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How going virtual can multiply sponsorship opportunities

by Gaia Santoro, Head of the Sponsorship Unit, AIM Group International

The shift to digital and hybrid events has been accelerated by the social distancing recommendations and travel restrictions resulting from the coronavirus pandemic.

Most stakeholders have decided to embrace new experiences and have embarked on the path to virtual e-meetings. The positive feedback from those involved in these projects has won over the most hardened skeptics.

Online platforms are today among the most preferred meeting venues. Companies feel an obligation to be close to their community, their team and their market. From now on, the virtual and hybrid approach will be part of the planning process both in terms of resource and communication.

As a matter of fact, there is no need to choose between two alternatives: the virtual experience can add value to your next live event. Virtual meetings simply add a new string to the bow of the event industry, as a sustainable, efficient and measurable tool that can meet event goals. Admittedly, the context and the channels has changed. Therefore, it is necessary to adopt a new approach.

Sponsorship professionals are encountering challenges in securing the same investment levels they were used to. Traditionally, a logo or banner placement on the event programme and other communication materials; sponsorship packages and a corporate booth in the exhibition area, usually satisfied sponsor’s needs.

Today we must think out of the box, re-design new opportunities to engage with decision-makers and delegates in a virtual environment. It is important to offer a customized proposal, based on the needs of each sponsor, and provide communication opportunities that last beyond the dates of the conference and can reach a large audience.

Digital technologies present a wider range of channels and tools to consider. However, it is the human interaction that still represents the essential driver of the sponsor. We need to develop new ways to maximize the sponsor-delegate relationship even in a virtual event and ensure sponsor benefits and lead generation.

Here are the six immediate benefits of being a virtual sponsor:

  1. Cost-saving & budget control. Virtual meetings allow accurate budget control, with a minimum risk of last-minute contingencies. Booth setup, staff accommodation and travel expenses are no longer an issue.
  2. Flexibility and customization. The online event will elevate your brand visibility and engage your audience through professionally designed templates or a 100% configurable virtual experience that reflects your brand and image.
  3. Focus & Clarity. A consistent agenda, clearly presenting content and deliverables is a must, while visual elements – slide animations, images, font and vector patterns – can reinforce the content of each speaker’s presentation.
  4. Huge opportunity to expand reach and lifespan. The event becomes accessible from any screen across the world and can be accessible on-demand with no time limits. There is massive scope to reach new audiences: Senior executives (normally time-sensitive, unable to attend multiple-day events), Junior and early-career (cost-sensitive, less keen to travel).
  5. Emotions & Creativity. The digital strategy can be enriched by including on-demand content, gamification, polls, digital campaigns and emotional videos.
  6. Feedback and results measurement. Interaction and real-time feedback are easy for virtual events and represent an immediate key to measure the overall success of your meeting, along with the automatic tracking of participant’s journeys that tell you how many attendees followed your symposium, for how long, which content they consulted the most and which document they downloaded, etc.

A question to conclude with: is it all about sponsorship strategic planning or is it not? Once again, the new frontier of sponsorship requires skill, expertise and market intelligence.