1. Collect relevant data. This includes the audience profile, needs of sponsors, and the goals of the event organizer. “Attendee data will help you sell sponsorships and ensure you’re targeting the appropriate companies and building the right ecosystem.” — Freeman’s “A Quick Guide to Upgrading Your Event Sponsorship Sales”
2. Understand that what you are really selling is access. When packaging sponsorship, associations should play up one of the most desired benefits: access to a highly engaged audience. “Association members are typically decision-makers and thought leaders and influencers. This is a powerful narrative that associations need to share [with marketers].” —Tom Meyers, vice president sales and services, SmithBucklin, 2019 SmithBucklin Circuit
3. Build a menu of sponsorship opportunities that includes branded experiences. Some examples: VIP networking events, a thought leadership education track, refreshment stations on the show floor, themed areas such as innovation hubs. To ensure success, sponsorship programs need to offer value back to members. “Sponsors increasingly want to be seen as helping [attendees] rather than selling. It’s about building emotional connection and facilitating relationships.” — David Lutz, managing director, Velvet Chainsaw.
4. Aim for a more holistic approach. Consider organizing sponsorship sales around top customers as opposed to products (advertising, exhibit booths, sponsorships), thus avoiding competing internal teams calling multiple times on the same customer for the same event. A holistic approach can offer customized opportunities across a variety of touch points throughout the year. “If they aren’t already, associations should offer each sponsor, exhibitor, or advertiser a customized marketing program that connects with members not only at their big event but throughout the year.” —Tom Meyers, SmithBucklin, 2019 SmithBucklin Circuit
5. Help measure success. Associations should take a proactive role in helping partners measure return on investment. This can take the form of a year-end fulfillment report or end-of-show metrics report that shows as much as possible the cost-benefit ratio of the investment.