Over the last couple of years, people had to get scrappy with their budgets and events. And even though events are back in full swing, sponsors are hesitant. Their budgets are smaller due to rising inflation and threats of recession, and they want to spend their money in ways that make a big impact for their organizations. This makes securing event sponsors more difficult. 

Every time I meet with an association or partner, they ask if I have any sponsorship options or ideas outside of the prospectus. They want to build a unique package that caters specifically to their goals and budget. 

As we move into a new era of events, today’s event organizers require creativity and flexibility to craft cost-effective sponsorship packages that promote sponsor visibility and drive ROI. It all starts with working with the right partner.

Find the right event sponsors

When building (or rebuilding after a couple slow years) your sponsor portfolio, consider your community. What companies do you conduct business with outside of your organization? Those are the people who want to support you, your business, and your events.

From there, initiate a conversation about their goals and objectives. If they align with the theme, goals, and objectives of your event, then it’s a good fit. For example, at Webex Events, we want to be known as thought leaders in the events industry, so if we’re looking at potential sponsorship opportunities, we might propose hosting a session on content creation as part of an event sponsorship. If the topic fits into the event agenda, then it’s a mutually beneficial relationship. For a deep dive, check out our article on how to find and secure event sponsorship!

Go outside the prospectus

Sponsorships aren’t the cookie-cutter packages they once were. Just like the events industry, they continue to evolve. Today’s event organizers should talk to their sponsors about their objectives, desired outcome, and any financial constraints, then build solutions based on their unique needs. Sometimes the most creative ideas are born this way. For example, for a client seeking brand awareness, a sponsorship package could include webinars featuring speakers from their company, interviews with their team published on your website through blogs or videos, and a booth sponsorship with an on-site activation at a large trade show.

Fun event sponsorship ideas include:

  • Swag boxes with sponsor promotional materials inside
  • Sponsor-hosted hangout lounges (works for virtual and in-person events)
  • Sponsored entertainment, including local tours or virtual trivia
  • Social media callouts 

Maximize sponsor visibility

Brand awareness is a key reason why organizations sponsor events, so consider ways to maximize sponsor visibility, whether your event is in-person, virtual, or hybrid. This includes placing sponsor logos on digital banner ads and on event collateral at in-person events, recognizing sponsors during speaking sessions, and incorporating sponsors into experiential activations where possible, such as professional headshots, snack bars, or yoga sessions. 

One of my favorite ways to create brand awareness for sponsors is through social media speaker ads. For each of the speakers at your event, create a social media ad that includes their headshot along with the event details. Share them on your social media accounts, as well as with the sponsors. 

They’ll likely share the ads to their accounts too, creating buzz and interest for the event beyond your organization’s social network. Spreading the word about the event to more people helps generate more event registrations, which ultimately results in higher ROI for both the event organizer and the sponsor. 

Offer multiple price points

Sponsorship packages are really just a starting point. Factor in your sponsor’s budget and what you want the partnership to look like. Consider a mix of tiered sponsorship models (your typical gold, silver, and bronze packages), as well as à la carte options. 

A first-time sponsor, or someone working with a small budget, may come in at a lower level with those à la carte opportunities, while someone who’s attended your event before and seen ROI may prefer your top-tier package for more visibility and exclusivity. 

Consider a year-round program

Ultimately, you want a partnership with your sponsors — not just a transactional relationship. Rather than offering a one-time event sponsorship, include options for multiple touch points throughout the year. These can be smaller opportunities, like articles, webinars, or podcasts. 

A partnership offers more opportunities to save money by trading content, leads, and speaking engagements, all while building and bundling a mutually beneficial sponsorship package for both parties. At the end of the contract, parties should evaluate the partnership and build the following year’s sponsorship based on the most ROI-positive events throughout the year.

Check out this blog on how to build a modern, year-long events program by our very own Lisa Vogel, Field and Event Marketing Leader.

Provide qualified leads that generate positive ROI

The core KPIs sponsors care about are leads and return on investment, especially as they need to achieve more with less money. 

Prior to an event, the event organizer should provide data on potential attendees, including who attends (job title and company), how many people attend, where they are located, and what tools and products they’re interested in. Include data from past events as a benchmark. This helps potential sponsors decide whether to invest. 

As the event organizer, you’ll collect and deliver leads through multiple avenues, including event registration, email click-throughs, surveys, and advertisements. An event platform enables event organizers to power events, capture leads, and track metrics, like clicks on landing pages or sponsor banner ads. Your platform should allow you to pull leads lists immediately after the event, so you can deliver them to sponsors in a timely manner. 

Your sponsors are ultimately in charge of their ROI, which depends on their follow-up. For example, a sponsor may receive leads from a sponsored session focused on a specific topic. The follow-up should include a deeper dive into that topic to move the leads further down the sales funnel. Leads are great, but without a relevant, timely follow-through, your sponsor won’t see a strong ROI. 

Level up your event sponsorships

Today’s events must meet higher expectations with lower budgets. The last few years have required event industry professionals to think outside the box when planning events, and it’s the same for sponsorships. 

The standard gold, silver, and bronze packages are no longer enough. While they provide a good starting point, event organizers need to have conversations about sponsors’ goals and budgets, then customize unique solutions.

Event sponsors put significant effort, time, and budget into sponsoring events, and expect a similar return on investment. As event organizers, we need to bring our A-game to provide exceptional experiences for attendees and sponsors. 

Joanna Johnson
Joanna Johnson

Joanna is an Event Marketing Manager at Webex Events (formerly Socio). With over 10 years of event marketing experience, she is passionate about building and executing events that create engaging and inclusive experiences for all.