Convene Survey: What Drives Event Sponsorships?

Author: Michelle Russell       

When IEG published its sponsorship spending forecast for 2017 last January, the sponsorship company predicted slow growth, due in part to “the lingering gap between sponsor expectations and properties’ ability to deliver.” That drag on sponsor spending was echoed by a number of business-event organizer respondents to Convene’s recent survey on event sponsorship, who said they find it more challenging to create initiatives that benefit sponsors than to come up with sponsored programs that benefit their audience.

Other survey results: 

While the vast majority (90 percent) of respondents sell sponsorship or partnership opportunities at their largest event, only around one-third of those sponsorships include year-round activities.

The most common sponsorship benefit at events is signage, followed by recognition from the stage.

Print is still predominantly the channel for sponsors to share their messages at events.

On average, sponsors contribute 28 percent of the event’s overall revenue and 18 percent of the organization’s overall revenue.

The majority of planners say their organizations offer between 4 and 9 sponsorship levels.


More than half (56 percent) of respondents offer category exclusivity for their top-level sponsors.

Those opportunities include:

  • invitations to special events
  • app sponsorship
  • invitations to invite guests and share their company’s products/services
  • dining hall and keynote room naming rights
  • lanyards and luncheons
  • options including reg bags, program guide cover, notepads and pens
  • logo placement on room-key cards
  • name-badge ads
  • preferred seating
  • speaking opportunity
  • Wi-Fi
  • website banner ad

Nearly half (47 percent) of respondents pitch a menu of options for sponsors to choose from, while 22 percent craft customized approaches.

Many respondents how checked the “other” category said that they offer both a menu and craft custom offerings. The sponsor menu items that are most popular are speaking opportunities, reception sponsorships, physical items like lanyards, keycards, and signage), and networking opportunities. Respondents said that the most difficult menu items to get sponsored are coffee breaks, dependent care, full sponsorship of meals, and technology (Wi-Fi, charging stations, mobile-app banners, etc.), which one respondent called “perplexing.”

When asked how to best describe their pricing rationale for sponsorships, nearly two-fifths said it is value-based. Another 25 percent said it was based on expense recovery.

Aside from providing revenue, sponsors benefit organizations in a variety of ways, including funding education programs. “We need sponsorship to keep us running,” wrote one respondent. “Membership no longer does it at the moment.”

More than half said that sponsorships are growing in importance to their overall strategy.

Respondents are evenly split  (50/50) when it comes to noticing changes in sponsorship trends or requests from sponsors. Here’s what they said:

  • Mergers among sponsors and exhibitors are reducing available sponsorship dollars.
  • More sponsors are increasing their booth presence while decreasing their sponsorship spend.
  • Sponsors are requesting more details about how their money is being spent and data on who benefits from that support.
  • Customer leads and engagement time with attendees trump brand awareness.
  • For medical conferences, sponsors are turning more to online courses where they perceive they have a better ROI.
  • Sponsors are questioning the ROI on traditional activations, like signage.
  • They want more time with senior leadership.

Respondents say that acquiring new sponsors is their biggest challenge.

Primary challenges, ranked:

  1. Acquiring new sponsors
  2. Creating programs that benefit sponsors
  3. Retaining existing sponsors
  4. Creating programs that benefit the audience
  5. Avoiding one-off sponsorship activities
  6. Competing sponsors
  7. Avoiding clutter (too many sponsors)
  8. Other

Creating programs that benefit sponsors is a slightly more challenging than creating programs that benefit the audience. As part of that, several respondents said that providing/proving ROI to sponsors was difficult.

The sponsorship survey was conducted in late 2017 by Lewis&Clark,, and sponsored by DMAI’s More than 280 respondents participated. All material © 2018 by PCMA.

Become a Member

Get premium access to provocative executive-level education, face-to-face networking and business intelligence.