Virtual event sponsorship is a terrific way to engage clients and customers and make your virtual events stand out. If you’ve been looking for some tips and advice to facilitate the transition of your in-person sponsored events to the new hybrid and virtual events world, then look no further!
Virtual Event Monetization and Sponsorship
First, let’s keep in mind the prosaic reality that in business-to-business and business-to-consumer public events the keyword is “business,” and the goal is ultimately to make a profit. Even if you’re in the not-for-profit game and this is not your situation, preparing and running public events takes money and resources that may need to stick within the bounds of a budget. While simply holding an event online can be vastly cheaper than organizing and executing in physical spaces, pulling out the stops and creating a real experience to remember is still not free.
Being able to secure sponsorships or monetize your events is a solid step in a profitable direction. In the public events world, having your event fully sponsored is always a best-case scenario. You can be sure that your event will provide value to your attendees and clients while keeping things secure at the bottom line.
Well, the same holds true for virtual events. What is the key to virtual event sponsorship? It’s to keep in mind that some of the best virtual events represent a collaboration between multiple businesses and organizations; it’s not only you but your potential sponsors, each playing to their strengths.
Virtual event sponsorship should also be thought of as a “quid pro quo” with your sponsors. In other words, you want a win-win, and to get there, you need to make sure that value is also provided for event sponsors!
Continue to the below sections for a more detailed look at virtual event sponsorship and your best strategies to get great sponsorships rolling.
- What is a Virtual Event Sponsorship?
- How to Create Virtual Event Sponsorship Packages
- 8 Ideas for Virtual Event Sponsorship
What is a Virtual Event sponsorship?
To put it literally, virtual event sponsorship is when a company (outside your business or organization) comes in to support an event with funds, in exchange for something of value to them. Usually, the value add is in terms of brand exposure, customer engagement, or access to data. In other words, one or more partner companies will underwrite the cost of your event and ensure some measure of income.
However, unlike in-person events, the online nature of a virtual event may change the weight of sponsorship offerings. After all, virtual events don’t always have the same hard start time and end time as live events, therefore there’s not a guarantee that sponsors will have “X” time window to get their brand in front of attendees. Or, for that matter, a guarantee of a captive audience once they’ve checked into the event venue. But treat it as an opportunity: sponsored material could end up having the proverbial “long tail” if content is made available on-demand or shared around after the event.
The great news is online events provide flexibility not present in live events that leads to a lot of potential sponsor value. Also, the quality of virtual events has increased exponentially since 2019, for obvious reasons. So, when pitching a virtual event for sponsorship, take care that the prospective sponsor understands that this will be equivalent to a live event and developed as a unique and highly personalized experience for all attendees, not just a dry, small-scale webinar over a video call.
This new paradigm demands re-evaluating “common wisdom.” However, there are greater opportunities to create curated and personalized content, while costs and barriers to entry can be significantly lower. We’ll continue below with further insights on how to creatively maximize the advantages of virtual event sponsorship, both for your event and for sponsors.
How to Create Virtual Event Sponsorship Packages
As we mentioned above, the main thing to remember when pursuing virtual event sponsorship is making sure to align to your sponsors’ goals and objectives. Make sure you’re engaging directly with prospective sponsors–their return-on-investment is, as pointed out, through direct audience engagement and brand awareness. But not every company has the same specific goals. The best bet is to create a sponsorship package that can meet their goals as well as yours. To that end, remember that online has even more potential to offer sponsors–even though more complexity may also be involved.
Data, in particular, is a fantastic draw: a data-driven virtual event sponsorship strategy can deliver value to the sponsor in terms of better leads at a reduced cost as well as customer profiles and other useful business intelligence. Data can also be provided to sponsors showing the impact of your event and their branding.
Another rule of thumb is to make sure you demonstrate to prospective sponsors the value of virtual event platforms. As we might have mentioned before, an outstanding platform represents a major leap forward in the world of virtual conferences, online trade shows, and remote exhibitions. Having a platform that’s great with metrics, data and analytics will be especially advantageous.
