Whether your attendees feel marginalized or that they matter has a lot to do with their interaction with sponsors.
Think back to an event that you attended. Quick: Do you remember any of the sponsors? Why? Did you get something unexpected, participate in something memorable, or were you entertained? Why not offer more of these types of experiences that matter to your attendees and ensure a triple win — for your sponsors, your organization, and your attendees?
Big consumer events, like the Super Bowl, the Olympics, and spring break, are incredibly successful at mattering to their participants. Borrowing a page from the B2C sponsorship playbook, here are six attendee outcomes or emotions they strive to achieve:
ENTERTAIN, EDUCATE, ENGAGE, AND/ OR PROVIDE JOY
Everyone likes to be entertained and to have thought-provoking moments, so offer sponsorships that bring fun, interactive learning, and entertainment. Super Bowl Boulevard is a great example. This year it included a Toboggan Run — right in the heart of New York City. I mean, who doesn't want to fly down a six-story slide in the middle of Times Square? Sponsors of conference keynote speakers and education tracks will be valued when they are tied into a great attendee experience.
What do your attendees need? Are they hungry? Do they need Wi-Fi or a charge for their mobile phone or other device? Your sponsorships should meet and exceed their on-site needs. Australian Gold was a hit on the sunny beaches of spring break because the company offered free sunscreen.
Create sponsorships around something unexpected, something exciting. Gillette made a splash at spring-break destinations by sponsoring beachfront lounges and in-room samples of their products. Similarly, the Society for Human Resource Management provides “Random Opportunities of Conference Kindness” to its attendees.
Create sponsorships that help your attendees on a personal or professional level. The Army National Guard sponsors an obstacle course on the beach during spring break with the goal of helping students with career options while attracting new recruits.
Create community and connections through your sponsorships. Meeting new people and connecting on a personal level can be tiring even for outgoing personality types. Create sponsorship opportunities that help people meet someone new in a fun environment. Olympic pin trading is something everyone can medal in, and most sponsors distribute their own pins. The trading tents create great opportunities for connecting with fellow enthusiasts.
Create a sense of feeling special. Sponsors can offer preferred seating, special gifts, or access to the keynote speaker for a limited number of your attendees. Olympic sponsors do this well with hosted trips to the games, private parties, and VIP seating and transportation.
Sponsorships that are welcomed, anticipated, and appreciated by attendees can yield a premium price. Consumers and conference attendees can see right through offerings with a hidden sales pitch. Moving forward, the more you can align your sponsorship inventory and strategy with the six attendee-mattering categories, the greater success you will have in your sponsorship program.
Dave Lutz, CMP, is managing director of Velvet Chainsaw Consulting