How to get the most from sponsoring an event

To gain exposure to tough markets like the public sector you must think outside of the box. Getting in front of public sector organisations isn’t easy but sponsoring an event can get your brand known in the right circles – and that alone can really pay off.

Sponsorship can seem like a big commitment, both financially and in terms of time. So, do the benefits outweigh the costs? This blog answers some key questions about event sponsorship and explains how to maximise sponsorship ROI.

Why sponsor an event?

Why do companies sponsor events? The simple answer is that events are a powerful marketing tool and with the right plan, exposure to new buyers and influencers can act as a lever for lots of new business and sustained growth.

If you are considering sponsoring an event, first, be clear on your purpose. What is it that you wish to achieve? Sponsoring an event isn’t all about instantly generating leads.

There are many benefits that come from being an event sponsor. You’ll gain exposure to your goods and services, a platform to network and meet potential customers, and an opportunity to scope out competition. Sponsorships can improve brand recognition and reputation because, in the case of established and respected events, they position you as credible in an environment your target audience trusts.

The best events attract key decision-makers such as CEOs, directors, heads of departments, finance leaders, and more. In addition, meeting the public sector at events can put you face-to-face with key procurement decision-makers too.

As a sponsor, whether it’s for a trade fair, a conference, or a training event, you’ll get greater visibility than if you simply exhibit at a stand. How effective and successful the sponsorship is will depend on a few factors – such as the type of event, what the sponsorship deal includes, and the audience itself. A lot will be dependent on the event organiser, so choose your event carefully.

What do sponsorship packages include?

Every event has its own enticements for sponsorships. Some events have several sponsorship partners, while others have a single headline sponsor. There are often multiple tiers of sponsorship, for example, gold, silver and bronze, with each package offering incremental perks.

Since sponsorship packages vary considerably, you’ll need to do some research and comparisons to find out which one is likely to give your business the best opportunities. Glossy advertising is nice, but a key consideration should always be – will you get the opportunity to meet with the right people?

Sponsorship packages can include things like:

  • Advertising in newsletters, email campaigns, promotional materials, guides, and branding on event staff t-shirts etc.
  • Exposure on the event organiser’s website
  • Branded merchandise
  • Displays, and prominent placement of signs and banners
  • Interactive installations
  • Sponsored live streams
  • Sponsored WiFi or phone charging
  • Sponsorship of a specific area, such as the restaurant or networking lounge
  • Sponsoring a guest speaker
  • Promotion on social media in the lead up to and during the event
  • Pre-arranged meetings with potential clients

Companies that partner with GovNet events, for example, can access pre-booked one-to-one meetings with the biggest public sector buyers.

Choosing an event to sponsor

The first hurdle is to find the right event to sponsor and sign up for a sponsorship deal before a competitor takes the spot. This means planning months in advance.

Many events run annually or twice yearly, and sponsorship will be wrapped up early. It pays to attend some events as an exhibitor before you take the plunge with sponsorship. Then you can make sure you like how the event is run.

This will allow you to select an event that aligns most positively with your brand.

Keep a close eye on what events, exhibitions and conferences are coming up in the public sector by following relevant people on social media, or checking in with companies that run events, such as GovNet.

Preparing your team

To get the most out of an event it’s important to brief your staff properly. Everyone attending the event needs to create a good impression, and all messaging needs to be aligned. Staff back at HQ can also participate in your messaging via social media.

Exhibiting at events: exhibition tips

A carefully selected event will put you in front of your ideal target audience, so having a stand is a great way to pitch for sales. Research suggests that one-third of visitors at exhibitions are looking for new suppliers, so you need to be in the right place. Take time to pick the right space at the event too. You want maximum footfall. Sponsorship packages will likely elevate your position to a top spot.

Never underestimate the need for advanced planning. How effective your sponsorship is will largely come down to how much you put into it.

Start planning at least 4 to 6 months before the event. You’ll need to create a stand and marketing materials (you can also use these at future events, so make it evergreen). Remember, signage can have a huge impact and draw people to you. Take time with design – your stand needs to be eye-catching and reflect everything about your brand.

Events are all about experience. A study on visitor experiences at trade shows found that companies that employ experiential marketing techniques at events are likely to increase their trade show performances.

It’s a good idea to plan out a strategy that covers before, during and after the event. This will help you to maximise exposure and follow-up leads. Book meetings with any prospects you already have contact with who are going to be at the event. These are warm leads and event sponsorship will reinforce your credibility.

Don’t place all your focus on the event itself. You also need a ‘pre-event’ marketing plan. Build a story about your sponsorship for the upcoming event. The event you are partnering with should help you with this. Position yourself as a thought leader in your field. Write articles and blogs and include a news item in your newsletter to existing customers. Make full use of social media. Attendees will likely be following relevant hashtags.

How to meet buyers at events

The purpose of trade shows is to connect buyers with suppliers and industry experts. The first question your salespeople who are attending the event will want to know is “how do I meet buyers?” and “what can I do during the event to generate more leads?”

Nearly everything that happens at events and trade shows includes ‘meet the buyer’ opportunities. These may be in the form of discussions, product demonstrations, speeches, training seminars or other networking arrangements. There will be lots of noise to cut through. Everyone will be selling. It’s not a case of pitching up at your stand and waiting for buyers to appear! It’s critical not to be a passive bystander.

Everyone attending from your company must be proactive so choose your representatives carefully. Your team of attendees must be properly briefed and motivated to sell. Sponsorship packages may be expensive but will include niche opportunities to present your products and/or services.

When sponsoring or exhibiting at a GovNet event, you receive help to build a database with good-quality leads. This means you’ll be able to set up meetings that have the most potential and maximise your ROI.

Does sponsoring an event generate revenue?

Sponsoring an event may not generate immediate revenue, but it offers great potential to clinch a killer contract. You’ll obviously need to get your head around the fact that there’s unlikely to be an immediate great scoop. It’s more about generating leads at events and getting noticed by key buyers. Growing your contact list with key people is gold.

Capitalise on your information gathering. As well as building a list of leads, you can collect valuable information on ‘best procurement practices.’ Remember, meeting the public sector is a different kettle of fish to private companies.

Summary

Sponsoring events helps to build authority and is one of the fastest ways to grow lists of leads. Being an event sponsor gives you a credible platform to showcase your solutions in front of industry leaders and procurement decision-makers. Meeting with public sector procurement decision-makers is no easy feat. Events geared towards the public sector provide a unique environment to engage with government departments, local government and agencies.

Maximising your sponsorship ROI can be achieved by aligning many moving parts. This includes:

  • Choosing the right event and sponsorship package and pre-event planning
  • Maximising your exposure and getting messaging right at the event
  • Following up leads post-event and riding the publicity wave

 If you are looking for the right event to sponsor to guarantee a niche public sector audience, check out GovNet’s upcoming summits, shows and conferences.