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7 Out-of-the-Box Sponsorship Activation Ideas for Your Next Sponsorship Program 

by | January 13, 2022

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Recently, I shared a post chock full of awesome (if I do say so myself) motorsport activation ideas. This week, I thought I’d broaden the horizons and divulge some truly unique activations for nearly any area of sponsorship. What are they?

Here are 7 out-of-the-box sponsorship activation ideas:

  • Pop-up shop
  • Cool-down zone
  • Interactive games
  • Scannable bracelets
  • Instagrammable set piece
  • Unique photo stations
  • Branded wearables + contest

If you’re eager to make 2022 the year you wow your sponsorship prospects with smart activation ideas, this collection is sure to make for a productive brainstorming session with your team. Keep reading for more information on each idea as well as tips for implementation.

7 Creative Sponsorship Activation Ideas for 2022

1. Pop-up Shop

You know what FOMO is, right? 

If not, allow me to explain. FOMO is short-hand for fear of missing out. It’s something all of us experience in our day-to-day lives at some point, as brands and companies love to exploit our sense of FOMO to inspire sales.

For example, if something is only available in a limited run, then you want to be on the website at noon on the dot so you can get that item when it goes on sale. It’s not like a t-shirt that’s always in stock. You know you can buy that later, so you don’t value it as much.

How can you generate a sense of FOMO in your audience at your next sponsorship event? It’s easy! Pop-up shops.

Pop-up shops are limited-run, exclusive places to buy goods that themselves are often exclusive and limited-run. People line up around blocks and blocks for a pop-up shop because they know that once those goods run out that it’s game over. Plus, the shop itself is only open for a short time, usually just a weekend.

Now imagine if the only way to gain access to the pop-up shop was through your event. You can expect a spike in ticket sales, especially if you have several high-demand pop-up shops on the event grounds.  

For this activation idea to work, you must know your audience innately well to confirm that they’re interested in the sponsor’s products. The sponsor should also be a semi-recognizable name. 

That doesn’t mean they must be a huge brand like Pepsi, Nike, or Apple, but a name that most people know of when they hear it will generate more buzz.

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2. Cool-Down Zone

Is yours an outdoor event like a concert, a sports game, or a multi-day festival? If so, then here’s a genius idea that you won’t believe you haven’t thought of before.

Give your audience what they need the most: a chance to cool down. 

Glaceau, a water brand, had a sponsored “human carwash” at an event that you can see here. Event attendees could soak down and beat the heat. 

The activation booth was to promote Glaceau’s products and their tagline at the time, which was “drink outside the lines.”

In a similar vein, you can also add a hydration booth to your outdoor event where people can refill their water bottles. This spot will be a big hit if the temperatures are soaring, the humidity is heavy, and the sun is high.

Okay, but what if your sponsor has nothing to do with hydration? That’s okay. A branded hydration station or a cool-down zone like Glaceau, is doable by any company. Trust me, if people visit the hydration station enough (which they will), the sponsor’s name will be lodged in their heads.

If you want a more permanent memento of the sponsor, they can always give out branded water bottles. Almost everyone who attends the outdoor event will want to get their hands on one!

3. Interactive Games

If you know for a fact that your audience is looking for more excitement out of your events (based on your audience survey responses), then games are one of the best ways to get their hearts pumping so you make a fun, lasting impression.

The sponsor can come up with the game, which should somehow be tied to their brand, messaging, or products and services. 

For example, the candy brand SweeTARTS had an inflatable game at an event that included launch pads and other fun inflatable elements. Participants had to race to the finish.

Here is an image of the inflatable game.

You notice the Day-Glo colors, right? Who am I kidding? Of course, you do. Those signature bright pink and blue colors are a SweeTARTS trademark. Plus, SweeTARTS representatives were on-hand to give out free candy samples.

Now, to take an activation idea like this one step further, make it a competition. Two people can race on the track, and whoever comes out first wins a prize. That prize, in this case, could have been a huge quantity of SweeTARTS candy or even a gift voucher to use on the SweeTARTS website. 

4. Scannable Bracelets

RFID bracelets are becoming the norm at events, so if you’re not already using them, you should strongly consider doing so. 

Radio frequency identification, which is what RFID is short for, uses radio waves when scanned to read the data on the RFID tag. That data quickly goes to the back-end computer and is stored for later. All along, users don’t have to touch anything, just hold up their bracelets.

How can you use RFID bracelets as activations? In so many ways. 

Event attendees can use their bracelets to get into exclusive VIP areas. If you have a quiz contest, users can scan their bracelets or wristbands to participate. 

A contest that involves leaderboards or support walls is another excellent way to use RFID technology. Who doesn’t love seeing their name on a big LED board proclaiming to everyone in the area that they’re the best? 

