The COVID-19 pandemic may have done away with the opportunity to host a physical event, but that does not mean that the event industry has gone dark. Virtual events have taken over.
But as any event organizer knows, one of the driving forces behind any successful event is event sponsorship. The good news is that sponsorship opportunities do not disappear simply because you’ve moved online. In fact, the opportunities afforded by an online event may be even more interesting and attractive to prospective sponsors.
Certainly plastering a physical event space with a sponsor’s logo or handing out sponsored swag bags is a no-brainer. And while it may require thinking outside of the box, finding, and highlighting, virtual event sponsorship is easier than you might think!
In this post, we have put together a list of creative sponsorship ideas so you can put together a sponsorship package and host the most successful event possible!
Selling Virtual Event Sponsorship
Convincing potential sponsors to participate in your virtual event can be a challenge but if you get creative and pitch your packages properly, you’ll have no trouble generating sponsorship revenue.
- Targeted Audience: One of the biggest benefits of an online event is that it can put your potential sponsors in front of a very targeted, highly qualified audience. Marketing strategies often involve a lot of trial and error. By showing sponsors that you share their target demographic, you are letting them know that with your event they will be put in front of the people they most hope to reach.
- Global Reach: A hybrid or virtual event has the potential to reach an audience much larger than a traditional event. Because all an attendee needs are time and an internet connection, it is possible to reach a global audience. This may be the perfect opportunity for your sponsor to make a splash in a market they have been trying to reach.
- Some Traditional Avenues Still Exist: just because your event has moved online, it doesn’t mean that some traditional elements of your event sponsorship package won’t still apply. It is still possible to hold sponsored keynote addresses or feature your sponsor on social media. The only trick in the virtual environment is to make sure that you are not overwhelming the audience with pop-up or banner ads or going too far off your brand messaging.
For more advice on how to sell sponsorships for your virtual event, check out our guide here!
Creative Virtual Event Sponsorship Ideas
Before you can sell people the opportunity that is available at your virtual event, it’s time to think about what you are offering in exchange for those sponsorship dollars.
Here are some of our favorite ideas:
1. Sponsored Games
You have a captive audience that you are hoping to keep engaged with your event so why not give them something fun to do AND promote your sponsors at the same time? Attendee engagement can be fostered easily by adding a little bit of fun.
Between sessions, you can hold quizzes, challenges, or competitive play to allow your virtual attendees to take a break while you highlight a sponsor.
Sponsors can provide the game and provide prizes. It also gives them an opportunity to reach out to participants to supply them with a discount code or small gift as a way of saying thanks for playing.
2. Branded Virtual Waiting Rooms
Before a keynote address, a live stream, or a virtual conference session begins, the audience needs a place to wait. This digital space provides an opportunity to feature a sponsor’s logo and messaging. Depending on the length of the wait, it might also be a time to work in some of the games mentioned above. If the sponsor has short video ads or has recorded a message for your specific event, you can feature it in the waiting room.
Consider branding the session landing page as well. Each participant will visit the landing page and sit in the waiting room so you and your sponsors both know that the space will be viewed by the majority of your audience at one point or another.
3. Sponsored Breakout Sessions
The one thing that many people fear is missing from virtual events is networking opportunities. A virtual event does not mean you have to deprive your virtual event or conference attendees of networking sessions.
Virtual meeting rooms or breakout sessions are a way to facilitate networking while also giving your event or corporate sponsors an opportunity to get their name out there.
Use sponsor colors and logos to brand the space, then feature pop-up windows or chat boxes.
4. Printed Agendas or Programs
Who doesn’t like receiving mail? While ordinarily, printed agendas and programs have moved online but when it comes to virtual events (especially those taking place in this time of social distancing), receiving printed communications can be a positive experience that improves attendee satisfaction and builds anticipation for the event.
Best practices for creating event agendas includes highlighting each event sponsor and in this instance, it is likely to create additional benefits to them. Where most people will view a printed agenda for the duration of the live event and discard it when it is no longer of use, virtual attendees will hold on to it for a longer period, keeping sponsors front of mind for longer periods.
5. Virtual Scavenger Hunt
For event professionals looking to boost audience engagement at a virtual trade show, a virtual scavenger hunt is the way to go.
Not only does this boost attendee engagement and satisfaction, but it also provides a unique sponsorship opportunity.
Virtual attendees are encouraged to explore the showroom floor and visit/interact with virtual booths to find specific clues or items. The first attendee to find all items can win a grand prize package from one or multiple sponsors, or, all successful participants can be entered into a draw for a grand prize.
A virtual scavenger hunt benefits everyone. It provides attendees with a bit of entertainment, highlights sponsors, and provides vendors and exhibitors with additional lead generation opportunities.
6. Sponsored Virtual Happy Hour
As mentioned before, participants want to connect when attending an event. A virtual happy hour can give them this chance outside of the work/industry content of the event itself.
Virtual events platforms like Accelevents allow you to host virtual cocktail hours making this type of interaction a breeze. Consider creating a themed party, encouraging attendees to wear a particular clothing style or costume. If you are planning this well in advance of your event, it might be possible to create a virtual event bag that is sent to each person registered to attend that includes a branded piece of clothing to wear. Think along the vein of a festival t-shirt that features sponsor logos as well as your event brand logo. Take screenshots of participants in their outfits and include them in your thank you package.
Depending on the type of event you are holding, you can “buy” your attendees a drink. Participants that register by a specific date will be eligible to receive a beverage in sponsor branded box. Maybe it is a small bottle of wine or a can of beer with branded glassware. Be sure to have non-alcoholic options available as well to make sure all who want to participate are able.
7. Sponsored Meal Breaks
Virtual conferences can be long and conference attendees will need to take meal breaks. Why not let sponsors help with those breaks?
Depending on the scale of your event, consider partnering with local businesses to deliver a set meal or coffee/snack to each attendee. The cost can be underwritten by a sponsor.
If the logistics do not make sense, or you have attendees in many different cities, consider getting a sponsor to underwrite a discount code or coupon for Uber Eats, Grubhub, or other delivery platform so participants can order a meal or snack from their favorite local joint.
Important note: People are leery of contracting Covid-19. If you are going to mail anything to your participants, make sure that you outline the precautions you have taken in packaging the item. Risks of contracting the disease through the mail are low, but explaining your safety practices can give recipients added peace of mind. And think carefully about anything that you do send. It needs to be important and/or useful. Branded hand sanitizer, for example, is likely going to prove more ‘valuable’ than some random trinket.
On its face, a virtual event does not provide the same sponsorship opportunities as a physical event. But, with a little bit of creativity and thought, it is easy to go beyond the surface and recognize the advantages that come with a virtual audience.