Access and CTSM: Sponsorship as a Critical Component of Exhibit Marketing


Make no mistake: exhibit marketing represents a sizable investment, a big number in your marketing budget. Best case scenario: What should drive the decision to exhibit at one show or another should be the quality of the audience, the matching of attendees to your target market, and the opportunity to build your brand.

The decision to exhibit at a trade show involves the same process whether you are a supplier to the exhibit industry or a corporate exhibitor, although, truthfully, in the case of suppliers, the choices for exhibiting are extremely limited while corporate exhibitors have many shows vying for their exhibit marketing dollars.

Like just about every company worth its salt, Access TCA has undergone many changes since 2008—in personnel, in culture, and in marketing initiatives. At one point a decision was made to stop exhibiting at ExhibitorLive. It seemed as if every year, the decision was revisited, but nothing changed.

A data-driven decision

A little more than two years ago, when the topic came up again, we did what we urge our clients to do. We studied the show audit. We learned that those in our target market comprised approximately twenty percent of all attendees at ExhibitorLive. We came to this conclusion based on the fact that this segment of the audience not only visited the exhibit floor but also took advantage of educational offerings. Those most committed to education enrolled in Exhibitor’s university-affiliated certification program, the Certified Trade Show Marketer program, or CTSM.

Earning the CTSM designation requires intense course work and a serious commitment of time. Students must also submit a portfolio describing a completed project which reflects the knowledge they acquired through their studies.

This discovery led us to another: there was a sponsorship available to support the CTSM activities at ExhibitorLive. The sponsorship allowed us to align our brand with all the CTSM activities at the show including, among other things, a celebratory “graduation” banquet; food and amenities in the CTSM office; and signage announcing our support of education and life-long learning.

Aligning our brand with CTSM

Because show regulations required us to be an exhibitor in order to be a sponsor, we reviewed our options and agreed our participation was not about Access but about Access’ support of CTSM. Rather than take a large space on the floor, we created a lounge where CTSM candidates and graduates could relax, have some refreshments, charge their electronic devices, and basically take a break from the show floor.

Now that we have completed the second year of the sponsorship and have recommitted to a third year, we are finding that our target audience is stopping by our exhibit not only to ‘relax and refresh,’ but to obtain CTSM literature and learn more about the program. We have become more than a sponsor—we have become an extension of the program, a true partner.

I might add, as someone who just completed her CTSM, I have acquired not only knowledge and new skills, but also an appreciation of the challenges our clients face. Access and CTSM are a perfect pair.

Faced with decisions about which shows to attend and which sponsorships are right for you? Download our free guide, 28 Questions to Ask Before You Plan Your Exhibit Program. Start here.

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