With companies becoming more selective in how they spend their marketing budgets, some associations are rethinking sponsorship opportunities—finding that flexible and personalized options promote greater participation and boost revenue.
Associations that offer more interesting options reap the benefits, says Dave Lutz, managing director at Velvet Chainsaw Consulting. New sponsorship options should provide a significant ROI to sponsors—and provide value to attendees in alignment with higher conference experience expectations. Lutz pushes associations to focus on “attendee mattering”: what attendees will take away from the sponsorship.
Lutz recommends creating sponsorships that allow for attendees to opt in or out; that provide something experiential, such as education or entertainment; and that integrate some form of appreciation—whether it’s something attendees take home or consume, or that makes them feel like a VIP.
Sponsorships should create a win-win-win scenario, with sponsors, attendees, and the association all benefiting, said Will Engle, assistant director of education and events for AMR Management Services. Engle recently led an overhaul of the sponsorship program at the Nursing Organizations Alliance (NOA), scrapping some of the more traditional offerings and creating a new menu of 10 sponsorship opportunities that focus on attendee experience and sponsor ROI.
Rewriting the Menu
So, what types of offerings meet the “we all win” criteria? While traditional coffee or refreshment breaks are losing traction, Lutz says “surprise-and-delight” pop-up events are trending. In such an experience, a sponsor hosts a previously unannounced event—such as ice cream for the first 500 people—where attendees opt in to enjoy an unexpected treat.
Also effective are opportunities that boost sponsors’ interactions with VIP members. To achieve this, Lutz recommends sponsorships of board receptions, executive lounges, and emerging leader events. This option can also work well for small associations, which can offer “exclusive opportunities” that facilitate access to the most influential names within the organization. “Sponsors will spend a lot of money to spend time in a room with the movers and shakers,” said Lutz.