The success of a trade show is measured through the lens of various metrics, such as the number of attendees, the quantity and quality of leads generated for exhibitors and sponsors, and the number of partnerships that develop from connections made at an event. Arguably, achieving a good Return on Investment (ROI) is the most important objective.
Sponsorship opportunities can be a significant source of revenue for trade show organizers. A 2019 survey found that 20% of the revenue from trade shows in the US came from sponsorships and grants. However, attracting high-caliber sponsors has become increasingly challenging due to inflation, economic downturns, and climate change concerns. Projections from the 2023 CEIR Index Report indicate that revenue levels in the business-to-business (B2B) exhibition industry will only reach 72% of what they were in 2019.
Consequently, exhibitors are holding back on expenditures, with 94% anticipating some level of change in their spending programs within the next three years. To attract and retain sponsors, trade show organizers must demonstrate ROI for sponsors and exhibitors.
In this article, we'll provide expert advice and a step-by-step guide so you can attract and retain the right sponsors for your event.
What is Event Sponsorship?
Before we dive into the juicy stuff, let’s go back to basics for a short minute - what exactly is event sponsorship?
In short, event sponsorship is a partnership between a business and an event that is mutually beneficial for both parties.
Benefits of event sponsorships for event organizers
Sponsors often provide valuable resources, expertise, and technology that enhance the event experience.
Sponsorships allow organizers to tap into their sponsor's network to reach a broader audience.
From attracting more attendees and exhibitors to securing additional sponsors, having well-known and reputable sponsors co-sign your event is highly beneficial.
Sponsors aren’t limited to logo placements and ads. They can contribute to your event's program by creating engaging content or hosting workshops, Keynotes, and demonstrations that enrich the attendee experience.
Sponsors provide essential monetary support for organizers to cover event expenses and increase their revenue.
Benefits of event sponsorships for sponsors
NFL sponsors Nike, Pepsi, and Bose earned millions of dollars in media exposure during the 2022 Super Bowl. While trade show sponsors are unlikely to see that much of an impact, the brand exposure, and recognition they receive from a big-name event is anything but negligible.
Trade show events often attract a specific audience and, as a result, are the perfect setting to promote niche products or services to highly qualified and highly engaged attendees.
Trade shows offer countless opportunities for sponsors to capture and nurture leads. From dynamic booths and demos that draw attendees in, to the latest lead scanning technology for quick and seamless data capture, sponsors can collect attendee data and monitor their behavior to determine who’s most qualified.
Networking and Relationships
Sponsorships foster collaboration between professionals and businesses with similar goals.
Types of Sponsorship Opportunities for Trade Show Events
There are many ways a business can partner with an event, but most sponsorship opportunities can be grouped into five types.
1. Financial Sponsorship
This is a straightforward type of collaboration where the business pays the event to promote its brand. This revenue is typically used to pay for the upfront costs of running the event, such as venues and staff salaries.
2. In-kind Sponsorship
Rather than providing monetary contributions, businesses can offer their products or services free of charge to support an event. In most cases, the products or services represent the brand, so a ride-share company may offer transport services for an event, or a soft drink company may supply all the beverages for the day,
3. Media Sponsorship
Media sponsorship is when a business does marketing for your event on their platforms (e.g., social media). Some sponsors already have a large audience, and your event can benefit from the exposure. With this type of sponsorship, the main benefit is a reciprocal increase in brand visibility.
4. Promotional Sponsorship
For a media sponsorship, businesses promote your event on their platforms, while individuals typically handle the promotion for promotional sponsorships. These can be celebrities, influencers, or any personality brand with a significant following.
5. Merchandise Sponsorship
Who doesn’t like freebies? By providing branded merchandise as event swag, your sponsors can increase their visibility and make themselves more memorable.
Make sure you opt for sustainable options when selecting merchandise. Reusable items not only help reduce waste but also shine a positive light on your event and your sponsors.
How to attract sponsors for your next event
Once you select the types of sponsorships that are right for your trade show event, you have to set about trying to attract sponsors. Here are six steps you can take to secure sponsorship opportunities that provide greater visibility and drive more revenue:
1. Clearly define your target sponsors.
Not every sponsor is going to be a good fit for your event. Sometimes it’s as clear as day (Coca-Cola may not be the best choice to sponsor a health foods conference), while other times, you have to look closely at the details.