When creating sponsorship packages, a great way to start off is through conceptualizing tiered sponsorship plans. Rather than trying to look for a “free ride” from one sponsor with extremely deep pockets, you can create different levels of sponsorship priced for different features and possibly attract multiple potential event partners. For example, a “Tier 1” (“Bronze” level?) sponsorship might include promotion on the event website and social media and being featured in live feeds. Where a more expensive “Tier 3” (let’s call it “Gold”) would include all of the features of the hypothetical Tier 1 and Tier 2 sponsorships as well as high-end features such as live demos, 1:1 interactions in small groups of attendees, and access to data from attendee interactions. Or, “a la carte” sponsorship options could be set out, where a partial event sponsor pays for exactly what they want, such as being promoted on the event’s website, social media, and email outreach (this would be a low-cost option) or to include a 30-minute event speaker of the sponsor’s choice (at a higher price point).
Seeking out nontraditional partnerships can also yield surprisingly positive results. This includes businesses and non-profits working together. You might even consider looking outside your industry or niche. An emerging idea is partnering with a sponsor for a social responsibility message supporting a popular cause that will help your industry or particular people in need.
8 Ideas for Virtual Event Sponsorship
- Branded Spaces
This is one of the most obvious ways to get a sponsor in the mix: slap branding up anywhere possible. You can get a logo or brand message into home screens, virtual conference rooms, waiting rooms for events, and event backgrounds. Strategic branding is a key way to increase a sponsor’s visibility. A particularly exciting type of space is virtual trade show booths: a sponsor can create their own unique space.
- Sponsored gifts
Everybody likes swag! An effective way to connect with your audience is incorporating a physical element like real-world gifts or prizes; these can easily be provided (and branded!) by your sponsors. Just like in real life, your gifts to virtual attendees can run the gamut from articles of clothing (hats! t-shirts!), gift baskets, or gift cards, delivered before or after the actual event.
- Sponsored Entertainment
An extremely effective type of virtual event sponsorship is providing entertainment (or other sponsored breaks) where a sponsor underwrites a performance by a live musician or entertainer, turning up the energy of your event and providing a memorable marketing opportunity.
- Sponsored Theme(s)
Circling back to the idea of a sponsored social responsibility message, your sponsor could be enlisted to provide a theme or message to hang your event on, anywhere from the entirety of the event to a themed Q&A or webinar. For big topics, the theme could be something relevant to your industry and close to the sponsor’s heart (“Data Analytics in the Medical Profession” just as a random example) or something on-brand and highly relevant for both of you. It doesn’t need to be that serious-minded though! Your theme could be based around a season (like a company’s winter party), a color (something your sponsor’s branding!), or a themed networking session.
- Sponsored Sessions
Along the lines of both a la carte sponsorships, and the idea of a themed networking session as mentioned above, sponsors can be put in charge of sessions within your larger event (an “event within the event”) such as breakout rooms, speaking sessions, live demos and workshops, and other branded activity. These give sponsors an opportunity to solidify their place with the audience as a leader in their field. It also can be a way for a sponsor with a limited budget or limited enthusiasm for virtual events to get involved and/or test the water at your event.
- “Special Packages”
Also tying back to a la carte and/or tiered sponsorships, you can create virtual event sponsorship packages individualized directly to a sponsor’s main area of business or interest. For instance, maybe a mobile brand would want a sponsorship package tied directly to your mobile event app. Get creative!
- Bundled Marketing
In the other direction (although also related to tiered sponsorship) your sponsorship package can be defined by what valuable features it includes to the sponsor: you can make a sponsorship package more attractive by pricing it at a discount as opposed to paying for each service individually.
Gamification is always an excellent way to keep your event audience engaged! It can also be a treasure trove of engagement data for you and your sponsors. Many virtual event platforms also facilitate gamification features: you can run different types of quizzes, polls, and challenges to test knowledge of event topics or simply fun icebreakers that connect audience, guests, and sponsors. Those who top a leaderboard ranking can get additional (possibly sponsor-donated) prizes.
In closing, the main thing to remember is that finding new ways to sponsorship should be thought of as an opportunity, and a way to rethink and re-evaluate “common wisdom” about event planning. Virtual events offer a whole new spectrum of possibilities. We’ve demonstrated here that there are several creative ways to incorporate virtual event sponsorship into your online and hybrid events–and the list above is probably only scratching the surface. We do hope this piques your curiosity to come up with new and innovative virtual event sponsorship ideas for your own endeavors!