Think about how attendees typically benefit from an event sponsorship. Perhaps a company covers their breakfast or bar tab at an evening reception. The reality is that the sponsor’s investment probably wears off by the time attendees return home. That momentary effect underscores the challenge of traditional sponsorships: They are ephemeral in nature.
At the inaugural edition of MANOVA, held Oct. 8–10 in Minneapolis, one of the health-care event’s biggest sponsors chose to do something more lasting. Walmart cemented the “Live Better” portion of its current tagline with an unusual addition to a conference environment: a flu-shot station. At the back of Exhibit Hall E at the Minneapolis Convention Center, the big box chain set up a traveling pharmacy where attendees could get inoculated for the upcoming flu season.
You may not immediately associate a discount retailer with a program focused on the future of health care, but Walmart has been making big moves in the health-care space. As the company focuses on capturing a share of the massive patient-care market, acting as a founding partner for MANOVA made sense. But instead of merely putting its name on a program and having someone from the company speak on a panel, Walmart was able to accomplish a task with the flu-shot station that should be on every sponsor’s to-do list: Establish a personal connection with an audience. After all, trusting a company with your personal well-being is more meaningful than just seeing their name on a screen during a reception.
By the morning of the second day of MANOVA, Walmart’s pharmacist told me that they had vaccinated approximately 80 participants. I was among them. Did it feel weird to go behind a curtain, take off my blazer, and have a pharmacist stick a needle in my arm in a convention center? Yes, but it enabled me to check off something I frequently put off on my own to-do list every year — and all it required was five minutes of my time during a program break.
It was also a smart move on Walmart’s part, as they gathered data on every vaccinated attendee: name, home address, phone number, insurance provider, primary care physician, and all the other details associated with getting a flu shot. My shot will carry me through the flu season, but Walmart will have my information in their database for much longer — and I’m okay with that.
The inaugural MANOVA aimed to give medical meetings a shot in the arm with its innovative approach. Stay tuned to an upcoming issue of Convene to learn more about the summit’s first year. In the meantime, here are more lessons on fueling successful sponsorships.