Association events bring together communities and audiences with similar interests, and sponsors are always looking for the right way to engage their target audiences. Sounds like the perfect match, right?
We know sponsorship is important to the success of an event — it generates revenue for your association and delivers opportunities for event attendees and corporate partners to share ideas and create business opportunities. With more events returning in a face-to-face format, many associations are revising their sponsorship programs and ensuring they have a sponsorship activation strategy.
So, what is sponsorship activation, exactly? Putting it simply, it’s bringing the sponsorship to life.
We learned through COVID-19 that sponsors (and the money that comes with them) are critical to the success of association events. So, let’s make sure we deliver for our sponsors and bring their investment to life. The following outlines five critical steps to a successful sponsor activation.
- Know your audience: Not just the basics like job titles, roles and functions, but you should know why people are coming to your event and what they want to take away from it. To successfully merge sponsors with your event, you need to know what your audience wants and clearly communicate that to your sponsors.
- Know your sponsors: Have deep conversations with your potential sponsors to understand their needs, goals and objectives. This gives you the opportunity to build a relevant sponsorship. Sometimes, sales teams can get into sponsorship pitch mode and are too focused on selling the specific item or event that the event organizer has deemed a “must sell.” Instead, listen to your customers. What are they trying to accomplish and how does that align with your audience goals, your event and your sponsorship opportunities? Most sponsor goals can be aligned to three main buckets: lead generation, brand awareness and thought leadership.
- Know your assets: To build the right sponsorship for your customer, you must know what you can sell. Take inventory of your event and itemize your offerings. You can group similar opportunities together as they relate to the three main sponsor goals. Sponsors want more than a logo on a screen or sign. Assess your event and attendee experience and look for opportunities that tie the sponsor into the experience.
- Execute: Once you’ve developed the sponsorship offering, you must execute. Sponsors are more selective with their investments and the only way to consistently earn their trust is to deliver. A specific stakeholder needs to own sponsorship fulfillment to ensure it comes together as planned. This may mean a single internal stakeholder routing activation items to various teams and departments and then confirming it’s completed. Too many cooks in the activation kitchen can be a recipe for disaster, so make sure there’s a leader.
- Report back: How do you know if it worked? Collect data through the process that can be shared with the sponsor to underscore the value of the program. Critical data points include impressions across all channels (print, digital, onsite, etc.), leads generated, and applicable survey data and audience feedback. Then, use the data to edit, adjust and improve your activation strategy for future events.
Take your top five current sponsors and top five sponsor prospects and put this sales activation plan to the test. You will know if it was successful from the future investments of those sponsors as well as the feedback they give you at each step of the sales and activation process.
If your approach to sponsor engagement needs to be rebuilt, consider connecting with one of our experts at MCI USA to help you design a stronger revenue future for your organization.
By Brittany Shoul, the Senior Vice President of Revenue Strategy and Operations, Full-service Sales, at MCI USA.