The truth is, virtual events offer businesses incomparable access to qualified leads and a much higher potential for closing business. All event planners have to do is show the value of virtual event platforms to their sponsors.
What is virtual event sponsorship?
Well, it's when organizers of online events bring in partners who exchange services for visibility or pay sums of money to support the event in exchange for certain advantages. The principle of sponsorship remains the same as during physical events, but during virtual events, the advantages for sponsors are laid out on the digital event platform.
This guide will break down the need for educating sponsors on the reality of virtual events. Many companies are asking themselves, "Why sponsor a virtual event?" because they're not seeing the ROI they are used to at physical events. We'll show you how valuable online sponsorship opportunities can be. We’ll cover how to tap into the methods and tools used by well-attended virtual events, which benefited sponsors and attendees.
Let's take a look at how you can ensure sponsors and exhibitors are comfortable with the tools you provide in order to maximize their ROI.
Boost Exhibitor and Sponsor ROI With These Virtual Event Sponsorship Ideas
If you've heard the question "How do you monetize a virtual event?", you'll know that sponsorship is one of the most valuable tools for organizers. An event planner's success is dependent on their sponsors' success.
From user profiles that sponsors can use to promote their brands and connect with potential clients, to features and strategies that can greatly improve their chances at ensuring ROI, to generating return clients from successful events — this guide looks at how to do event sponsorship right.
Wondering what to offer in a sponsorship package? It’s up to the organizers to provide the tools, training and support that exhibitors need to do their business. On a virtual event platform, this includes networking and engagement features and data collection tools. While data is invaluable, it’s still up to a sponsor to do their best to inspire engagement and attract an audience. Sponsors working with a comprehensive platform that can accommodate a variety of presentations, meetups, and conversations should use those tools.
Let’s look at the ways in which you can structure virtual event sponsorship packages to help your exhibitors make the most of their investment with fourteen creative, helpful ideas.
1. Show Sponsors & Exhibitors The Value of Virtual Event Platforms
The emergence of the all-in-one virtual event platform gives planners a ton of services and features to offer potential sponsors. Though, it’s a relatively new space, and not many people even know what a virtual event platform is.
So, the first step to securing virtual event sponsorship will be to make sure your potential collaborators know what’s out there. Consider where they’re coming from, and how to enlighten them.
Imagine an event sponsor who has only experienced singular digital events such as a Zoom conference or Google Hangouts webinar. The event did not generate much engagement, networking, or a positive ROI for this sponsor. Then you, an event planner, come to them with a great idea for a virtual event, but they’ve already sworn off the digital frontier for good.
That one experience, or those few webinars and conferences, absolutely do not mean your potential sponsor knows what’s out there. Educate them on all-in-one virtual event platforms, and a major leap forward in the world of remote exhibitions, conferences, and shows.
From sponsor profiles, to AI-enhanced matchmaking tools, to live analytics, and inclusive services such as onboarding emails and polls — all of the scattered virtual event tools supporting limited gatherings across the internet come together on comprehensive platforms like Swapcard.
Introduce your sponsor to a platform that is built to meet their every need, and then open their eyes to the more profitable and connective features of the virtual events world.
2. Organize Training Sessions For Your Sponsors On Your Virtual Event Platform
The biggest mistake an organizer can make is to neglect training their sponsors and exhibitors on the platform. New data released by Swapcard shows that exhibitors miss nearly 40% of all business at virtual events, and one reason for this may be a lack of exhibitor training on the platform.
To set sponsors up for success, host events and train them on an all-in-one virtual event platform that offers all of these features. Set them up for success, so that they will return over and over. To better ensure repeat and increased performance, make sure to opt for a platform with in-depth analytics so that sponsors can improve how they approach an event and promote themselves from one event to the next.
According to an Event Manager Blog 2020 study, “In terms of sponsorship opportunities, the top three features offered by virtual event tech providers are sponsor/exhibitor profiles (78%), analytics/reporting (77%), and banners in high traffic areas (70%).”
Swapcard is a great example of such a platform. For the piece, we’ll use our service’s features and tools to illustrate how you could train your sponsors on a specific system to build comfort and genuinely connect them to qualified leads.
