Enhance Your Exhibit Program with an Event Sponsorship


Part of planning your exhibit program is evaluating whether or not you should invest in an event sponsorship. The factors in favor of sponsorship are that people see your brand or product off the show floor, and more people than are able to visit you in your exhibit are exposed to your offerings. An effective sponsorship can also drive traffic to your booth. The cons include the fact you are spending more money, and people can become immune to signage and other sponsorship designations.

The question is, assuming the dollars are available, how do you invest in a sponsorship that enhances your participation at an event?

  • Ask the show organizer or association what sponsorships are on offer. With any luck, you may find something “off the shelf” that fits with your brand and your budget. If this is the case, ask what costs you may incur over and above the list price: do you have to design and produce graphics? Do you have to pay for rigging? Be sure to make your decision based on the total cost.
  • If you are using one of the show’s listed sponsorships, work with show management or the association to incorporate ways to enhance the opportunity. For example, if you are sponsoring a reception, will the venue allow you to provide your own branded napkins? Drink tickets? Is there a giveaway for reception attendees, something different from anything you are using in your exhibit? Don’t settle for the basic package. Promote your brand beyond the “sponsored by” signage or listing—and produce as much as you can in-house so you don’t incur markups from the venue or another third party.
  • Occasionally you will find sponsorship salespeople who are simply order-takers, and not willing to think outside their own comfort zones. If there is no sponsorship in the prospectus that works for you, talk directly to show management, to those responsible for the show who want to keep you, an exhibitor, happy and loyal. Be proactive. Often there are sponsorships that go unsold, and you can negotiate a price that fits your budget. Another option is to suggest a new sponsorship, one that you can afford, and that supports your goals for event participation. Show managers are generally open to suggestions. If your idea is adopted, make sure you have the right of first refusal for the same sponsorship next year. For instance, popular right now, but not heavily adopted, are sponsored show floor Fitbit “steps” competitions, beacons, and other digital initiatives that probably aren’t in traditional sponsorship packages.
  • Review the metrics for the sponsorship. CPMs (cost per thousand) might be a valid measurement for advertising, both print and on-line, but this metric is too scattershot when it comes to targeting the market you want to reach with your event sponsorship. For example, if you are an anchor exhibitor whose target audience comprises a sizeable percentage of the show’s attendees, a major reception is probably a sound investment and a good way for you to connect with your market. On the other hand, if your target is a smaller sub-group, a sponsorship such as a station for either charging devices or refilling water bottles (consider sponsoring branded BHA-free, refillable bottles) will probably deliver a better ROI. If you are sponsoring a giveaway item at the show, such as a branded bag or pen, find out how many will be distributed, both on and off the show floor.

A few final thoughts:

  • Discuss sponsorship opportunities with your product teams, and budget for sponsorships going forward. Make it clear that you are the point of contact with show management so that you aren’t surprised by sponsorship deals negotiated by individual product managers.
  • When sponsorship contracts need to be signed, work with procurement to make sure that everything is in order. Suggest a multi-year contract if there is a sponsorship opportunity that is right for your company.
  • Again, work with show management to determine if there are ways to sponsor initiatives throughout the year, such as web banners, that extend your exposure to the target audience.
  • Finally, if you are a new company and not quite ready to exhibit, ask show management if you can take a sponsorship even if you are not buying space. More and more, this “found revenue” is attractive to organizers, and you will start to collect priority points to use when your company is poised to exhibit.