Archive for the 'Sponsorships' Category


60 Minutes to Sponsorship Growth

Editor’s Note: This is Event Garde’s busiest time of the year, so we’ll be back to original content soon. In the meantime, we’re happy to share a guest blog post by Hank Berkowitz, Association Adviser eNews moderator and chief, who reported on a breakout session from ASAE’s annual conference earlier this month.

David Lutz

David Lutz, managing director of Velvet Chainsaw

The session “60 Minutes to Sponsorship Growth” featured David Lutz, who is managing director of Velvet Chainsaw, and Sandra Giarde, executive director of the California Landscape Contractors Association. The session aimed to revamp attendees’ sponsorship menus and refine their investor-to-opportunity match-up skills.

Most exhibit floor plans are shrinking due to increasing digital activity, Lutz said, explaining that associations need to have a more diversified revenue mix. Ideally, he said, you want a 3-to-1 expo to sponsor ratio or better—that means 75 percent of your non-registration revenue for a conference should come from exhibitors and at least 25 percent from sponsors. You also want at least 65 percent of companies to renew every year.

Lutz identified four key attributes that exist in the most successful event-based sponsorship models:

1. Fewer investors, but bigger investments
2. Benefits beyond eyeballs and logos
3. Activation plans that span 90 days plus
4. If the attendee doesn’t win, nobody wins

Sandra Giarde

Sandra Giarde, executive director, California Landscape Contractors Association

Giarde added that to land the big sponsors, you really need introduction from top board members and volunteers. She called this “leadership door opening” and explained that you want “power-to-power” introductions, which is something that’s been very important to her personally, as she’s only two years into her role as an executive director.

Both speakers agreed that most associations have way too many items on the menu. They suggested simplifying your media kit to get rid of things that aren’t selling. That review needs to happen annually.

Lutz said attendees are the primary arbiters who determine what matters and what doesn’t at your events. When you deliver “experiences that matter” to your attendees, everyone wins:

  • It’s a win for your attendees (target market) as you improve their show experience
  • It’s a win for your sponsors as you connect them and advance their positioning within their target market.
  • It’s a win for your organization as the conference revenue and value improves.

Finally, Lutz and Giarde offered three filters to ensure attendee win and premium pricing:
1. CHOICE — Attendees can always opt in or opt out. Sponsorship (benefits) can’t be forced on them.
2. ACTIVATION — The attendee consumes or appreciates it, takes it home, shares it and provides alignment with their values.
3. MATTERING — The attendees feels entertained, engaged, appreciated and helped personally or professionally by the sponsor….. “Helping before selling.”


Is it time for an event sponsorships makeover?

Tara Ericson

Tara Ericson, group vice president at Naylor Association Solutions

This month’s guest blog post is by Tara Ericson, group vice president for Naylor Association Solutions, where she oversees group publishers and specialized industry market teams. It was originally published on Association Adviser.

Do you have a three-tiered (platinum, gold, silver) event sponsorship offering? Have you offered the same sponsorship opportunities year after year? Is your sponsorship revenue stagnant or declining?

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, your exhibit and event sponsorship offerings may need a facelift.

Experts say 85 percent of a trade show’s revenue comes from selling exhibit space. The other 15 percent comes from sponsorship and advertising. According to Velvet Chainsaw, however, associations are shifting more effort into capitalizing on trade show sponsorships and advertising in response to vendors’ desires to reach potential customers in more meaningful, creative ways. Furthermore, vendors are relying on associations to come up with those creative ways to reach attendees before making a sponsorship investment.

If you’re already responsible for multiple parts of planning and executing an event, your sponsorships are likely on auto drive, and a total reinvention probably seems daunting. But don’t let the idea of reinventing sponsorships intimidate you. Here are five tips for growing your event sponsorship revenue.

Customization is in demand.

Based on the 2014 Association Benchmarking Report, only 42.8 percent (of association executives surveyed) said they were trying to customize their advertising/sponsorship programs to a company’s specific needs, and only 10.1 percent fully customize each sponsorship opportunity.

We encourage you to take a more sponsor-centric approach when developing your event sponsorship offerings. Building flexibility into your event sponsorship campaign allows the sponsor to tailor its messaging and branding more effectively toward your attendees.