Event planners using Swapcard can show a potential sponsor exactly what they’ll be investing in. That type of comprehensive, transparent reporting can go a long way in keeping a sponsor open to learning about the benefits of the virtual event space.
3. Sell Exhibitors Customizable Virtual Booths
To convince anyone to invest money in an event, you need to ensure them that it will go towards growing their business. To do that, planners must also guarantee that sponsors are accessible and in a position to represent themselves with style. Another insightful figure from Swapcard’s recent data on virtual exhibitors shows that booths are the best place for closing business deals, second only to sponsored sessions on the event agenda. So the virtual stand has to be attractive, immersive and spark curiosity.
The easiest way to do this, is by hosting your event on a comprehensive virtual event platform — one built with the sponsors and their prospective leads in mind.
Swapcard, for example, begins curating the sponsor experience by having them share some information.
Having a curated profile on a platform shared by an event’s attendees and exhibitors — a sponsor can easily showcase their brand messages, products, and presentations.
Some features they could expect with a premier platform include: a video or image banner, logo placement, available meeting slots, live-streamed demos and Q&A sessions, as well as general information like websites, social media accounts and contact details. On solid all-in-one platforms, sponsors also have the opportunity to upload products, services, vouchers, discount codes and more.
A sponsor on Swapcard could also showcase products and features on their profile, link with event attendees, and link to sessions they sponsor. In addition to a smooth, automated onboarding for a sponsor — building these pages and attending these events only costs them an app download, no hardware.
4. Offer Sponsored Sessions In Your Virtual Event Sponsorship Package
The most direct way for a sponsor to make an impact on an event — virtual or physical — is to host sessions with virtual exhibitors, and for their target audience. Whether it be a roundtable, live stream, or pre-recorded on-demand presentation, sponsors can tailor and brand any given session to meet their every need. According to data from over 460 virtual events, as much 60% of leads generated come directly from the sponsored sessions on the event’s schedule.
Some examples of such customization include placing a sponsor’s logo in the corner of the presentation screen, playing a sponsored ad just before an event begins, and curating shout-outs from virtual exhibitors.
In addition to putting sponsors in touch with exhibitors and audience members who could be potential clients, virtual sessions also offer an invaluable branding platform. For well-built virtual events, such sessions can see thousands of active users.
5. Use The Virtual Platform For Strategic Branding & Visibility
While virtual sessions offer event sponsors one area for logo placement and brand promotion — the landscape of an all-in-one virtual event platform features much more.
Building off the tried-and-true methods of sign hanging and brand messaging throughout a physical space, sponsors can deck out a digital one too.
Virtual event sponsorship on Swapcard, for example, supports placing logos on landing pages, in waiting rooms, and in live stream chat rooms. As virtual event platforms and forward-thinking planners build larger and more engaged audiences, branding in these spaces will become harder and harder to come by.
6. Sell Visibility On Event Communications
Branding within the platform is not the only place that's strategic for sponsors. What about the organizer emails, social media posts and other communications that bring the attendees into the platform?
Consider offering augmented visibility on communications as a paid add-on in your virtual event sponsorship packages. The pre-event period is the most lucrative for gaining maximum visibility among attendees, so emphasize the weeks leading up to the event in your sponsors agreements. Logos and banners on emails, social media takeovers, sponsored posts and even a pre-event fireside chat or eblast can offer valuable exposure to sponsors.
7. Add Swag To Your Virtual Sponsorship Packages
Just because an event takes place online doesn’t mean tried-and-true branding techniques are no longer applicable. Sponsors on virtual platforms can still set up deliveries of sponsored swag for attendees who registered for their event. From notebooks, to mugs, t-shirts, and literature — the world of swag is readily available, and a true compliment to sponsorship packages old or new.
8. Promote Sponsors In Games & Challenges
Gamification is one of the best ways to engage attendees at virtual events. There are many virtual event platforms out there that have endless gamification opportunities, or you may choose to partner with a specialist tool. True/False games during sessions help the audience stay engaged and keep learning, while a musical quiz with the DJ during a cocktail party ensures everyone has fun and feels like they’re part of the community! Get your sponsors in on the fun by asking them to donate prizes - this also helps them gain more visibility and gives your attendees an incentive to participate.
