Partners and sponsors: initiators, spectators or hostages of the transformation of events?

Partners and sponsors: initiators, spectators or hostages of the transformation of events? | MCI | Global engagement & marketing agency

September, 07 2021

A study published in May last year revealed that 80% of companies are interested in investing in virtual events - provided they have interaction and 72% are interested in a hybrid solution combining both face-to-face and virtual.

A little over a year later, with the cancellation or postponement of face-to-face events and the transition to virtual, the expectations and needs of sponsors and partners have changed. The commercial offer of learned associations and societies had to be adapted accordingly in order to best meet them. This transition has been greatly accelerated with the health situation, and the partners have dealt with more than expected with the modalities of virtualization of their participation, sometimes within very short deadlines. In regard to long-term commitment, ROI, and innovative strategies, we asked five of our experts at MCI France to share their experience and enlighten us on the winning strategies.

The expectations of sponsors have radically changed in the digital space, how do you ensure that these expectations are met?

“Some were not ready for the virtual transition, so it was necessary to accompany them and reassure them throughout their preparation. For this, Charles-Edgar Tallut, Partner Engagement & Experience Director, and his team have decided to involve and engage partners in a more global reflection on their experience of hybrid and / or virtual, on the future of events and their positioning with associations. This study made it possible to highlight that many of them do not calculate their return on investment (ROI), because they do not have tools or methods available, or they do not have necessarily time.

Сharles-Edgar added, “The digitization of events has enabled some partners to better assess this ROI thanks to easily quantifiable data. In the near future, hybridization will also make it possible to provide face-to-face ROI assessment tools and methods, which was more difficult to calculate in the past. One of our missions as a consulting partner is to convince associations of the importance of ROI for their partners. Beyond supporting associations, partners must justify the investment made, and if this investment is profitable, then the association will be able to more easily retain them and ensure the sustainability of its income."

With event virtualization, sales processes have accelerated. What impact does this have on the events of associations and societies?

With virtual, the income related to registrations is considerably reduced (and sometimes even free), the sponsorship of events therefore has an increasingly important role for the financing and survival of the event.

“Before transforming an event, you have to study all its aspects. This exercise is essential because it will influence the time of communication, prospecting and sales” - explains Yguernes Attanasio, Sales Assistant. “In order to reassure the partners, we take time with each of them. There is a setup of explanatory videos or webinars for partners so that they have all the cards in hand to boost their virtual space and be operational on the proposed virtual platform. In a fairly short time, you have to be very efficient. This considerably reduces the prospecting time. "

Marketing budgets have been reduced and, as a result, sponsors are forced to rethink their investment strategies. How do you help your clients adapt their packages? What innovative strategies have you put in place to guarantee the ROI?

 In times of crisis, marketing budgets are traditionally the first to be cut. However, the need to reach new customers, generate leads, find opportunities is stronger than ever. For this, each marketing investment must be relevant, objectified, profitable and measurable.

“Our first action is to generate in-depth knowledge (interviews, polls, surveys, etc.) of the specific needs of each major sponsor. We can then support our association clients in redesigning their offer in an “à la carte” spirit. The second step is the monitoring and optimization of the ROI of each sponsor via a "ROIste" consulting / coaching offer intended for the sponsors. In this, digital offers endless possibilities. In face-to-face and hybrid, the in-depth knowledge of sponsors and visitors allows us to ensure that the right offer meets the right demand” - comments Timothée Parent, Engagement & Marketing specialist.

What strategy can be adopted to maintain the long-term commitment of sponsors and exhibitors through virtual or hybrid events?

The virtualization and hybridization of events are significant upheavals in the exposure habits of sponsors, who suddenly have to revisit a copy that had never been imagined other than face-to-face. “The strategy for maintaining the long-term commitment of sponsors and exhibitors is to involve them in the event virtualization process. They should not feel like spectators (or worse, hostages) of the transformation, but rather co-constructors of this new formula of participation. By consulting them on the various key phases in the development of the offer and the platform, as well as by training them on the use of new tools so that they understand how it works upstream of the event, the sponsors will feel involved as a stakeholder and no longer just as a user" explains Jérémy Derhille, Logistics and Technical Project Manager. He adds, “a better understanding of the measurement of the ROI of sponsors is also one of the keys to their long-term commitment. Qualifying visitors exhaustively will allow exhibitors to use comprehensive statistics and optimize the cost / contact ratio, one of the driving forces behind participation in a congress. "

What will the sponsorship landscape look like in 2021, and beyond?

According to François Chritin, Director Association Solutions, sponsorship in 2021 and beyond will continue to evolve towards a collaborative partnership model. “We were on the path to this evolution, but COVID-19 simply accelerated the process. Staying relevant takes creativity. Exchanges between potential sponsors and affiliated organizations should be anchored in collaboration, listening to needs and analysing performance. If content is king, data is king and together, it opens the door to levers of opportunities for associations and sponsors. The way forward, however, is not straightforward. It requires strategic planning, creativity and a willingness on all sides to explore and push the boundaries of their collaboration." The co-development of educational content, the co-location of affiliate programmes, the optimization of digital marketing, the volume effect, hybrid mechanisms, the extended lifespan of the content, the engagement of targeted populations, “ROI, data analysis and reporting are among the many topics that must be addressed in the design of new partnership offers. This is to establish a broad, dynamic and relevance-based collaboration to achieve the objectives of the association and the sponsors."

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karine desbant

karine desbant
Karine Desbant

Global Marketing & Communication Manager - Association Market

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