Building Association Sponsorship Levels for Virtual Events

Building Association Sponsorship Levels for Virtual Events

The coronavirus pandemic spurred most associations to transition from in-person events to virtual ones. If your association saw a drop in vital sponsorship dollars with this change, you’re not alone. Here is some advice to help your organization recapture that essential sponsorship revenue

Even when COVID restrictions are lifted, it’s likely that more events will stay in cyberspace, as associations have discovered this saves money, that the general masses are more comfortable with it, and the format allows for more possibilities beyond what physical events can. So, it’s smart to explore virtual sponsorships going forward, as virtual events look like they’re here to stay.

Start Well in Advance of the Event

Many associations start seeking sponsorships too late in the planning process, often only weeks before an event. This unfortunately weeds out many sponsorship opportunities, like top-tier placement on the event website and adding branding to correspondence to attendees.

When you start searching for sponsors as soon as you have a date for your event, you can offer more to your sponsors in return for their support (see below). For example, having a sponsor cover the cost of an industry thought leader, such as your keynote speaker, means their names will be linked together in all the event promotion over the coming weeks and months. This boosts the sponsor’s authority and gives them prestige that they don’t get solely from one-time advertising space during the event itself.

Offer Sponsorship Tiers

Not all sponsors are going to be able to cover big-ticket items, like keynote speakers and opening receptions. Offering the largest range of sponsorship tiers possible lets you bring in sponsors for smaller levels of support, but those add up with volume. And lower-level sponsors are frequently testing the waters to see if they want to give more next time around, so it’s ideal to have entry points for anyone who’s interested.

Some less obvious places where you can add sponsorship include:

  • Breakout sessions
  • Networking spaces
  • Virtual cocktail hours and hospitality “suites”
  • Background screens
  • Video loops between sessions
  • Q&A periods and AMA (Ask Me Anything) sessions
  • Roundtables and panel discussions
  • Demo sessions
  • Event apps and mobile device communication
  • Social media promotion
  • Icebreaker activities and games
  • Post-event publications, like workbooks for professional development
  • Loyalty programs and coupons
  • Contests and raffles
  • Online entertainment
  • Virtual photo booths
  • Content downloads
  • One-on-one professional consultations
  • Event codes to unlock elements

Keep in mind that your pricing needs to be adjusted for virtual events versus physical ones. In general, it costs less to run most events online than it does at a conference center or hotel, so you will probably want to lower each sponsorship tier accordingly. Since your expenses will be less, this shouldn’t radically affect your net profit.

Sell Sponsorship on More Than Exposure

While most sponsorship is going to be sold on advertising space, this shouldn’t be your only way to entice support. As mentioned above, some sponsors may be looking for industry authority status, so tying them to big names offers more than exposure.

Another benefit of virtual events is that you get metrics you don’t get with physical advertising. This should appeal to sponsors who want to know how many eyes are viewing their logo, how many people click through to their website, or the number of mobile phones seeing their message every day. Make sure your event is optimized for data analysis so that you can leverage this with potential sponsors.

Break Out of the Digital-Only Mode

Although of course most of your event will happen in cyberspace, you aren’t obligated to stay in digital-only mode one hundred percent of the time. Think about ways to bring physical items to your attendees, such as delivering swag bags full of sponsored goodies before the event.

During coffee breaks and meals, your participants can enjoy treats sent by your supporters. After the event, they can wear T-shirts and caps bearing your sponsors’ names, which will ultimately last far longer than website banners and cell phone text messages.

For more help making your virtual association event a success, reach out to Jaffe Management. We specialize in helping associations with event planning, membership administration, website creation, and much more. Call us at 212-496-3155, or email our office at: to get the conversation going today.