9. Offer Sponsored Happy Hours & Meetups
Presentations, talks, and formal events are certainly great for sponsors, but so are more casual gatherings. After all, it’s that casual, fun interaction that most people are missing about events after over a year of some sort of lockdown for nearly 4 billion people.
Holding a space for conversation and relaxation is as important to a virtual event as it is for a physical one. When planners set up clients with an event platform that can host sponsored happy hours and meet ups — they’re giving them a powerful tool for branding and networking.
The sponsor who knows when it’s time to throw on some music and relax over drinks speaks to potential leads in a different way. In addition to making events more enjoyable and interactive, these types of gatherings also prioritize networking. While taking advantage of the ever-effective blend of cocktails and mingling, modern sponsors can also implement more advanced matchmaking techniques.
Meeting qualified leads and real potential customers is becoming easier and more efficient online, especially with the help of AI-powered platforms like Swapcard. Our system, for example, can strategically place attendees in virtual meet-and-greets, and happy hours based on how well they fit the sponsor’s target audience. This advanced connectivity is only possible with the assistance of a virtual platform, and so it’s a really powerful feature for a planner wooing sponsors.
Let’s now dive a bit deeper into AI, and how modern tech ties into analytics to create a new age of consumer data that helps sponsors generate returns from events.
10. Give your exhibitors maximum visibility in a digital marketplace
Similar to an exhibition hall, the online marketplace is a page full of customized, colorful and visually appealing booths where sponsors can share product & services, job boards and other resources. Encourage your exhibitors to upload videos and images, both of which are more engaging than plain text, and use your MCs and ads to direct attendees to the marketplace during their free time.
11. Use Artificial Intelligence To Your Advantage For Virtual Networking
We know that virtual event planners run into a lot of skepticism when estimating just how profitable an event online can be.
Sponsors who have had success for years, and in many cases decades with backing in-person gatherings often have more trouble seeing the upside of moving things either partially or completely online.
However, if we’re talking about finding those sponsors the best tools to ensure a return, then we have to show them what’s available on virtual platforms, because that’s where the most in-depth reporting and advanced tech lives. For example, growing more relevant by the day, there’s the new emergence of artificial intelligence (AI) in the events world.
Let your sponsors know that they can either take advantage of the educated connections available with an AI-powered platform, or pass on the future of networking.
To better understand how AI technology can benefit virtual event sponsorship, let’s take a look at Swapcard’s Event Matchmaking Platform. Built to increase B2B interactions, match participants, deliver qualified meetings and increase ROI — this system blends advanced tech with a customizable platform.
On the AI side, Swapcard is actually the first and only company to apply deep learning to event networking by using the most advanced and powerful programming available. An AI-first product, the platform shows sponsors who they should meet based on key identifiers. Proper matches are then found by asking attendees questions about what they are offering and seeking. Swapcard's AI is "True AI" and it doesn't only suggest the best people to meet, but also the best content - sessions to watch, exhibitor booths to visit, products to view and materials/resources/documents to download from the event.
These surveys inform an advanced AI system, which processes information through a number of stages:
- The Neural Network is created with interconnected neurons, like a real brain. These are organized and activated based on input from sponsors, attendees, and other users.
- The system then uses Natural Language Processing to understand the human language, filter important keywords, and monitor changes by users to their profiles.
- Following, The Ontology Part organizes all of the user's data in a coherent graph, which makes identifying connected keywords, skills, companies, and industries more in-depth and more telling.
- Step Five is The Matching Result, and it’s when the AI system gives all items (users, sessions, products and exhibitors) a singular profile based on their data. They then get secondary profiles that monitor that activity within the app. The more dimensions these profiles gain, the better the system can match sponsors with the exact users they are looking to engage.
- Reinforcement Learning is the last step, which recognizes the ongoing work of the NLP pipeline and Ontology steps. As new links are created, new associations, further enhanced profiles, and more qualified leads will emerge from the program.
Check out this breakdown to learn more about the advanced makeup of Swapcard’s AI system, and how that represents some of the advanced matchmaking opportunities available with virtual event sponsorship, and not to that which is solely physical.