Divide your sponsor prospects into different buckets to segment those prospects who are most likely to participate in a customized event sponsorship package. Use a consultative sales strategy in which you try to match your association’s event objectives and education track with your sponsor’s objectives and branding.

A good example of a customized of sponsorship might look like this: An event sponsor purchases a sponsorship package that includes a full-page ad in the association’s magazine, adjacent to an article related to its industry segment, that runs prior to the trade show. The ad directs readers to the sponsor’s booth. At the event, the sponsorship package includes signage at a specific education session that reaches the sponsor’s targeted attendees, permission to distribute a leave-behind, such as a key for each attendee, at the education sessions that will unlock a prize at the sponsor’s booth, and an online banner in the event’s daily e-newsletter.

Keep it fresh.

Associations that host events always need to look for and offer the next new thing in sponsorships to keep their event fresh for vendors. Combine innovative ideas with unique sponsorship opportunities to create new sponsorship revenue streams.

  • Main Lobby DJ Sponsorship: Music creates great ambiance, especially if it’s happy and upbeat. This approach allows the sponsor to have signage on the DJ table and to insert its own audio commercial every 10 minutes.
  • Cocktail Ice Luge Sponsorship: Sculpted ice structure with the association logo and sponsor logo. This provides great exposure in a fun and entertaining environment.
  • Product Developers Reception: An invitation-only gathering held during the larger show, at which guests hand-picked by the sponsor for their interest in the sponsor’s products can view a prototype and speak with the sponsor about its offerings.


Have two or three high profile, exclusive sponsorship opportunities for vendors willing to invest a large sum to reach your members. Too often associations shy away from asking for the big dollars for fear of upsetting their membership or a lack of confidence that they will sell. But if you don’t offer it, you will never know if you are leaving money on the table.

The key to successfully selling these event sponsorships is to keep them big, loud and exclusive, which can be fun for you and for the vendor.

These loud sponsorship opportunities should come with the honor of having the sponsors’ brand in every single part of your event. Make a huge splash with marquee sponsorships so your vendor is portrayed as the king of the event, and no one is left to wonder who the premier sponsor was.

RT_SPONSORSHIPBut don’t forget the little guys!

While going big with your top sponsors, don’t forget to create some low-budget options for new companies entering the marketplace or for companies of any size that haven’t been doing business with you.

Associations should work with sponsors to find a price point that is mutually agreeable when introducing new event sponsorship offerings or when working with a first-time sponsor. However, if you offer a discounted rate, always note the original price on the invoice and reflect the savings so your sponsor will anticipate having to pay the full price upon renewal.

Give sponsors what they really want

Your greatest asset is your membership, and your sponsors are willing to pay for time with members. Sponsors appreciate the branding opportunities that signage and swag offer, but being able to talk directly with their target market is the most coveted benefit your custom sponsorships can offer. Meeting with vendors at events saves members some legwork and often creates awareness of solutions they didn’t know exist. Incorporate access to your members into your sponsorship packages through appointment-based sessions, promotional emails, print and digital media, VIP cocktail parties and speaking opportunities.


11 ideas for partnering with local venues

UnknownWhen’s the last time this happened to you? There’s a highly recommended, world-class speaker you’d like to feature at an upcoming program. She’s perfect for your event in every way, except for the associated price tag. After much negotiation, you’re able to secure the “friends and family” discount; however, it’s still more than you’ve budgeted.

If your meeting comprises a qualified audience of planners or other decision-makers, you might consider an in-kind sponsorship with a local hotel or conference center. Following are 11 ideas for partnering with local venues:

  1. Select three venues that might like to showcase their property and reach out to them directly with the understanding that this partnership will be secured on a first-come, first-served basis
  2. Allow venue to give tours/sales kits following the program
  3. Encourage two to three venue staff to participate in the program and to be available during registration, breaks and meal functions to engage with attendees
  4. Recognize venue as the title sponsor in promotional materials (e.g., print, website, social media, magazine, email)
  5. Give venue a couple of complimentary registrations to parcel out to potential clients; venue could make these VIP experiences with a complimentary overnight and breakfast before/after the program
  6. Give venue the complete participant list before/after the program
  7. Allow participants to register at a discounted rate if they complete a brief meetings portfolio survey that is then shared with the venue
  8. Allow venue to set up a booth near registration
  9. Allow venue a three-minute introduction, video or slideshow to kick-off the program
  10. Encourage venue to host breakfast/lunch; during this time, a venue representative should be assigned to each round to meet and engage with participants
  11. Ask venue what other deliverables they would like to receive [perhaps association-related products and services] and do your best to share whatever you can

What other ideas do you have for successful partnerships between venues and associations?


