. Sponsoring Versus Hosting: Strategizing Your Event Approach | Northstar Meetings Group

Sponsoring Versus Hosting: Strategizing Your Event Approach

Planners can craft organic events or back a meeting already in motion. But which works best?

One of the first decisions planners are faced with is whether to host their own event or sponsor another. According to the Harvard Business Review (HBR) Event Marketing Evolution report, 40 percent of industry professionals plan to spend more on hosting moving forward, while 30 percent plan to spend more on sponsoring.

Events continue to expand with the continued value of face-to-face interactions. Planners already know their meetings are a non-negotiable tactic. What they might overlook, though, is how to best get involved.

Hosting grants more control over the entire meeting experience, yet the option might not be feasible due to financial constraints or scheduling conflicts, among other hiccups. At the same time, the dynamic of sponsorship continues to evolve. There are countless opportunities, but it’s become more difficult to sponsor while ensuring that the brand in the spotlight is aligned with sponsor goals.

What follows is a closer look at these two options.

Hosting Events

Hosting allows the freedom to design from scratch a conference that will directly benefit a company's overall goals. It means having full authority over the meeting's branding, promotions, agenda and attendee list, among other facets. However, hosting an event also warrants responsibility over details such as site selection, driving attendance, booking talent and F&B vendors, managing related social media and more.

According to the HBR, the most popular types of hosted events include:

  • One-day conferences or seminars (54%)
  • Product trainings (46%)
  • Thought-leadership workshops (44%)
  • VIP breakfasts/lunches/dinners (43%)
  • Business or channel-partner events (41%

Som Puangladda, vice president of global marketing at AI enterprise GumGum, reveals, "99 percent of the time I say ‘no’ to sponsoring a general event. I’d rather invest our budget on an event where I can control the content." 

Amy Barone, Chief Strategy Officer, Splash
Amy Barone, Chief Strategy Officer, Splash

"Self-hosted events [also] allow the opportunity of using a marketing technology platform that will track all touch points throughout the process, from communications to when attendees check in," says Amy Barone, chief strategy officer at event marketing software company Splash. "All of that data gets tracked and transferred to the sales teams, so companies can dive right into follow-ups and have real-time power. It’s a lot easier to track data from hosted events."

Barone adds that if a company's prospective attendees and customers are at the middle or bottom of the engagement funnel, hosting might be in best interest. "One overarching goal is to push attendees along in the engagement process," she says. "A lot of event owners are realizing that there's power within their hosted event when they engage at that mid- and bottom level."

This level also presents sponsorship opportunities, Barone reiterates, but a company creating their own event allows for really personalized and controlled messaging. "Companies are capitalizing on high-touch meetings and creating detailed personal experiences," she says. "This face-time, which allows for engaging activity in a small curated environment, is crucial to closing or amplifying deals."

Where might disadvantages arise with hosting? "Compared to sponsoring, hosting an internal convention takes more time and more manpower," says Sara Estes, content marketer at Pendo, a cloud-based software company. "But there are ways to offset these costs with partnerships, event technology and hiring outside help."

Sponsoring Meetings

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Sponsoring an event usually requires contributing funds to another organizer, company or organization to participate in their event. The involvement could take form in a variety of ways: a trade show booth, an experience or service, a sponsored session or speaker slot, a satellite party, VIP dinner, etc.

The most popular types of sponsored events, reports the HBR, include:

  • Industry trade shows/conventions (54%)
  • One-day conferences or seminars (43%)
  • Business or channel-partner events (41%)
  • Multi-day conferences (40%)
  • Award ceremonies and fundraisers/philanthropic events (32%

Barone says that considerations for determining whether sponsorship is right for you (in regard to a specific meeting) should involve examining the attendee makeup, determining if audience members are potential customers and deciding if you are trying to cut through a sea of 20,000 attendees to get to the 10 percent that you want to reach.

According to Barone, engagement is another powerful aspect of sponsorship to consider. "The power of three is a great rule of thumb," she says. "If attendees go to a breakout session with a customer speaker, then a happy hour hosted by your brand, be sure to send a strong follow-up message. Really focus on maximizing the opportunity to make a strong impression, along with all of the normal marketing efforts you're able to take advantage of." 

"Event sponsorship is and continues to be an effective way of increasing the visibility of a brand," summarizes the team at Champion Events, a U.K.-based event management agency. "Partnering with the right event can be the perfect way to tell prospective clients, your competitors and future stakeholders that your business means business."

"In many ways, the benefits of sponsoring are clear," adds Sara Estes. "Your company benefits from brand exposure to an entirely new audience without carrying the responsibility of the event's hardest parts -- venue, speakers, scheduling, audience development, logistics, etc." At the same time, sponsorship requires less manpower and a lower price point than hosting. 

As for potential downsides, the sponsor undoubtedly loses control over the branding, attendee scope and overall experience of the event. In most cases, the sponsor also will be tasked with working harder for a better ROI.

Meetings Aren't One-Size-Fits-All

"The debate between sponsorship and hosting all comes down to your unique event strategy," says Barone. "Why you’re tackling a meeting, what you’re hoping it will accomplish and ensuring that you are always circling back to your goals will better aid you in deciding the option that best fits your vision and capabilities.

"Don’t host an event for the sake of hosting an event," she adds, "and don't dive into sponsorship because someone mentioned you should show face at a trade show."

There should always be metrics tied back to what type of event you are dealing with, who the target audience is and how you want to leverage that event for specific outcomes, Barone concludes. Defining these metrics from the get-go will make it easier for planners to justify budget and the spending allocations on hosting or sponsoring events, since they will better be able to glean all of the data at once.