It goes without saying that the event industry is booming. Despite us being in the age of digitalization, most of us crave new experiences IRL – out in the real world.
In the advertising industry, this often means going to a conference or seminar. As the number of event attendees is growing and growing, so is the benefits for brands and advertisers to be present and engaging at these events, both as attendees, but certainly also as sponsors.
In this blog post, I’ll show you how to go beyond the traditional roll-ups and flyers and get a solid ROI on your sponsorship investment.
The most important and perhaps somewhat magical ingredient to your sponsorship presence is:
A bathtub filled with colorful plastic balls.
Now you might be scratching your head thinking; is it Disney World or a business conference I am sponsoring?
And just to be clear, you don’t have to acquire an actual bathtub (like the one that was spotted last year at a marketing conference in the US).
The point is that you have to create an activity that makes the event attendees feel something – not just accidentally move their eyeballs towards your roll-up.
As the late American writer, poet, and activist Maya Angelou, is often quoted:
“People may not remember exactly what you did, or what you said, but they will always remember how you made them feel”
How do you make a person feel something? By tapping into their personal needs and values. In other words, get to know your audience.
Know the audience
Just like the many attendees at a conference, every event is different. To make the most of your sponsorship, you need to get to know the audience at the specific event and create activities for them.
Take the Native Advertising DAYS. Our audience mostly consists of directors, managers and C-level professionals in publishing, brand marketing, and ad tech. The feedback we get is especially focused on networking activities – the DAYS-attendees LOVE networking. They are also tech-savvy and interested in new tools to make their everyday easier.
Besides this, our attendees come from all over the world, which means that there are many different cultures represented during the conference – a true blessing and also something to consider when crafting your sponsorship presence.
Despite this, there is one universal thing connecting the advertising industry across cultures.
It’s one of the oldest activities in the history of mankind. It is:
We’ve taken our own medicine by introducing our annual sponsored DAYS raffle and the Native Advertising Awards program. Our attendees love a good race for an attractive price.
Try including a competition at your next event. It could be a mobile game, a sumo-costume fight or just a simple ball game. The importance lies in the fun interaction between you and the attendees.
And no, you’ll never get too old to throw a ball.
Interactive elements: Not just a trend
What triggers your audience can be different from event to event. However, in a digital era being entertained often includes interaction. By now, we are so used to sharing, liking and taking part in conversations across many platforms.
For brands and advertisers, this is magnificent. Use this to your advantage!
Since we are talking about entertainment and interaction, let’s briefly look towards an industry that knows how to melt these things together:
At music festivals, creating interactive elements is a job taken very seriously. For years, festivals worldwide have tried to improve their attendees’ experience by giving them the chance to try, listen, and watch “with their fingers”. In California, the popular music and arts festival Coachella is using VR technology to stream live concerts in 3D for the audience at home.
In Denmark, several pop/rock festivals, such as Smukfest and Roskilde Festival, are offering their attendees the opportunity to purchase food and drinks with their festival wristband on-site. As an experiment, Roskilde Festival tried out a new “scent museum” this year.
One could argue that business conferences and festivals serve the same functions:
- Enrich us with new insights to the world around us
- Inspire us to think in new and different ways.
Besides looking at the festivals’ creative ways of playing with our senses and using technology and interactive elements, there’s one big reason to be looking towards festivals for inspiration:
These events are attracting a loyal fan base every single year. Why? Research shows that it’s all about the atmosphere and the feeling of community.
Let’s look at some concrete actions you as a sponsor or event organizer can take to make the attendees love and remember you.
Tap into the attendees’ self-identity
Social media makes it easier than ever to stage your appearance and lifestyle. As consumers, we have always staged our appearance, but earlier on, this mostly relied on showcasing material goods – the new car, the expensive wine at the business dinner…
Today, there happens to be much more value in showcasing experiences. “I’m the type of marketer who likes to travel and go to Berlin every year to attend DAYS”.
When sponsoring an event, you should use this as a unique opportunity to stage your appearance in a new, fun way. In other words; make your presence ‘Instagramable’.
As the marketer, keynote speaker and author Jay Baer says; when it comes to creating a buzz different is better than better. In the book Talk Triggers, written by Jay Baer and Daniel Lemin, they also cleverly point out:
No one’s ever said to a stranger, “let me tell you about a completely adequate experience I had.”
How to create engaging experiences and get closer to the attendees
As mentioned before, the key to a great event sponsorship lies within the community: Be social and engaging. Nobody attends a conference to walk around all by themselves with their phone in their hand. Get them to look up. Give them something to talk about.
Create networking activities on-site and after hours. This could be to host a:
- Roundtable discussion
- A morning run or mindfulness session.
- ‘City walk’ – show your side of town.
- Welcome party or cocktail hour
- Speaker Dinner
- Dinner for your local clients
Include interactive elements that physically engage the attendees and give them the opportunity to share their experiences online. This could be:
- A photo booth with a branded backdrop (Get your new LI photo taken)
- A fun/beautiful/scary/thought-provoking VR installation.
- Workshop with an actor/actress or voice coach.
- Making fun “brain games” in the activation area.
- A themed quiz with a branded gift for the winner.
- A poetry lab writing personal poetry for each conference attendees.
Other different, branded ideas:
- Serving unexpected branded tastings, such as branded fruit, candy or cold brew coffee.
- Donating unique gifts to a raffle, such as the DAYS Raffle.
You shouldn’t throw out the roll-up, but if you are attending a conference as a sponsor and expect a serious ROI, our best advice is: Engage with the attendees. Give them something to remember and share with their peers.
I’m going to leave you with this thought:
As a sponsor at, say, Native Advertising DAYS, how would you want to add to the atmosphere? How would you engage with the audience and take part in the conversation in ways that reflect your brand values?
Now, get the ideas flowing.
And if you want to boost your inspiration even further, we recommend diving into the marketing book ‘Talk Triggers’ by Jay Baer and Daniel Lemin. This book is a great source of event marketing ideas and new ways of finding the unique activities that leave attendees talking about you long after the event.
If this inspired you to be a part of the Native Advertising DAYS, get in touch with Stine Holmgaard at firstname.lastname@example.org, she’ll be happy to help you find the right sponsor package for your brand.