Using smart networking tools, event sponsors can customize their own matchmaking rules, set up qualified face-to-face meetings, and track all meetings booked.
The process of getting set up is streamlined for a user when setting up their profile into three easy steps:
- Sponsors can easily set up their own matchmaking rules with Swapcard’s data segmentation.
- Manage time slots and meeting areas to pre-schedule, figure out who should/can meet who, lock in qualified leads.
- Sponsors can also follow meetings on the go, keeping a real-time handle on appointments among attendees and exhibitors.
This comprehensive matchmaking system is designed to help those who invest in an event track and measure their ROI, know what works in their approach, and what needs to change. Using these metrics, and building off the information they provide is a method for improving events that was simply unavailable before the virtual event boom.
Metrics that a sponsor can keep track of and analyze include: meeting requests accepted, business cards scanned, badges scanned, messages sent in chat rooms, and number of messages sent one-on-one.
12. Give Sponsors The Tools To Better Generate & Track Leads
On top of the benefits of automated lead generation that come with virtual event sponsorship — a well-built platform also makes it easier to keep track of contacts, and follow up.
By scanning badges and business cards, and collecting contact details on an app, a virtual event sponsor can build a ready list of qualified leads. They can categorize these contacts by their qualifying information with notes and tags, and then share that information with their team. This sets the stage for a streamlined engagement campaign.
Taking advantage of automated follow-ups with a platform like Swapcard increases the speed of sales, and ensures that no potential customers slip through the cracks.
We also make it easy for sponsors to automatically sync new contacts into their CRM for immediate follow-up, and to use for ongoing marketing campaigns.
Intuitive systems such as ours also show sponsors how their team is performing. Tracking contacts, meetings, and any deals — these systems are great tools for tracing and identifying the top performing sales reps from a given event, or across a series of events.
These automated, informative programs make sure all potential business is recognized, analyzed, and pursued. Virtual event platforms using advanced technology like Swapcard reach further, and with far greater speed than any in-person system could support.
So, any sponsors who try to paint digital events as less lucrative than physical ones might want to have another look at the tools available online.
13. Make Your Event Data-Driven
In addition to the vast analytics an event sponsor can gather by simply scanning business cards, there’s also a lot to be learned from the behavior across an event itself. This information offers virtual event planners another selling point when trying to convert sponsors who are hesitant to go digital.
Gathering analytics can be used for matchmaking campaigns, and to inform sponsors on the reach and effect an event had on its audience. Those who are looking to support ongoing conferences, shows, and exhibitions can use the statistics included with a platform like Swapcard to get better with each installment.
Some of the detailed individual and program statistics available include:
- An Overall Usage Summary
- Networking Summary
- Detailed Summary For Each User
- Detailed Summary For Each Exhibitor
- The Top Performing Session, Speaker, Exhibitor, Sponsor
- Most contacted user
- Best Networker
- Engagement Percentage of Active Users
- Total Contacts made
- Total Messages Exchanged
- Plus a wealth of additional statistics about sponsors, exhibitors, schedules, and speakers.
Taking all of this into consideration — anyone who has invested in the success of a virtual event can maintain a detailed understanding of their ROI, as well as their performance, and how they compare to everyone else involved.
Knowledge is power, and so this breadth of detail goes a long way. In addition to being agreed on as one of the most important features of a virtual event, this data isn’t always a guarantee. According to the Event Manager Blog 2020 study, “Nearly 25% of providers don’t offer any sort of analytics for proving sponsor ROI.”
Virtual event planners need to make sure their sponsors know that this information is fast becoming the standard. Ensuring they get to work on a platform that delivers detailed reports on ROI, like Swapcard, in addition to performance statistics means that a virtual event platform is offering an experience that is at the very least above average.
To break the process down simply for late adopters, share the following:
- You sponsor a virtual event.
- You take advantage of the virtual events session-building, and matchmaking tools.
- You gather contact info on as many leads as possible, which your platform identifies and automates for you.
- Meanwhile, that same platform tracks statistics on everything that’s happening.
- Those statistics breakdown what your virtual event sponsorship investment yielded.
- The number of qualified leads you were connected with, and what was done with them.
- It will tell you how engaging the event was, how engaging you were, and how engaging other sponsors and exhibitors were.
