How to drive value for your sponsors with hybrid events

Amongst the many challenges faced by organizers is that of driving value for event sponsors. 

Every organizer knows that sponsorship is critical to a successful event - not only in terms of financial backing but also because of positive publicity, increased brand awareness, reach, and prestige that it powers. So, after bringing a sponsor on board, it’s extremely important to be able to give that sponsor the ROI that you’ve promised them - or else you risk losing them for future events. 

But the growing popularity of hybrid events and the fact that 86% of B2B companies see an increased ROI of their hybrid events within 7 months of conducting it—presents a great solution to tackle this challenge.

Gone are the days when you would slap sponsor logos on merchandise. Thanks to the virtual and in-person components of hybrid events, organizers have more and better opportunities to drive both brand awareness for sponsors and lead generation as well. 

Here’s how to go about driving value for sponsors at your next hybrid event:

1. Understand what your event sponsors want 

Mike Butcher, the Editor-At-Large at TechCrunch, explains how sponsors’ expectations have changed over the years while reiterating the importance of understanding them from the beginning, stating "A lot of these sponsors don’t just want to have a sponsor sticker slapped onto an event. They want to do something that has a real conversational element to it.”

So discussing your sponsors’ objectives from a hybrid event at the outset will allow you to produce tailor-made sponsorship opportunities and results. Keep in mind that an essential part of managing sponsor expectations is clarifying what you can and cannot do with this event.

For instance,  sponsors could be seeking a high level of interaction with the target audience but may be unsure of what results could be achieved through a hybrid event. Accordingly, you can share engagement metrics from previous virtual or hybrid events you’ve hosted as well as touchpoints you’ve planned for the upcoming event with them. This can help you and your sponsors agree on a goal that you are both comfortable with.

2. Choose a virtual event platform that offers branding, engagement + analytic tools

Whilst you are having these important discussions with your sponsors, you will also need to be scouting and evaluating virtual event platforms that can help you drive the results you desire ie. happy attendees and happy sponsors.  What are the basics that your virtual event platform will need to have?

  • Branding - Just as your physical venue has banners and signage showcasing your event sponsors, so should your virtual venue. So your event platform needs to have the capability to allow you to customize the venue as per your wishes. If you want to put up banners in your lobby dedicated to sponsors, you should be able to. Want to highlight that a sponsor is sponsoring a specific Stage or session by changing the background image of the Stage? You should be able to do that too. Basically, you should have free rein to be able to drive brand awareness for your Sponsors throughout the venue.
  • Audience engagement tools: The more you make a hybrid event memorable for attendees, the better it reflects on your event sponsors, so choose a platform that can elevate engagement. Look out for these:
  • ~~Chat, Polls and Q&A: These tools can make a huge difference by turning what can feel like a video playlist of lectures into a lively and exciting two-way conversation. Whether an attendee is sitting at the in-person venue or tuning in from home, using the same tools helps everyone feel part of the same experience and boosts participation.
  • ~~Gamification: This feature can encourage attendees to do more at the event by rewarding them for every action they take during the event. 
  • ~~Virtual Breakout Rooms: These can be used to host small group conversations and curate more focused discussions. So you could for instance dedicate a room per Sponsor; this means that they would have a representative sitting in the Room and striking up conversations with attendees interested in the company or a service/product of theirs. This allows your sponsors to gain more qualified leads and interact with their target audience at a deeper level.
  • Analytics: One of the biggest advantages of hosting a hybrid event is the data that can be collected. The virtual component of the event means that attendee actions - such as questions they ask, Polls they answer, booths visited etc can all be captured. In this way, sponsors can see how many attendees watched a product video, for example, or visited a sponsored Stage, Booth or Room. This insight can help in post-event follows and in better understanding feedback or sentiment about a product or service.

3. Give sponsors their own virtual Expo Booth 

An exhibit booth is perhaps the oldest strategy for driving value for sponsors at an event - and that holds true today. By enabling sponsors to set up booths at both the physical and virtual venues, you double the exposure they receive. 

Each booth acts as a hub for sharing branded content, marketing collateral, and downloadable assets. And as each booth can be staffed by a company representative, sponsors can offer product demos and hold private conversations directly with attendees. 

Importantly, each virtual booth comes with a ‘Register Interest’ button for attendees to express their intention. This is a simple but powerful way for Sponsors to collect leads. 

4.  More touchpoints and activities that give sponsors more exposure

Plan in activities and touchpoints that drive visibility and awareness for event sponsors. Here are a couple of ideas:

  • Strategically create in-show placement at different places in the virtual and in-person venue, such as the lobby or breakout rooms zones to boost the sponsors’ visibility organically.
  • Add representatives from sponsoring brands as moderators or presenters for event sessions and involve them in panel discussions or forums as well. This is a great way to highlight your sponsors’ domain knowledge.
  • Plan in sponsored sessions targeting the brand’s primary audience. 
  • Play videos by event sponsors in between sessions to educate your audience about their companies, and offerings.
  • Offer educational content and downloadable assets from sponsors in your event lobby to reinforce their thought leadership and collect leads in exchange.
  • Host trivia quizzes that include a question or two about sponsors. For instance, a tech-related trivia session centering around your sponsors from the software technology domain. 
  • Hold a raffle with prizes from sponsors for the winners

Protip: Gamification is your best friend here as it can nudge attendees into completing actions that can drive value for them and your sponsors. 

5. Give your sponsors actionable insights

So far, we’ve focused on creating value for your sponsors during the event. But what happens once the event is over? Post-event insights are crucial to retaining sponsors for the long run as it can help aid strategy, product development, decision-making, and budget allocation. To this end, event organizers can share attendee data, survey and poll results, and insights from other activities to reveal what resonated the most with the sponsors’ target audience. 

Here are some crucial metrics you can share with your sponsors:

  • Total number of participants
  • Leads generated
  • Audience engagement
  • Results of sponsored surveys and polls 
  • Sponsored sessions with the most engagement and attendance 

 To sum up…

The key to attracting more sponsors lies in creating value for them by building brand awareness and accelerating lead generation. Their primary interest lies in accessing your audience base, establishing their domain expertise, and capturing qualified leads.
Hybrid events give you ample opportunity to deliver these demands. Start by recognizing your sponsors’ needs, and then using the unique benefits of a hybrid event to meet them. All it takes is a little creativity, a little thoughtfulness, and a powerful virtual hosting platform like Zuddl to pull it off.

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