Virtual event plans are better executed with a key revenue stream coming from sponsorships. But for sponsors to invest in your event, they need to know that they will get value in return, such as leads and brand awareness. So, your event's theme and the attendees' profile must align with the goals of the sponsors, and the attendees should be interested in the solutions that the sponsors are selling. In this article, you will find creative ideas and practical tips to have efficient conversations with your sponsors, acknowledging their requisite for exposure and far-reaching brand awareness.
No attendee deserves to participate in an online event that is made up of sales pitches. To this end, as an event organizer, it’s in your interest to ensure that any sponsored content is well-thought and delivers value to attendees in the form of a solution, knowledge, networking opportunity, or inspiration for professional and personal growth. In other words, sponsorships should be natively integrated with the event to enrich the attendee experience. Read our guide on virtual event sponsorship ideas to make the most of sponsorship opportunities, and choose the sponsorship tips that are the most relevant to your event’s purpose and audiences’ expectations.
1.Take an Audience-First Approach
Sponsors usually offer their budget and time to virtual events for two reasons: they see value in it for the industry as a whole, and they want to target your audience — a new and bigger market for them. To this end, you have to connect your sponsors with your audience in a beneficial way for both parties. The best way to do that is to remain engaged with your audience. So, give your audience a voice, understand what matters to them, and align with their expectations. Create a pre-event survey with questions such as Why do you want to attend this event? Which speakers and sessions are you most excited about? Which exhibitors would you like to hear from? Knowing your attendees’ geographic details, demographics, opinions on the industry, previous event experiences, and brand preferences, you can help sponsors create a business strategy tailored to your event and able to secure a high return on investment.
Whatever you do, remember that your audience trusts you. The moment people suspect that you are selling out their information ungainly, they may abandon their journey with you. Hence, you have to balance attentively between profiling audiences for sponsors to make informed decisions and helping audiences feel included, appreciated, and members of an ecosystem that shares common values. At the end of the day, both sponsors and audiences want to connect with the right people and they will all ask one question: Did my event participation investment generate gain?
2. Explore Email Marketing Opportunities
Email marketing will surely be part of your overall event marketing strategy, and event sponsors will be excited to be included in this promotion practice. Invite sponsors to consider prominent exposure through a sponsored newsletter exclusively dedicated to them, or give sponsors valuable space on the newsletter for sponsored text and an image. Either way, you should clearly state on the newsletter that it is sponsored by [sponsor’s name]. However, before sealing the deal with a sponsor, think about whether the sponsorship is worth risking the loss of subscribers. The people on your mailing list didn’t sign up to receive promo emails of your sponsor’s brand. So, if you have doubts about how relevant your sponsor’s message is to your audience, better not to include it in your newsletter — unless you want your contacts to believe that you are spamming them in exchange for money for your event. On the other hand, if your gut instinct says that your sponsor's message is helpful to your subscribers and aligns with your newsletter’s tone, voice, and purpose, go for it.
A lighter way to incorporate sponsors in your email marketing is through sponsored call-to-action buttons such as Click Here to access a free guide, eBook, whitepaper, or webinar. Although they aren’t part of the email, landing pages matter to the success of email marketing. Are you sending subscribers to easy-to-navigate landing pages where they can download the sponsor’s offer straightforwardly in exchange for basic contact information? You should never ask more from your audience than you offer; an email address for a special offer is a fair deal.
3. Add Sponsors on Event Registration Page
An idea to get corporate sponsorship for your event is to create a section within your event registration page with the sponsors’ profiles and information about who they are, what solutions they offer, and how they relate to the event’s theme. If this requires management for which you don’t have the capacity, you can feature sponsors’ logos on the event registration page. On Balloon, sponsors are front and center. You can display event sponsors on the event's registration page, reception, stages, and the sidebar where chat and live networking actions occur. Besides, you can create sponsorship tiers, which you can group accordingly for more efficient monetization.
On Balloon, attendees can access different sections (some of which can be sponsored) of an event (e.g., workshops, one-on-one sessions, entertainment activities, etc.) based on their ticket type. Some of these sections can be sponsored. At this point, it is worth considering adding tiered sponsorship levels in your sponsorship proposals. Consider giving unique names to your sponsorship levels in tune with your event’s theme to catch sponsors’ eye. Gold, platinum, and silver are alright sponsorship level names but obsolete.
