If virtual event sponsorships are a fad, expect them to fade away once live events come roaring back.
However, 2020 and 2021 have taught us not to underestimate new ways of approaching sponsorship.
In early 2020, the rising pandemic caused the cancellation of too many live events, large and small. That began a mad dash to online platforms like ZOOM, YouTube, and Facebook. Thousands of organizations moved events online and created tag-along opportunities for sponsors of canceled live events.
Since then, meeting planners have developed an impressive punch list of virtual event elements, like those found in this article or this one. I, too, saw successes and bombs in the expanding virtual event and sponsorship categories. The successful effort had certain features in common:
- Events rich with content that educates, entertains, or both. The successful events did not merely shift their live content to a virtual format. The content in successful virtual events took full advantage of video, sound, and technology to hold an audience.
- Events and sponsorships resulted from careful planning and clear goals. The event content was borne out of sponsorship return-on-investment. A plan was built to deliver. Usually, that plan began with skillful pre-event promotion, including social media, email marketing, and paid social.
- Sponsor logo identification and recognition that made use of virtual space as skillfully as a live event. The event took full advantage of virtual events’ technologies, including banner ads, lower third logos, and branded transitions between event segments. I saw great integration of sponsor imagery on items like branded event agendas, and other virtual components like waiting rooms and meeting rooms.
- The event integrated sponsored contests and games. Virtual promoters increased audience engagement by turning event content into trivia contests or competitions of skill.
- Event organizers created event collateral delivered to attendees ahead of an event. Swag created a strong connection to the virtual event. It also promoted a sense of community if all attendees could simultaneously enjoy the same merchandise.
- The event authentically integrated sponsors. Like live events, virtual sponsorship works best when the sponsor can add value to the audience. When sponsors make the event better, audiences show their appreciation and support.
The Future of Virtual Sponsorships?
Virtual sponsorships, well planned and executed, have proven they can deliver value. However, will they replace live sponsorships? Hardly. The LA Dodger ZOOM party attracted 11,000 fans in April 2020 when there was no baseball. Will such an event attract this kind of audience post-pandemic? Probably not. If there’s no audience, there’s no sponsorship.
However, virtual events and their sponsorships have a place in our tool belts going forward. In my opinion, virtual sponsorships will have value under the right conditions:
- There is excellent content that can leverage technology in a way live events can’t match. Offering entertainment or celebrity integration is often more manageable in the virtual world than the real one.
- The virtual format can enable deeper engagement that the audience can customize to their interests. Most live conferences have space limitations limiting the number of breakout sessions. Virtual meetings are limited only by the availability of speakers and content.
- There is a need to overcome geographic limitations. I attended virtual events all over the world in 2020. My travel budget?
Virtual sponsorships taught us how to pivot in the face of serious challenges. It also challenged us to up our game on creating exciting events for audiences. That’s the reason sponsors will continue to value the virtual in the months and years ahead.
Schedule a Free Discovery Call
If you would like CHARGE to help your organization with virtual sponsorships or other sponsorship strategies to take you to the next level, schedule a call with one of our experts today.