INCON Expert Article

 

The changing nature of sponsorship

By INCON University 2014 Participants

 
 

Faced with experiences managing the sponsorship of conferences on 4 continents, an international working group of INCON Partners have concluded that the nature of sponsorship and exhibition is radically changing. Sponsorship professionals are encountering challenges in securing consistent investment levels and the client: the event organisers are seeking greater returns. This presents both opportunities and challenges to the Professional Conference Organiser (PCO).

Customisation is King:

Where historically, brand positioning, logo placement and the traditional ‘mineral’ (gold, silver, bronze) packages were meeting sponsor needs, these are being superseded by opportunities to have face time with influencers and decision-makers in personalised environments.

The value of partnership:

Increasingly, event organisers are seeking partnership opportunities with sponsors that extend beyond the life-cycle of the event.

Whilst sponsors are looking for more value from their investment through access to key opinion leaders and delegates and more input into the conference program, they also seek opportunities for relationships and messages to last well beyond the dates of the conference.

A successful marriage between event organisers and sponsors must add value to all stakeholders. PCOs need to have an integral understanding of the business opportunities within the prospective organisations well before an opportunity is presented.

They must also ensure that any sponsor involvement in the program is balanced with event integrity and delegate appeal.

The individual nature of these opportunities has a consequential effect on the manner in which sponsors and exhibitors are secured. In the past, sponsorship has been straightforward: submit a prospectus, have two or three conversations and secure commitment.

The current market requires bespoke tailoring of sponsorship  opportunities with eight to ten conversations for a customised solution. Overlaying this is the need for all elements to come together cohesively including:

  • lead time

  • speaker line up and scheduling

  • sponsor program participation

  • product profile and lifecycle

  • pricing, budget cycle

  • delegate attendance profile and numbers

Tech is the 'new black':

Another driver to securing sponsorship investment is the opportunity to engage with delegates. Technology is changing the way that delegates consume conference content and the connectivity with sponsors and exhibitors(1). Current industry trends demonstrate that delegates are embracing technology at increasing rates; and it’s not just the tech-savvy Gen-Y. In 2013, baby boomers represented 25% of technology users(2).

Another driver to securing sponsorship investment is the opportunity to engage with delegates. Technology is changing the way that delegates consume conference content and the connectivity with sponsors and exhibitors(1). Current industry trends demonstrate that delegates are embracing technology at increasing rates; and it’s not just the tech-savvy Gen-Y. In 2013, baby boomers represented 25% of technology users(2).

Product information that was traditionally available only through booths is now accessible any time, with launches using Twitter, web and e-DM campaigns. Stepping away from the physical booth structure and walking the floor to advance dialogue can provide on-site added-value.

Near field technology can assist in identifying delegates who may have downloaded content or engaged in an online forum discussion.

This higher-quality interaction provides tangible ROI of meetings. The development of technologies such as real-time feedback exchange systems via the conference app will also generate new sponsorship options. Sponsors will be able to create surveys or speed dating appointments anytime and anywhere.

Digi-delegate - the attendee of the future:

While on-site, face-to-face interactions will never lose  their relevance or value, pressures on time 
and budget are resulting in the growth of the digi-delegate; the one who attends virtually. The significance of digital content cannot be undervalued with regard to evolving sponsorship opportunities. Digi-delegates and hybrid meetings present a range of prospective sponsorship opportunities.

Conclusion:

The future of sponsorship and exhibitions for events will leverage the creation of digital and real-world communities that embrace attendees, speakers, and sponsors; with the progressive association and enlightened PCO providing the lynch pin for all. However, despite the opportunities presented by technology, it is the human interaction between all stakeholders that will be the essential driver to deliver tailored solutions that maximise the benefit of each event.

References:

01 Professional Convention Management Association: The Future of Events is Mobile - Whitepaper

02 Forbes: It's Stupid and Insulting to Pitch Baby Boomers As Tech Novices


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ABOUT THE AUTHORS:

A combined international team from INCON Partner companies compiled this article following the INCON Annual University held in Melbourne Australia, February 2014.

The team was comprised of:

  • Rebecca Schepers (MCI - Australia)

  • Lucy Ladbrook (Arinex)

  • Dominique Liu
    (MCI - Shanghai)

  • Silke Weerts
    (CPO Hanser Service)


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This article is No.21 in a series of expert articles brought to you by INCON. To consult other articles please visit our Expert Article archive.

For more information please contact:

Angela Guillemet
Executive Director of INCON
T: +353 86 311 40 67
E: angela@incon-pco.com
W: www.incon-pco.com

 

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