4. Promote Sponsors on Social Media
Ensure audience engagement for sponsors and introduce them to your community through your event’s social media accounts. Include sponsors in social media and encourage event’s followers to act on and engage with sponsors’ content through likes, comments, mentions, tags, reposts, and shoutouts before, during, and after the event. Sponsored social media content can be anything from blogs, infographics, photos, and videos to digital flyers, giveaways, and contests. For a more organic effect, you can share your reasons for attendees to check out a sponsor’s product or service. Or you can post a picture of one of your event’s team members using a sponsor’s product.
Thanks to concrete social media data, sponsors will have a clear picture of how many event followers engaged with their messages. To help sponsors prepare to engage with your event’s followers, give them a heads-up for the cumulative notification pings they will start receiving on their social accounts. In addition, make sure to share the event’s dedicated hashtag with them and ask them to use it with every opportunity to maximize involvement.
5. Include Sponsors in the Event Program
Get sponsorship for your online event by helping your sponsors get noticed, showcasing their relevance to the event’s purpose, and promoting their event participation among attendees. Apart from the dedicated sponsors’ page or tab, include sponsors in the event agenda. Ask them to list the activities they are willing to sponsor and encourage them to create useful content for the event. Sponsors can give a talk, organize a workshop, become moderators in a discussion, or run a session. On Balloon, we see these projects as benefits you can offer to your sponsors to increase their value and ROI. Simultaneously, creating value for your sponsors is crucial for your event’s monetization and success.
6. Offer Sponsored Virtual Event Bags
A virtual event bag (aka swag bag) is a selection of digital giveaways that event attendees usually receive in their email upon registration to the event. An event bag’s goal is to increase brand awareness, build up audience excitement, and strengthen relationships between attendees and sponsors. Indeed, giveaways and swag bags are an excellent opportunity to engage your sponsors, who can select and sign some of the items. When you think of a virtual event bag, be creative, personalize the gifts, and send content that matches the event’s theme and can be used during the event. Some virtual gift ideas are coupons, vouchers, gift codes, gift cards, online games, online courses, videos, music, podcasts, free trials, and samples.
Virtual event bags may not have the emotional effect of physical gifts, but they save you time by not having to stuff bags with things, collect addresses, and calculate shipping timelines. Also, virtual event bags allow you to collect engagement data, are easier to personalize, limit adverse environmental impact, and arrive timely. Due to the booming of the online event industry, many swag bag apps in the market will help you compose a swag bag and distribute it to your list. Besides, these platforms track visits, views, and engagement for each individual and provide reports for sponsor placements to help your sponsors measure their ROI.
7. Incorporate Sponsored Banners and Pop-Ups
Maybe the first thing that comes to mind when you hear pop-ups is ‘make them disappear.’ However, banners and pop-ups don’t have to be distracting or take away from the attendees’ experience. Sponsored banners and pop-ups can be informative for and supplementary to audiences’ experience. The difference between banners and pop-ups is that the latter cannot be left to selection perception because audiences have to see them before closing them or engaging with the message.
If you decide to offer pop-ups to your event sponsors, remember to make those windows easy to close (don’t keep the exit button hidden somewhere) and use pop-ups to transmit a relevant or valuable message (e.g., unlock a discount, access exclusive content, get a promo code, pay attention to a limited offer, etc.). This way, you will minimize attendees’ frustration. Alternatively or supplementary, you can use banners to highlight sponsors during event sessions or presentations. On Balloon, you can use animated images (.gif) for stages and sessions, and as part of the animation and graphics, you can incorporate some sponsored branding and messaging in a more organic and native way.
8. Utilize Sponsored Intros and Video Ads
Anyone who has browsed YouTube will know how sponsored intros and video ads look like. You can use similar style elements between event sessions, for example, and play a short sponsored video or more videos in a row. If videos don’t have sound, you can simultaneously play select songs in the background on repeat. Due to their efficiency and immediacy, video ads cost more to sponsors, but this is excellent news for your virtual event’s revenue.