Here are some factors you should consider when defining your target sponsors:
If your attendees do not align with your sponsor’s target audience, your sponsors may not get their desired results regarding brand visibility and lead generation. Clearly define your event's demographics, interests, and needs, and ask yourself if this matches your audience's. If you cannot reach your sponsors' target audience, reconsider the collaboration. Sponsorship experiences need to be a positive experience for you, the organizer, of course, the sponsor, and for the attendees.
Choosing sponsors from a similar industry or a relevant niche increases the likelihood of a mutually beneficial partnership that enhances the overall attendee experience.
Budget and resources
When defining your target sponsors for your event, you have to consider your budget and the resources you have at your disposal. Remember, sponsorships have to be mutually beneficial, so asking Addidas to financially sponsor your event for your 100-attendee event may be overly optimistic. Understanding your available resources, whether it's in terms of manpower, promotional capabilities, or event logistics, will enable you to select sponsors whose contributions complement and enhance your event's overall success.
Choose partners whose values align with your brand and event objectives. In your conversations with potential sponsors, inquire about their social responsibility initiatives, ethical principles, and commitment to environmental sustainability.
Some sponsors have strict regulations regarding branding, messaging, or activation methods. Some sponsors may even demand exclusivity, meaning you may be unable to work with anyone they consider a competitor. This is usually the case with big-name brands. For a smoother experience, look for sponsors who are open to collaborative ideas and willing to work with your event's unique vision.
Understand potential sponsors' marketing goals and how your event can help them to achieve them. Be realistic. Some sponsors have bold objectives (“Here’s a branded pen, make us go viral”), but your small industry-specific event may not be able to help them meet that. Discussing objectives in concrete terms early on is key to a successful partnership.
2. Reach out to sponsors. Get creative.
Once you’ve defined your ideal sponsor, you must research and create a list of businesses or brands that align with your trade show event's theme, industry, and target audience. Don’t hesitate to leverage your existing network. LinkedIn is a great place to ask for referrals and introductions, as you can see which connections you have in common with a contact.
For each sponsor, send a personalized first message. You can reach out to potential sponsors through personalized emails, phone calls, or virtual meetings. The aim of the first contact is to communicate as clearly as possible, in as few words as possible, the value your sponsors can gain from sponsoring your event.
We know how important first impressions are, so we’ve created three message templates that are sure to capture the attention of potential sponsors!
3. Craft personalized sponsorship packages
If successful, you may receive a request for a proposal, where you’ll be asked to detail the sponsorship packages that you offer. Traditional sponsorship packages have a one-size-fits-all approach that may not fully cater to each sponsor's unique needs and objectives. To stand out from the crowd, make sure you offer your sponsors custom-made packages with a menu of customizable benefits to choose from.
Benefits should be tailored to sponsor preferences, budget, marketing goals, and target audience. Benefits should represent the diverse lead-generation opportunities your trade show event can provide. From attendee data capture to exclusive networking events, look for strategies that help your sponsors to connect and generate quality leads.
Here is a list of exclusive benefits that event organizers can consider including in their sponsorship packages to provide added value to sponsors:
Alternatively, invite them as thought leaders or prominent guest speakers on webinars, keynotes, panels, workshops, or other promotional events.
VIP Networking Events
Host exclusive networking events that allow your sponsors to connect with other sponsors, high-profile attendees, and the movers and shakers in your industry.
Data is arguably the most valuable resource in the events sphere. Attendee data and insights enable sponsors to segment their audience better and better their marketing efforts, and performance data can show which strategies had the most impact on revenue and leads.
If your event is a hybrid or a smart in-person event, make sure to include a mix of branding opportunities to make the most of both settings. For in-person events, you can offer branded decor on interactive displays, giveaway stands, stage backdrops, and of course, lanyards and event guides. For virtual events, you can brand every square inch of your website, mobile app, and all digital marketing materials.
Product demos and showcases are highly effective at getting attendees to stop and take notice of a brand. Offer your sponsors a prime location near the entry of your trade show event to maximize exposure and engagement.
VIP passes, or tickets
VIP events help sponsors feel valued and provide an environment where sponsors can network with other key stakeholders and industry leaders. VIP events and experiences can range from gala dinners to behind-the-scenes tours to networking parties.
Visibility in marketing campaigns
Whether it’s a logo at the bottom of a press release or a quick mention during an interview, mentioning your sponsor outside of your event can still generate leads and boost brand visibility.
