A pivot to virtual chapter operations may mean that chapters have to cancel or postpone in-person events. If chapters had event sponsors lined up to cover costs, they could be facing financial loss by having to refund the total or a portion of the sponsorship fee. This gets tricky if the chapter is still on the hook for venue or rental deposits. Even offering to apply the sponsorship fee to the same event next year will reduce next year’s sponsorship revenue. But what if there was a better option?
Chapters have started offering to apply sponsor fees or a portion of them to virtual events and/or digital marketing opportunities this year. A strategy that allows them to retain anticipated revenue to cover costs and gets sponsors the anticipated marketing ROI.
KEEP LOOKING FOR SPONSORS
Even virtually, members are looking to their chapter to provide education and social opportunities. Virtual events give members the experience they are craving and still give sponsors the chance to enjoy the visibility that those canceled events promised.
Leverage your organization’s event team for suggestions on sponsorship strategies and tactics that can be adapted for virtual events and year-round marketing opportunities for sponsors. If you don’t have those resources, we will share some ideas in this post and the next one.
START COMMUNICATING WITH SPONSORS NOW
Chapters should not wait to reach out to sponsors when the decision is made to move operations virtual. Sponsors are their revenue partners. They should get in touch right away to discuss how they can work together to help them still achieve their marketing goals. Dan Kowitz, co-convener of PPN, suggests taking this approach:
“What we’d like to do is start to look at ways we can work with you to recognize that you are sticking with us in tough times and being a supporter. Let’s get a proactive communication program out that says our value partners aren’t leaving us. We are going to figure out ways [our members] can interact with you.”
Revenue partners are still going to expect a return on their investment for the event. Chapters can start by talking with partners to understand their event goals, for example:
- Spreading brand awareness
- Showing thought leadership
- Deepening community relationships
If chapters can determine what the sponsor was hoping to achieve in person, they can start to figure out how to accomplish that in a virtual environment. They can provide tentative agendas for upcoming virtual chapter events or create a video that walks them through the online meeting platform so they get a sense of the look and feel of the event. Encourage chapters to create a sales page on the chapter website describing the different types of events and year-round sponsorship opportunities offered.
Keep in mind these considerations:
- Is the sponsor’s marketing budget affected by virtual operations as well?
- Is their business suffering?
- Does their staff have the bandwidth to take on these new opportunities?
LEVERAGE EVENT AND CONTENT ASSETS
It’s time to get creative! With virtual events, chapters need to think beyond the typical event sponsorship offerings – logos and tabletops. Virtual event platforms become the venue. How can that “real estate” be used to spread awareness for sponsors?
Program goals should be considered when offering assets. What type of event-related content would attendees find valuable? How can sponsors and exhibitors share their expertise during and after the event?
Sponsorship opportunities could include:
- Tip sheets
- Advertorials and other sponsored content
Some virtual event platforms can provide chapters with valuable attendee data. They can show what attendees are doing, how many people are doing it, what they’re saying, and what they’re clicking on. This engagement data can be used to help chapters plan future content and programs, but it also helps sponsors learn about their return on investment.
Sponsorship opportunities don’t have to be limited to just events. In our next post, we’ll show you how to help sponsors achieve their marketing goals with other opportunities at chapter events and throughout the year.
*Remember to always consult with your headquarters before bringing on a new sponsor.*