Sponsored intros and video ads are an excellent way for sponsors to showcase their brands, increase traffic on their website, and see a rise in demand. Attendees are exposed naturally to the ads’ content, which is part of the holistic event experience they have chosen to participate in. On Balloon, if you use software for video recording and live streaming, such as OBS (free/open-source), you can incorporate video reels with a sponsor's service or product before the main content begins and send them to Balloon's event stage via RTMP.
9. Create Customizable CTA Buttons
A call-to-action (CTA) is a button on your event website, newsletter, video, or social media that asks recipients and navigators to take some sort of action (e.g., purchase, download, sign-up, try for free, find out more information, book, install, etc.) by pressing it. This action, when taken, brings you closer to your goal (e.g., sales, subscriptions, knowledge sharing, etc.). Upon agreement with your sponsors, you can create CTA buttons across your event’s media to raise awareness around sponsors and increase sponsors’ conversions.
You can be very creative with CTA buttons and play around with the style, size, shape, and copy, depending on the point you are trying to make. Usually, CTA buttons tell users what to do, and the surrounding text (e.g., testimonials, data, etc.), why they should do it. Exclamation points or text such as ends in 24 hours create urgency and work miracles among FOMO users. Other CTAs can be motivating and inspiring, meaning that they present the consequences of the clicking action. For instance, if users donate now, they will vaccinate an X amount of children, meaning that they contribute to the solution of a problem.
Here are some extra tips for impactful CTA buttons:
- Create legible texts that don’t leave doubts about the action that one must take.
- Don’t present users with many CTA buttons to choose from because they will get overwhelmed, and at the end, they may take zero action.
- Place CTA buttons at a visible place. Think about how users will navigate the page, and put the button in a position where users won’t miss it.
On Balloon, we have designed expo booths with sponsors’ and exhibitors’ lead generation in mind. Encourage sponsors to customize their call-to-action buttons to generate more leads from your online event.
10. Redirect Attendees to Virtual Waiting Rooms
Online event virtual waiting rooms are the perfect solution for event sponsorships. In practice, you gather attendees in one space while the host is getting ready. Virtual waiting rooms improve attendees’ experience by raising anticipation and excitement around a session and inform attendees on the situation (who are the other attendees queuing, what is the estimated start time, etc.). To personalize the experience and keep attendees preoccupied while waiting, use this virtual space to engage attendees with the event sponsors. Invite sponsors to advertise their brands or services during this time, but make sure their message is loyal to the event’s theme and purpose. Otherwise, you may have a completely reverse effect — attendees losing interest and leaving the waiting room (and the session-to-come).
On Balloon, you can use sessions as virtual waiting rooms, which you can tailor to the event and sponsor’s particular needs. As an event organizer, you can customize the session’s title, logo, background, and message and add videos and music. Hosts and organizers can see who has joined the session/waiting room, admit everyone or selected attendees to the session, and send a personal message to attendees in the room.
11. Give Your Sponsors a Voice
To make your sponsorship package more enticing and at the same time add value for event attendees, invite sponsors to lead a panel discussion or sponsor a Q&A session. You can give sponsors’ the freedom to bring up and talk through a topic of their choice, as long as it is relevant to your event’s industry, the sponsor is a subject matter expert, and they will give a fresh insight into an old-time concept or bring news and trends on the table. Provide sponsors with virtual space and time slots to host breakout sessions to boost brand awareness without, however, deprecating the value of the event’s natural flow.
On Balloon, you can create customized general breakout sessions, roundtable talks, or meetings, and assign sponsor staff as moderators, speakers, etc. Besides, you can add your sponsor’s logo to the stage and include them in the stage name or the schedule if they run an entire sponsored session. Sponsors can host and moderate live sessions from their virtual booth, during which they can demonstrate their product or talk about a particular problem or challenge they solve while attendees raise their questions.