- This is now all at your disposal when planning the next one.
14. Take Inspiration From Other Successful Virtual Event Sponsorship Ideas
No matter how many tools, or the depth of insight a virtual event sponsor might have — they still need some bottom line results. This is especially true when weighing a potential investment. Planners looking to pull sponsors onto virtual events can point to successful efforts as real-life examples to better sell their value.
With many Swapcard studies at our disposal, let’s break down how a few different ones attended to the sponsor's unique needs and then delivered meaningful results.
Enjoying full control of the platform for their event, People Matters TechHR utilized full support from Swapcard across all languages and timezones.
Working together, we set out to create an immersive content experience that generated actual networking while being one-hundred percent online. Lead generation for sponsors who needed to boost their ROI was another key goal for every organizer involved.
To achieve these goals, People Matters along with exhibitors and sponsors made the most of the Swapcard App by programming video-calls and utilizing matchmaking services. Attendee engagement was tracked with live discussions, polls and Q&As throughout sessions. The results were quite gratifying.
Throughout the People Matters TechHR event, over 12,000 connections were made, over 1,100 virtual meetings held, and over 35,000 discussions were created.
Across all this engagement, third party platforms and sponsors were able to track their individual connections, meetings, and returns.
The SOAHR Atlanta HR Conference is a fantastic case study for any event sponsor who is skeptical of the benefits of a virtual gathering. Formerly an in-person tradition, SOAHR was among the countless events forced to transition to an online venue due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
To make lemonade of the situation, and carry on with its widely attended tradition, the team at SOAHR teamed up with Swapcard to address a number of challenges. They needed to enable networking between attendees and exhibitors, educate attendees, and replicate the physical event as well as possible.
Using the best tools available to them, SOAHR enabled networking between attendees and exhibitors by streaming of webinars with live Q&As and polls.
Event organizers also promoted engagement while recreating the charm of its physical installment by adding concerts, mini cooking classes, happy hours, and virtual swag bags to the series of presentations and conferences. These spaces provided active grounds for sponsors to drum up business, and the numbers back it up.
The fantastically successful 2020 SOAHR Atlanta HR Conference took place completely online and maintained an 85% usage rate with over 5,000 connections made, and over 17,000 messages sent.
To explore the benefits of virtual events we’ve been touting throughout this piece, Swapcard put on its own event while building out our platform. Evolve: The Virtual Event for Planners was a down-to-the-wire production.
Under construction, our virtual event software was being updated with new features almost daily leading right up to the start of Evolve.
Conceived, planned, and executed in just 45 days — we were challenged with creating something that would be functional, informative, engaging, and that promoted networking for our audience and sponsors.
With live and pre-recorded sessions, live Q&As and polls, as well as AI-powered matchmaking for video calls — Evolve far surpassed all expectations.
The event director Martell Fox said she expected 1,000 attendees, and then ended up with 4,000 active ones. The vast majority — 79% of registered attendees were active on the platform during the event.
With just 30 speakers across three days, we generated over 10,000 conversations between attendees. The attention, engagement, and attendance all speak to the potential reach and influence of virtual event sponsorship when combined with a well-run, thoughtfully curated event.
Virtual Event Platforms Can Benefit Any Sponsor
Looking at the tools available today, and how they’ve been utilized — the universal benefit virtual event platforms offer planners and sponsors is undeniable.
It’s tough to imagine why someone would want to invest in an event and branding their company or product there, only to then pass up on the most intuitive analytics and matchmaking technologies available throughout that space. Why? And blind skepticism isn’t a rationale spenders are likely to back for long.
So, for planners looking to turn sponsors online, if you have an impressive platform, then the argument is there waiting to be made.
To recap, when communicating with potential sponsors who can’t see the advantages of virtual event sponsorship, begin by educating them. Explain how a digital presence can be influential, informative, and connective. Once you’ve explained what a virtual event platform is, then get into specific services like AI-enhanced matchmaking, session sponsorship, automated lead generation, and live analytics.
To access and better show the profiles, metrics, and matchmaking technologies that differentiate valuable virtual events from the rest, get in touch with an all-in-one platform like Swapcard.