I was researching an Association – a large professional society that has been around for over 100 years and is very well respected – and taking a look their sponsorships. They have not yet canceled their fall conference and are actively selling sponsorships for it as I write this. However, they have also added a new virtual sponsorship package just in case.
I analyzed the offerings of the traditional sponsorship package and virtual package. The traditional package is old-school. You know they type. The sponsor gets their logo on a bunch of signs and a ribbon to put on their name badge. For all of that glory, they pay $25,000 and get a few registrations and a tabletop booth thrown in as well. It’s a model that has worked for them for decades and there has been no reason for them to change.
That was before COVID-19. Now, for the first time ever, they’ve had to ask, “What do we offer sponsors if we don’t have a live conference?” The first couple of items were easy – registration to the online event and a virtual exhibit booth – but what about all of the signs and ribbons, how should they be replaced?
In answering this question, the association moved into a more modern approach to sponsorships. They are now offering the ability to speak at the online event, the ability to play an advertisement at some point during the virtual conference, a chance to be interviewed in a session break for attendees, and promotion on social media. These are the exact items, regardless of sector, that sponsors tell me that they want when I interview them and ask what a particular association could be doing differently to make their sponsorship more.
If your association is stuck in a rut, take a step back and ask, “Do our offerings meet the needs of our sponsors?” The best clue that things need to change is if you answer the question with, “The sponsors just tell us that they are here to support the organization.” This type of answer generally indicates that the sponsors feel their absence would be felt, but their presence isn’t that valuable to their bottom line.
This is the perfect time to really listen to your sponsors and to push the boundaries to develop packages that helps your sponsors to meet their business goals.
If you can reach the sweet spot of meeting the needs of the sponsor, the association, and the attendee, your conference, live or virtual, will be a must-not-miss event.
Keep in mind that there is no one association that holds the gate to any profession or trade sector. You may be the best gateway to get to the desired market, however, you are not the only gateway. When interviewed, association sponsors have told me repeatedly that they are looking at all the shows they go to and assessing which ones are must attend events and which ones could probably be cut. Make sure that your association is the one that make the cut.