12. Assign Sponsors a Keynote Speaking Slot
Secure a couple of keynote speaking slots for your event’s major sponsors and see your event’s revenue increase significantly. However, if not executed carefully, such a sponsorship practice may annoy your audience, lead to negative post-event feedback, and eventually break the relationship with the sponsors due to poor ROI. So, when you think of sponsors as keynote speakers at your virtual event, think of content gaps first — which topic is missing from the event’s agenda, and what unique expertise can sponsors bring to the event’s schedule? Don’t give sponsors keynote speaking slots if the only thing they can propose is an aggressive marketing speech. The moment attendees suspect that this is a sales pitch and not a genuine session, they will leave, and you may not hear back from them ever again.
No one knows the event’s audience better than you. Work with the sponsors on their keynote speeches to find out what they want to achieve and how they will deliver value to attendees. For example, if they start with a one-minute-long video about their product, you already know that your audience will doze off. However, suppose they talk about a specific example where they achieved something no one else has before, or they present data, useful for the entire industry. In that case, you can trust them as experts and innovators, and attendees can find inspiration in their storytelling.
13. Organize Sponsored Networking
We have created an extensive guide on networking at online events for all event stakeholders. Here are some ideas to include sponsors in your event’s virtual networking activities and help them build meaningful connections with new prospects, strengthen existing relationships, and increase brand exposure. Can you pinpoint a subject about which you expect attendees to have questions, and one of your sponsors is an expert on it? If the answer is yes, invite the sponsor to create one-on-one virtual meetings with attendees upon booking. Such exclusive sessions are perfect bonuses for premium ticket holders and higher-level types of sponsorships. Both sides will feel looked after and on top of their networking.
Ice breakers are the best way to start a workshop or a small-scale meeting with people who know nothing about each other, but you expect them to collaborate during a session. If prepared with attendees in mind, ice breakers can diffuse discomfort and boost engagement among participants. Ask a sponsor to moderate ice breakers after introducing themselves and their brand in an honest and creative way that will warm up audiences before the actual session begins. Some ideas for ice breakers are: ‘describe your company’s culture with one world,’ ‘the best professional advice someone ever gave you,’ ‘what was your first job,’ or ‘what do you expect to get from the session.’
Another networking sponsorship example is virtual happy hours or coffee breaks, sponsored by one of your event’s sponsors. These networking opportunities can occur between event sessions. However, don’t allow sponsors to monopolize the conversation with bragging monologues; agree beforehand on a few topics they can contribute their knowledge to, and prioritize virtual networking among everyone involved. A thoughtful touch (for national, smaller-scale events) would be to have attendees pre-register for this activity and the sponsor deliver the beverages to each participant’s location. At Balloon, getting out of our comfort zone to build meaningful connections with others is one of our core values. Hence, we take networking very seriously and we turn networking at Balloon events into straightforward and fun interactions.
14. Award Sponsored Giveaways
Besides the virtual event bags (#6), there are plenty more opportunities for branded giveaways to engage sponsors who will select and sign the gifts. Sponsors will probably want to offer promotional codes (e.g., a percentage discount, free shipping, specific amount off, etc.) to incentivize purchases among event participants on their websites and generate revenue.
Games are great for improving audience engagement at virtual events while making the most of sponsorships. For example, you can set a leaderboard challenge (everyone likes a bit of healthy competition) as part of a game or create a points system where attendees collect points for consuming certain content or taking particular action during the event. To help sponsors get more exposure, ask them to offer the prizes to the leaderboard winner(s) (e.g., a VIP experience, free trial, free service, etc.) and induce excitement among attendees by promoting the leaderboard through your marketing channels.
15. Offer Sponsored Entertainment
An event that runs across many days can be tiresome. Attendees will appreciate some entertainment-filled breaks to reboot their minds and regain focus on the event agenda. A major benefit of using event sponsorship is that you can afford to spend on entertainment activities, which may not otherwise be a priority. Get sponsors involved in the non-educational aspect of your event by asking them to sponsor the performance of a live musician or comedian, or the coordination of a virtual game. Fun activities can function as breakout sessions. On Balloon, breakout sessions are easy to create (you can also watch our interactive tutorial). You can choose the most suitable session from the three types we offer (General, Roundtables, and Meetings), depending on the number of participants. Breakout sessions on Balloon can be public, by invitation only, ticket-specific, and unlisted for attendees with a link.
