you can take to prospective companies to say, “Look, these are the people you’re trying to reach, and we have them at our events. Do you want to talk to them?”
Once the data whets their appetite, charm them with your story. Why is your event special? What makes your company one worth getting into bed with? Turn a lukewarm interest into a blank cheque.
It’s not all about catching the big fish. The ocean is full of lots of smaller fish too. And by that, we mean it’s good to make room for adorable sponsorship options alongside the marquee sponsors.
Offering a scaled menu of sponsorship options means you can attract a wider net of sponsors. You can think of it as a tier or scale. Offer a base sponsorship package for smaller companies with smaller budgets. For your bigger fish, you can offer more exposure for a higher price. You can do this in set bands, menu style, or you can offer a tailored sponsorship offer to each interested party.
These days, sponsors don’t want to have a logo stuck on the corner of a poster. They want to be involved and engaged. Don’t put Baby in the corner. Sponsors want to roll their sleeves up and have some fun too.
So what can you offer them in real terms when it comes to the evolving world of virtual events? Spoiler alert, you’ll find some ideas that move beyond static branding exposure to meaningful hands-on engagement with your attendees below. Now isn’t that something valuable to sell?
And finally, in terms of virtual events compared to traditional events, you can offer longevity. When an in-person event ends, it’s over. The brochures and the lanyards go in the bin. With virtual events, the content goes online. It’s archived – with your sponsor’s name on it – forevermore. Just an extra bit of powder for you.
Choosing The Right Sponsors
But which sponsors are right for you? You don’t have to dance with the first person that asks for your hand. Yes, we stressed the importance of sponsorship for events, so your natural instinct is probably to grab any money you’re offered. But we would always advise that sponsorship is good, but the right sponsorship is essential.
Because at the end of the day, who you choose to partner with might seem menial, but it affects how people will view your company. Being partnered with a respected name in your field will leave a positive impression on your guests. Being seen with a roundly hated organisation might make your balance sheet look good, but you risk longer-term damage to your brand’s image.
Plus, if you choose your sponsorship carefully, you could indeed increase your volume of attendees. If they’re a big name in your field, some could see it as a great networking opportunity. If your sponsor is a brand with a big reach – or desirable in and of itself – you might reach a new audience you haven’t conquered yet.
Our main point is that a sponsor isn’t just a cheque to supplement your coffers. They’re as much a part of your event as the caterer or the venue itself. So take as much care with this partnership as you would any other involved in the event.
Classic Sponsorship Techniques That Translate Well Into Virtual Events
Now we’ve established the why and the who, now comes the juicy part. The how. Let’s start with the familiar ground, shall we?
So, just because an event is taking place online, that doesn’t make it not real. Virtual reality isn’t the matrix. It’s real-life people doing real-life things but on the internet.
What do we conclude from this? Those tried and tested sponsorship techniques translate to the virtual world just fine.
Straight Forward Branding
A sponsor’s logo on your promotional material. It can be as simple as that. There is no need to reinvent the wheel. Emails, posters, advertising, any and all content or communications you make, then as now, is a billboard where you can do business.
For virtual events, this simple concept logically leads to putting sponsored logos on things like virtual breakout sessions, original content, and anything screen related (which is everything). Your event is one big blank advertising canvas, and don’t forget it!
How about a good old fashioned competition? Sponsored in someone’s name, or the prize given by the sponsor themselves. You can pull hats out a name or increase engagement by adding a competitive element?
What about a good old fashioned Q&A session? This is perhaps only possible if you have a sponsor that is interesting in and of themselves or relevant to the field. Otherwise, it could be a snoozefest.
Any good cook knows to season their food. The main dish is the star, but the seasoning is essential. In this heavy-handed metaphor, your event is the dish, and the light entertainment is the seasoning.
Just like in-person events, special guests are great to lure in wavering attendees. A comedian, a guest speaker, an exclusive screening, whatever it is, all you need to do is introduce them as being, “Special Guest brought to you by [INSERT SPONSOR HERE]” et voila.
Alternatively – or perhaps even simultaneously – you could adopt the glowing hot trend that is influencer marketing. Why? Because statistics show that 49% of consumers consider influencer recommendations. And those statistics only get juicer when we consider millennials, with over 70% of them trusting influencers over celebrity endorsements.
Influencing is a fascinating new phenomenon that demonstrates a key shift in how consumers react to sponsorship. The older forms of advertising have become transparent, jaded, and well in need of a shot in the arm.
The influencers are that proverbial shot. They’re not company people. They’re like the average person who just so happens to have an audience. Influencers are relatable, admired, and most importantly, can sell products. Collaborating with the right one means more attendees and more engagement, which means more pull for attracting sponsors.
Several agencies operate as agencies for influencers, such as IMA and Imagency or inBeat Agency. Alternatively, you could approach Spacehuntr, a fully integrated online platform to book and manage corporate events.
Spacehuntr is a great resource for when you want local knowledge. They have dedicated city experts that will give you the lowdown on popular local influencers and relevant local sponsors.
And for a final transferable technique, and to really want to leave an impression, how about swag bags? That would be really classy for a virtual eve. Imagine the postman dropping off some cool branded merch to your attendees days before all the fun kicks off.
Creative Sponsorship Techniques That Are Uniquely Virtual
Hybrid Events via Unsplash
But, now you’re thinking, some things have changed though, a virtual event is something new. Yes, that’s obvious. To turn a blind eye and act otherwise would be denial.
Our previous section said there’s no need to reinvent the wheel, and we stand by that cliche. But then again, there’s been many modifications to the humble primordial wheel, and there will be much more modification long after today’s lesson.
So how do we adapt and thrive in this new virtual theatre we do not make our events in? Well, we have some creative solutions for you!
Sponsored Virtual Engagement
Moving on to more nuanced concepts, let’s think about virtual booths. Just like a trade fair has booths for people to come in and present their work, you need to get virtual booths to carry on that rich tradition. But how does it offer something concretely new?
Well, for a start, you can turn to gamification. Gamification is adding game mechanics into nongame environments. Think of games, quizzes, challenges. Engage them, entertain them, and all the while, you’ll be informing them.
We also love to see free demos and special offers brought online. For example, check out the Vanmoof e-bike launch that drew over 6,000 live views from 110 countries.
You can’t ride these bikes online, but a detailed 3-D modelling allows people to virtually interact with the product. So attendees miss out on riding a bike, but they get to geek out on interactive technical models.
Another creative option is a virtual exhibition hall, where you can sell spaces, just like you would at a conventional event. Here you can give sponsors the chance to showcase their products, services, and whatever else they want.
Sponsored Virtual Freebies
And one final suggestion, remember we mentioned swag bags? Well, how about e-bags? An electronic wallet that has an Amazon or an Uber voucher? Maybe a discount or trial for your sponsor’s company? A little gesture like that could go a long way!
So there you have it. How to earn sponsorship revenue for virtual events. The same rules apply, then as now. We take the relevant techniques forward, and we embrace new ones as and when. As for what the next developments in the field will be, that’s a mystery. All we know is we can’t wait!