An unexpected pivot to virtual chapter operations can come with a lot of challenges, but can also lead to growth and innovative ideas. When chapters go virtual, they have to think creatively about how to replace revenue from cancelled or postponed in-person events. This has led to a new trend that we love – virtual event sponsors.
Even virtually, members are looking to learn and connect. Chapters are turning to virtual events to replace in-person events and fill that need. In our last post, we recommended that chapters speak to their event sponsors about how virtual events can still help them achieve their marketing goals.
Now, let’s take a closer look at those goals and how your chapters can offer opportunities to support them. We will focus on the following goals, but there is always room to brainstorm more ideas with local sponsors:
- Community Relations
- Brand Awareness
- Showing Off a New Product
SPONSOR GOAL: COMMUNITY RELATIONS
Get sponsors involved in events by leveraging their expertise. Local businesses are a big part of the campus community, meaning they interact with a wide range of businesses and customers on a day-to-day basis. They likely have valuable knowledge and information to share with attendees.
Sponsors would rather teach than sell. Chapters have an opportunity to work with them to find shareable knowledge that frames the sponsor as an expert and is applicable to attendees. Chapters can offer spots to co-present a live or recorded information session during a virtual event. Some examples are:
- A local smoothie place sharing how to stay healthy and maintain nutrition during stressful times.
- A tax professional or local bank leading a panel on financial tips and best practices.
- A gym or fitness instructor sponsoring a virtual class on how to stay active at home.
- A restaurant or local grocery store demonstrating how to make fun meals on budget.
Keep the momentum growing throughout the year by offering opportunities to connect year-round. If the sponsors have enough compelling and beneficial information to share, offer a sponsored webinar or video series. Check out the creative ways that IASA offers both active (speaking) and passive (advertising) sponsorships for their webinars.
Sponsored content is another great virtual option. Chapters should encourage content that is informational and actionable for their members: tip sheets, checklists, and templates.
SPONSOR GOAL: BRAND AWARENESS
Chapters can still help sponsors with brand awareness goals by getting their names and faces out there at virtual events. Opportunities could include hosting pre-event virtual coffee breaks or ice breakers to get attendees engaged.
Chapters can also display sponsor logos on their event slides and play thank-you videos between sessions. Or play video ads or infomercials before sessions – and keep those ads with the virtual event recordings for on-demand viewing.
Challenge chapters to get creative with their sponsorship opportunities. Could they leverage virtual platforms to offer fun activities like chair yoga, trivia contests, or Jeopardy?
On their social media accounts, chapters often have a wide following of other organizations and students on campus. They could leverage their social presence to help local sponsors reach the campus audience. By offering followers a special coupon or discount code, the sponsor gets the exposure they need while benefiting the chapter’s followers as well.
SPONSOR GOAL: SHOW OFF A NEW PRODUCT
At an in-person event, sponsors can easily use a booth or tabletop to show off a new product. This is a bit more challenging to replicate virtually than a speaking opportunity. An option could be to assign a web-conferencing breakout room during a virtual event where they can showcase or demo their product/service. A representative can act as the room’s host and provide downloadable materials or links to a special event landing page.
Sponsors can be encouraged to create a Calendly link where attendees can set up a time to chat if they want to learn more about products highlighted at the event. Chapters could also turn a section of their website or social media page into a spot for sponsors that includes space for promotional information, videos, and links for more materials.
DEVELOP A SUSTAINABLE SPONSORSHIP PROGRAM
With a switch to virtual operations, chapters can experiment and consider ideas that may have been dismissed in the past as impossible, impractical, or inappropriate. It’s also a crucial time in their relationship with sponsors. To get through this financial crisis, they will need to be there to help each other. You can help your chapters develop a more sustainable approach to non-dues revenue by showing them how to develop virtual and year-round sponsorship packages for their revenue partners.
If chapters invest the time to make these programs successful, they may find a new revenue stream and continue to offer virtual options even when they return to normal operations.
*Remember to always consult with your headquarters before bringing on a new sponsor.*