Besides bringing joy and creating a bonding experience, virtual games can be a source of data, helping you and your sponsors make business decisions and generate more revenue. With that in mind, bring sponsored games relevant to your event’s content, product or services, and the event’s purpose.
16. Bring a Virtual Photo Booth
A virtual photo booth is an excellent event tech, entertainment, and marketing solution that allows sponsors to engage with your event’s attendees in a fun way. Virtual photo booths are simple to use and customizable to suit your sponsor’s brand and logo. Photo frames, watermarks, and photo backgrounds can include the event’s dedicated hashtag, GIFs, digital props, sponsored backgrounds, and unique effects. Invite attendees to share their photo booth productions on social media by using your event and sponsor’s dedicated hashtags to generate buzz around your event and sponsors. At the virtual after-party (#19), you can present a mosaic with the images from the dashboard to enhance your sponsor’s exposure. Besides being great memorabilia, seeing their pictures, attendees will feel an indispensable part of your event and will memorize sponsors.
17. Present Customer Case Studies
As already mentioned several times in this article, it’s crucial to find the right balance between keeping your sponsors happy and event attendees engaged and motivated. Hence, when you plan your virtual event, communicate to sponsors that you don’t want them to use your event as a stage to sing their praises. Audiences don’t need to listen to another sales pitch. They would rather hear the testimony of a satisfied customer who has already benefited from the sponsor’s product or service.
When booking an event time slot for your sponsor (#12), ask them to make the most of it by inviting a client to speak on their behalf. The sponsor can give a short presentation, which a customer case study will complement. Case studies can present the client’s entire journey or focus on a specific challenge that got solved thanks to the sponsor’s work culture, technological innovation, people, or processes. When presenting a case study, there has to be a logical flow with a plot, conflict, and resolution to keep audiences’ interest alive and enable some kind of action at the end (e.g., website visit, subscription, contact with the sponsor, purchase, etc.). Referrals are excellent marketing practices, but at the same time, they work as knowledge sharing and offer value to event attendees too.
18. Add a Virtual Store
Offer sponsors the opportunity to set up a virtual store at the event to display and sell their products and services directly to attendees, who are most likely related to the same industry. At checkout, sponsors will collect valuable information about attendees, such as contact details, which they can use to maintain the relationships with these new customers. Also, sponsors can use the virtual store to launch a new product within it, deliver a specific message through t-shirts and mugs, or use it as a place where their logo will be omnipresent and will stay in attendees’ minds long-term.
19. Host a Virtual After-Party
The last session of your event is over, social media accounts are booming with likes and comments, and attendees are happy with their list of new connections. There’s one more thing before you relax and enjoy the fruits of all the labor you put into this virtual event — the after-party. The after-party will sum up the entire event’s content and leave everyone with a good last — and lasting — impression. As with every other event session, the after-party requires good planning and budget. The good news is that sponsors are keen on undertaking fun tasks like party management.
Keep the after-party short, and don’t drag things out. Everyone is low on energy now that the event is coming towards its end and most things have already been said. Make sure to set the right tone for the after-party and communicate it to everyone involved well in advance. For instance, if you would like attendees to dress up for the occasion or join with their drink at hand, make this clear in your after-party communication. Share a teaser among attendees a few days in advance and send a couple of more reminders as the after-party day and time is getting closer.
You can ask your sponsors to be in charge of bringing virtual entertainment to the party (e.g., a live band or DJ) or give a speech to highlight the event’s contributions to the industry and the gratitude they feel for having such an engaged and insightful audience. You can create a slideshow with the event’s top moments and best social media shares to solidify the cause that brought you all together. Save an incentive (e.g., a sponsored special guest, a sweepstake, etc.) for the end of the after-party to make sure no one leaves before the lights come on.
Asking businesses for money isn’t a straightforward task. But with the above tips and ideas in mind, finding the most suitable sponsors for your event must already feel manageable and less complicated. Balloon ensures you have all the tools to accommodate your sponsors’ needs and keep attendees engaged throughout your event. If you need our help, chat with our team on Balloon’s homepage, or contact us via email.