Social media is a highly effective marketing channel, and if you have a sizeable follower count, you can charge a pretty penny for a social media shout-out or takeover. If you have a good email sign-up or open rate, you can also get in on the act by charging sponsors for an email blast or sponsored section.
With the rising demand for valuable educational content, why not offer a select number of your sponsors (up to 20%) the chance to create exclusive content as part of a personalized sponsorship package?
Allowing sponsors to create content opens up exciting opportunities for them to connect with your audience beyond the usual show duration, facilitating lead generation throughout the year.
Moreover, adding a digital element to most trade shows, such as hybrid events and smart events, enables sponsors to connect with a larger and more diverse audience, maximizing their reach and impact.
Remember that sponsorships are built on mutual value. The key to acquiring and retaining sponsors lies in offering tangible ROI. By tailoring sponsorship packages to align with sponsors' specific needs, you encourage sponsors to invest in your event.
4. Showcase previous success
Social proof is a powerful tool for enticing sponsors, as it demonstrates the positive impact and value of sponsoring your event. When pitching your event, don’t be shy or hold back. Showcase success stories and testimonials from past sponsors who had achieved success in their partnership with your event. Interview past sponsors and create visually appealing case studies that delve deeper into your partnerships.
By sharing testimonials from past sponsors, you establish your event as a reputable platform that delivers on its promises and make it easy for sponsors to envision themselves succeeding at your event.
5. Leverage data and analytics
To attract sponsors for your event, it’s not enough to tell them about the success of your event you have to show them. In other words, put your data where your mouth is!
Below are some data points you can provide to sponsors at the end of your partnership to demonstrate your event's value and ROI.
Attendee demographics and behavior
Here are some metrics you can offer your sponsors if they partner with you:
- A list of qualified leads and contact information. Some lead scanning and tracking tools assess the quality of the leads in real time so that sponsors can prioritize their follow-ups for higher conversion rates.
- Feedback from surveys. The feedback should relate to the sponsors' products or services and either help them to refine their marketing strategies or boost their brand credibility.
- Engagement metrics. Some examples of attendee engagement metrics from events that may interest sponsors include event attendance and registration rates, session attendance and duration, booth traffic and dwell time, and gamification metrics.
Stats from past sponsors
As mentioned previously, social proof is a highly effective tool for acquiring sponsors. But don’t just stop at positive testimonials. If your past sponsors give you permission, be sure to include concrete data to quantify and back up your achievements. You can mention increased brand visibility, lead generation, and sales growth in percentages.
Digital Marketing Performance
Offer your sponsors a comprehensive view of your event's potential by sharing data and analytics from your digital marketing campaign. Metrics like social media interactions, website traffic, blog traffic, email open rates, and click-through rates vividly demonstrate the impact and extensive reach sponsors can achieve with your engaged audience.
6. Build (and maintain) good relationships
In the events industry, relationships are everything. Maintaining strong, positive working relationships with sponsors, exhibitors, attendees, and other stakeholders is crucial for success. Building trust, credibility, and rapport with partners takes considerable time and effort, but it only takes one careless action or word to damage those hard-earned connections.
The 3 C's of building a successful professional partnership are:
- Communication: To foster successful partnerships, it is crucial to listen to your sponsors' needs, clearly articulate the value of your event in your proposal, and respond promptly and professionally to all communications. Professional communication does not have to be boring. Show off your storytelling and graphic design chops to really capture the attention of your sponsors and leave a lasting impression.
- Collaboration: Successful sponsorships thrive on shared goals and collaboration. Your success is the success of your sponsors, and vice versa. Therefore, it's vital to ensure that sponsorship packages reflect this mutual cooperation and thoughtfully consider your sponsors' individual needs and objectives.
- Consistency: Maintaining consistent communication, delivering on promises, and providing reliable support is essential for building trust and credibility with your sponsors.
By applying these 3 C's, you can guarantee satisfied sponsors who will likely renew their partnership with you and advocate for your event within their networks. Once you have a series of successful partnerships under your belt, your reputation in the industry will begin to open doors to even more exciting opportunities.
In conclusion, securing sponsors for your trade show event is a pivotal step toward its success. To attract and retain sponsors, you must showcase the potential for increased revenue and visibility through sponsorship opportunities, provide tailored packages, and deliver on promises. As sponsors see tangible returns on their investment, they'll want to stick around for the long haul, ultimately ensuring the sustained growth and success of your trade show event.
Want to see how Swapcard can help you create a successful event for you, your exhibitors, and your sponsors?