Level-up Sponsorship

Conference business models and margins are experiencing significant disruption. Expenses are rising, but increasing registration fees can be risky. Companies are downsizing their expo footprint and competition for mindshare is at an all-time high.

These realities are encouraging more conference organizers to look harder at growing conference sponsorship and annual partnerships as a relief valve.

For organizations that have traditionally been more autonomous, or focused on selling advertising and promotion inventory, this new direction requires significant strategic thought and organizational buy-in. Board or executive committee support is a must for organizations that really want to move this needle.

Like it or not, partnerships and sponsorships are an implied endorsement. Your customers will judge you based on your choices. Thus, they must be vetted well, transparent in intent, bring value to your customers (in addition to you and the sponsor) and ideally be repeatable, larger deals worthy of ongoing leadership time investment.

The links in this newsletter should help you in modernizing and growing your sponsorship program. 
January 2020
Video: Kim Skildum-Reid of Power Sponsorship on Proposal Basics

Two benchmarks we use to identify healthy conference revenue business models are the percentage of a conference’s total revenue from sponsor, exhibit and advertising; and your expo/sponsor revenue rations. If your business model falls short on one or both, your strategy is in need of an overhaul.
Sponsorship is the most powerful form of marketing. When done well, sponsorship can change participants’ attitudes and behaviors about a brand. Banners, ads, signs and enhanced listings shouldn’t be lumped into the same category — they don’t make that emotional connection. Our industry must get more sophisticated to seize this opportunity.

Attendees cruising the hallways of Pittsburgh’s convention center at the Convening Leaders conference in 2019 could get their photo taken in a yoga pose against a backdrop photo of British Columbia, enjoy a glass of Napa Valley wine in a cozy café, and have their personal seasoning mix created by a renowned Fort Worth chef. These are just a few of the dozens of experiences offered by sponsors during the Professional Convention Management Association’s biggest annual event.

There’s a place for sponsored content in conference programs, if you’re thoughtful in your approach. The seventh of the TED Commandments — “Thou shalt not sell from the stage: neither thy company, thy goods, thy writings, or thy desperate need for funding; lest thou be cast aside into outer darkness” — is especially timely advice.