When the Ohio Society of Association Executives held its first in-person meeting in more than a year, a sponsor developed survival kits to include in all attendees’ swag bags. Attendees loved the kits, which provided recognition for the sponsor and nondues revenue for the association.
As associations start to welcome people back to face-to-face events, it’s important that they make attendees feel that their health and safety are a top priority. With that in mind, the Ohio Society of Association Executives was glad when a sponsor suggested including a “Welcome Back to In-Person Survival Kit” in attendees’ conference bags for its first in-person meeting since the pandemic.
“Folks loved it,” said Jarrod A. Clabaugh, CAE, president & CEO of OSAE. “It was a fun way for a vendor to remind people to enjoy themselves in a face-to-face opportunity without ignoring the concerns that people currently have about the pandemic and its variant.”
The kits included several items to help people returning to an event—vitamins, acetaminophen, hand sanitizer, Band-Aids, and alcohol wipes—and were given to the 120 people who attended OSAE’s 2021 Annual Conference in July. The kit was the brainchild of Timothy McNichols, executive director of partnerships with LIG Solutions, a healthcare solutions company that purchased an event sponsorship that allowed them to put something in the conference bag.
McNichols initially planned to buy items from a promotion company but couldn’t find what he wanted. “We looked at doing first-aid kits, but I didn’t find anything that got me excited,” McNichols said. “I started realizing that what I wanted to do didn’t exist. That’s where I came up with this idea of the Welcome Back to In-Person Survival Kit.”
McNichols, who has regularly attended OSAE events, said he had a good feel for the meeting and what he thought attendees would find fun. He called Clabaugh to see if OSAE would be amenable to such a kit, and once he got the go ahead, figured out how to build it.
(courtesy of Timothy McNichols)
A few Google searches let McNichols know he could buy in bulk the items he needed to create the kits, which he said ended up costing $1.53 each (not including the time he spent assembling them). “We wanted it to be slightly tongue in cheek, but at the same time useful stuff,” McNichols said. “We knew people hadn’t been doing this for 18 months, so Band-Aids in case you got blisters because you haven’t worn your dress shoes in a while. Antacids if you ate food you hadn’t eaten before—or hadn’t eaten in a long time. Those kinds of things.”
Benefits for Sponsors, Association
For associations considering a similar kit, there are several benefits to use as selling points for sponsors. For example, an unexpected change proved beneficial with the kit for OSAE. McNichols had originally wanted the kit to be smaller, but a pharmacy partner offered to provide full-sized bottles of acetaminophen and vitamin C, which required a bigger bag and allowed LIG to insert a large, branded cover page.
“We put that cover page in that promoted our program,” he said. “If I’d bought a promotional item, I couldn’t have done that and had that much exposure—that much real-estate—to put the messaging on.”
Because McNichols had ordered in bulk and put the kits together himself, he had extras that he brought with him to the meeting. Attendees would stop by his booth to chat and ask for more hand sanitizer or pain relievers, so from a sponsor perspective, the kit was a real win.
The kit was also a win from OSAE’s perspective, as it generated nondues revenue due to the sponsorship and it got attendees talking.
“People were really happy about it,” Clabaugh said. “You could hear different folks talking about the things—they had heat relief packets in there, antacid tablets, different things folks could use. There were other things in the swag bag, but this was really the only one that addressed some of the concerns around social protocols given the pandemic.”
Clabaugh noted that the kit also went over so well because it hit at the heart of what associations do. “We’re always busy as association professionals looking out for our members, and we forget to take care of ourselves,” he added. “This was a nice reminder that we have to take care of ourselves in order to help our members. This was a gentle nudge.”