Stop spamming your members

internet_abuse_spamI’ve had the good fortune to work for and with associations my entire professional career. So it’s fair to say I understand and value association membership. That’s why I’m a card-carrying member of several professional societies. And while I join these organizations for very specific reasons (with very specific goals and outcomes in mind), it’s clear to me that at least one of them has no idea who I am.

Most of us have at least two email accounts that we check on a fairly regular basis, each receiving dozens (if not hundreds) of emails a day. That’s a lot to read and process. Recently, among a flurry of other emails (some important and some not) I received a communication inviting me to sponsor an upcoming event. There were a number of issues, however, with this specific ask:

  1. My consulting practice doesn’t align with the vendor categories they’re seeking for this event.
  2. The language that was used to describe sponsor ROI was both vague and unremarkable.
  3. The event topic is not relevant to my company’s mission.
  4. The list of sponsorship opportunities were presented as a menu rather than as a customized recommendation within my budget capabilities.
  5. Some of the benefits (e.g., complimentary registrations) were unusable given my company’s size limitations.

What it comes down to is this: the opportunity was not vetted for me. Unfortunately, this is not uncommon for this particular association. But I believe that similar practices occur in our organizations on a daily basis, as well. While we don’t intend to spam our members, these emails—poorly disguised as member outreach and relationship-building—are nothing more than disruptive commercial messages.

Every couple of days I receive similarly ineffective communications that do not align with my company’s goals and objectives. Is this because two years ago I crossed the aisle from association staff to industry partner?  Is the assumption that I’m hoarding bags of money like Ebenezer Scrooge? More importantly, is this the way we treat our suppliers – like bottomless piggy banks?

Or do association staff have a similar experience, replacing sponsorship inquiries with countless invitations to attend the latest and greatest professional development conferences that don’t align with their interest areas?

Assuming we can all agree this is a problem, let’s reflect for a moment on the solution. What can you do today to ensure you’re not spamming your members? Following are just a sampling of ideas:

  • Have a volunteer read and comment on major solicitation communications before they’re distributed.
  • Slow down and don’t just get something out for the sake of checking an item off your to-do list.
  • Mass customize your emails and other communications – gather more data about your members either in person or by survey and ensure they’re receiving opportunities that align with their individual needs and interests.
  • Deliberately schedule emails internally to ensure members are receiving only a certain number of communications a day/week/month.
  • Always include an opt-out option when sending mass emails.
  • Add a staff person to the distribution list to ensure quality control; this person should monitor communications with the member experience in mind and raise any concerns to improve future practice.
  • Know the preferred delivery methods of your members and send communications in that way, even if this means sending fewer pieces in several different formats.
  • Write compelling communications that clearly spell out your value proposition and give both members and sponsors the information they need to make informed decisions.
  • Strike a careful balance when crafting communications between professional and playful; use a voice that appeals to your target audience and fits the intended goals and objectives of the message.
  • Avoid faux personalization (e.g., masquerading an email with a mail merged name block as a personalized email). If the body of the email is too generic it will only undermine your message and the organization’s integrity.
  • Don’t underestimate the power of brevity.
  • Demonstrate ROI with post-event surveys, satisfaction/reach statistics and personal testimonials.

The bottom line is this: stop spamming your members. They’ll thank you for it. They only have so much time, money and patience – and would rather receive a few, hand-selected opportunities than every single communication your organization writes. It demonstrates you understand the uniqueness of each organization and increases your likelihood of a sale.

And, for the record, this goes for just about everything. My example specifically references sponsorship opportunities; however, we could just as easily have been talking about conference registrations. So, my question to you is this: Are you spamming your members? What policies have you instituted to stop or curtail this practice? What other effective marketing techniques might you add to this list?

meet aaron

Association learning strategist & meetings coach. Founder & president of Event Garde. Passionate about cooking, running, blogging, old homes, unclehood & pet parenting (thanks to Lillie the pup).

meet kristen

Writer, editor, public relations professional. Digital content manager. Proud mom of three. Total word geek. Spartan for life.

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