Why I’m an Evangelist for Digital Sponsorship


Event sponsorship is an ultra-competitive business. Everyone says they want more sponsors. The truth is they want more money. Nothing wrong with that, it’s why we are all in the business. I hear from dozens of event producers every week who are looking for help. My first step in evaluating them as a potential client is to review their website, sponsorship deck and media kit (if they have one). By far the biggest unrealized opportunity that most are missing is digital.

Here is a quote that sums it up well:

“…digital is no longer just a tool in the toolbox but instead is an absolutely critical, core component of the live brand experience. The reality is that potential attendees are discovering events and experiences online through the web, social, and email. But many event marketers have yet to embrace this new reality, putting them at risk of losing attendees, sponsors, and revenue to competitors.”
Making Digital Marketing Work for Live Events” – Freeman

If there is one major lesson to be learned from digital
advertising, it is that data is a game changer
. Many of the events I review
are stuck with insufficient or insignificant data. Savvy sponsors don’t care about
views, likes, or demographics. They care about audience insights like
alignment, interests, values, and lifestyle. Saying that your audience is 65%
women ages 30-45 with an average income of $70,000 isn’t as helpful as you
might think. Women in that group could be business executives, MMA fighters, a
stay at home mom or a fighter pilot

There are two significant opportunities, increased attendance and increased sponsorship. While increasing attendance will help you increase sponsorship, I’m here to write about increasing sponsorship. Increasing sponsorship sales with digital assets breaks down into two opportunities; closing more sales with data and helping sponsors collect and close leads. There are three primary resources to gather the data that will increase your sponsorship revenue:

1 | Event Tech

  1. Your ticketing provider. Yes, they have a ton of data on who buys and who looks. If they don’t, change providers.
  2. Event apps are perhaps the most underutilized platform. They have capabilities far beyond being a schedule, floor plan, banner ad platform, and direct message provider. They can tell you who attends what, take surveys, facilitate Q&A sessions, gather registrant info and updates, social integration, push notifications, lead scanning, beacon messages, networking and meeting scheduling, and gamification.

2 | Marketing Tech

  1. Surveys. Yes, old school surveys but delivered digitally. Don’t wait until they are at the event. You can even get a client to sponsor a survey. Offer a prize. Sponsors would love to help you design a survey that gives them the insights they want.
  2. Facebook analytics. Have a Facebook page. Learn how to use they data they provide on who visits your page.
  3. Email is still one of the most effective and valued methods of generating leads. Used properly, to distribute sponsored content that attendee’s value, it is typically a must have for top sponsors.
  4. CRM. I’m shocked by how many events are still using spread sheets to track leads. A full featured Customer Relationship Management platform will gather email addresses, get background on prospects and help you identify what your sponsor prospects most value.

3 | Audience Extension

  1. Geofencing. Put a virtual fence around your event (or your competitors’ event). When attendees get on their phone you can find out a lot. Not the private stuff mind you, but what apps they use, and what sites they visit. You can drop an ad on their phone in behalf of a sponsor and retarget them after the event.
  2. Put pixels on your web page. This is a common tool to gather all kinds of data about your visitors, not just your buyers. Once you know what other sites they visit, you can help your sponsor be there too.
  3. Digital Event Bag. A virtual version that allows attendees to engage with sponsors before during and after the event.

Let’s end with another quote:

“2019 will be the first year when digital ad spend surpasses traditional media investments, yet only 3% of corporate sponsorship budgets are allocated to digital advertising. Brands are begging for more digital solutions, but sports organizations, conferences/tradeshows and music festivals are still selling logos on the footer of their websites. It’s time for the corporate sponsorship industry to adopt the same digital and programmatic advertising capabilities as the mainstream marketing industry.”
Chris Shreeve, Co-Founder – VP Business Development, PrograMetrix