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When it comes to building sponsor relationships, as well as crafting new outlets for sponsored content within your meeting, best practices are changing. Gone are the days when sponsors handed out a few branded items and called it a day. Coming up with unique and interesting sponsorship ideas helps show your event is innovative and helps set the right tone for your guests.
Ways to innovate the process were expanded upon on May 15, when Northstar Meetings Group hosted a webcast on "Best New Sponsorship Ideas." The event featured expert insight on what's new and trending -- from puppy-cuddling stations to painting while bike riding -- and broke down situations where each would work best.
Prior to the webcast, one of the experts on the webcast panel, Bernard Toliver, CMP, president and owner of Renaissance Meetings & Special Events, answered some questions we had about choosing successful and meaningful sponsors and partnerships.
What's new in the world of event sponsorship?
The new trends really aren't all that new. As event planners and producers, what we need to focus on is making the sponsorship as experiential as possible while proving the undeniable value to the sponsors.
Sponsors are seeking opportunities to capture more market share with attendees, introduce new products, etc. I think the sports industry is leading the way in this area. Take a look at how the NFL chooses to engage its fans -- there’s something for everyone, based on demographics; same goes for the PGA. These organizations focus on engagement opportunities for each age group. These days, with personalization being more or less expected as part of the overall attendee experience, we need to make sure that we are focusing on such, and building on sponsorship from there.
Well, we've seen sponsored meeting presentations and backdrops. How else can sponsors get onboard with an event?
Most people overlook the obvious and I believe that shuts out an opportunity for sponsors and attendees to feel engaged and appreciated. Having the sponsor truly present during your event -- engaging with and welcoming your guests as they arrive, or participating wholly in some other aspect of the event -- is equally important.
I know that sounds a little simplistic, but it’s true.
There’s a wonderful professor at NYU named Gary Pagano who uses the "Suzy Q" method when approaching events and programming: How will Suzy Q feel the moment she enters the meeting? I think it’s a great question and the same can be asked of sponsors. How will you create value for sponsors while engaging them and attendees?
How do we blend tradition with new trends to achieve that level of value and engagement?
This depends upon the event and audience. I’ll use sports as an example because I think sports is leading the pack on adopting new traditions and implementing them seamlessly alongside the more traditional routes.
Too often, we are looking for the next big thing. Well, a season‐long sports schedule is not new, but I know of a sports organization that features a sponsor on its season schedule. What used to be print is now print and digital. And even the digital aspect is not that new anymore.
For me, blending old with new is all about the event, the assets and how can you reimagine and showcase them in different ways for your sponsor. There’s a traditional cocktail reception, there’s a bourbon-tasting with food and a mixologist or there’s a product launch with food paired with a seasonal wine or beer... all integrated around the sponsor’s product. It's all about taking an idea and offering different opportunities and ideas for sponsors to consider. Traditional and new.
Any other fun sponsorship ideas you've come across lately?
This past weekend, I was watching the AT&T Byron Nelson Golf Tournament [which takes place in Dallas] on television. One of the major players, Jordan Spieth, is from the Dallas area. There were giant letters spelling his last name with the “i” missing for attendees to stand there to have their photos taken as a part of his name.
Whether or not the photo opt was sponsored, I saw it as a great enhancement. Really cool and creative. And provides attendees with a spot to take and share photos directly integrated with the event.
How can planners work to better maintain sponsor relationships once the meeting is over?
Communication is important. Sponsors need relevant information. Again, this may sound simple, but capturing and providing as much information about your event, before, during and after, is imperative.
During the webcast, discuss 10 tips for selling sponsorship. These can be used to improve relationships you have with existing sponsors while assisting in gaining additional contacts. Sponsors crave data and as event producers we need to do a better job of capturing and providing that data. There are measurement tools and resources that will assist you in doing that.
Bernard Toliver, CMP, is president and owner of Renaissance Meetings & Special Events and adjunct instructor at New York University's Tisch Center for Hospitality and Tourism. He has more than 20-years experience in meetings and events management. Among his areas of expertise are sponsorship creation and activation, contract negotiations and third-party vendor relations.