You can connect the sponsor to RFID technology in one of two ways. First, the bracelets they hand out could be branded so people walk around all day promoting the sponsor. 

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If you don’t do that, then any of the above booths or VIP-exclusive locations could be proudly sponsored by your partner. 

RFID bracelets are useful for event attendees too. No one likes touching things anymore in the 2020s, and RFID allows that to be possible. Plus, did I mention cashless payments? 

Oh, and the data that RFID can feed to you, the event promoter, can help you better understand your audience. Outside of the number of attendees, the bracelet data can also tell you which booths attendees visited the most, how much they spent on food and drink, and what they spent on merch.

5. Instagrammable Set Piece

Remember that line in Field of Dreams? You know the one. “If you build it, they will come.” 

Well, although that movie is from the late ‘80s (I hope I’m not dating myself here), it’s just as applicable today when it comes to set pieces for an event. 

No one leaves their homes without their smartphones. If you can build a set piece that generates attention, then everyone will want to take photos to post it on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and every other social media platform they can.

In 2015, at a beach-themed concert, Pepsi had an ice couch sculpted, complete with cans of Pepsi embedded into the ice-cold couch arms and a few pieces of branded furniture like pillows. You can bet the set piece was one of the most talked-about parts of the event.

It stood out so much because it’s a hot, balmy, summery event and here’s a set piece that’s the complete opposite. This was quite a smart activation idea on Pepsi’s part!

New York Comic Con–one of the premier events for gamers, comic lovers, and cosplayers on the east coast–usually has an ever-changing lineup of oversized set pieces to greet attendees as they arrive. The pieces are sponsored and get plenty of snaps taken all day long.

Although I don’t want to delve too much into sports today, I’d be remiss not to talk about Delaware’s Dover Motor Speedway, a regular stop on NASCAR’s annual schedule. The track is home to Miles, a ginormous rock monster holding a teeny-tiny race car. 

Sponsors usually get a custom car emblazoned with their name and logo, which then goes into Miles’ oversized fist. It’s almost a tradition to photograph Miles when visiting the track, which is lots of great promotion for the sponsor. 

I’m not trying to say that bigger is better, although if you have the budget, a large set piece will certainly get people talking. You can also take the opposite approach like Pepsi did with its ice furniture and still make an impact. 

The key is to think of something your audience will find engaging. You know your audience well, so how can you get their phones out and snapping away? 

6. Unique Photo Stations

Photo stations are one of the easiest activation ideas, and because of that, sponsorship seekers tend to discard photo stations because they’re almost too easy. 

And for the most part, I agree. Photo stations are kind of overplayed these days. Any sponsor can and will have a branded wall for people to take photos of. The photo walls can be mildly beneficial, but you can do better.

Several years ago, makeup brand Wet n Wild had a Steal the Look campaign. To bring awareness to the campaign, they came up with an activation involving a photo set.

The whole crux of the photo set was that participants were being arrested for, well, stealing the look. The backdrop had a height measurement chart and two male models dressed as cops would interact with the participants to make it look like they’re getting arrested, such as here.

The photo station made such a huge splash that even men were lining up to get their photos taken. Now that’s how you know you have an activation that’s hitting the mark with your audience. 

If you can come up with a photo station that has an off-the-wall theme and doesn’t deviate from your sponsor’s goals, then people won’t be able to help themselves. They’ll have to come check it out.

7. Branded Wearables + Contest

I’ve saved what I think is the best for last. It involves combining free promotion with a contest opportunity into one irresistible activation idea.

Perhaps your sponsor gives out branded t-shirts, which can be branded for the event (with the inclusion of the sponsor’s name, of course) or just for their company. 

Besides just handing out something for free though, each free t-shirt counts as an entry into a contest.

While they’re choosing their shirt size, the event attendee could sign up using their name and email (or phone number, or even both) so they’re alerted if they win. The requirements of the contest are that the participant has to wear their shirt all day. That’s it!

I’ve even seen this done where brands have offered fake tattoos with the sponsor’s name as part of a contest. If that’s something that fits in with your sponsor’s M.O. and would appeal to your audience, then go for it.

This is one of the most mutually beneficial sponsorship activations out there. Your audience has the chance to win a nice prize, and they get a free shirt out of it even if they don’t win the grand prize.

Your sponsor gets free promotion all day. In the case of a tattoo, it’s striking enough that some other attendees might ask the tattooed attendee about their temporary body art. Then those attendees might visit the booth to get some fake tats themselves, further spreading the sponsor’s name around. 

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Are you looking to re energize your sponsorship program? The 7 out-of-the-box activation ideas I shared with you today are intended for doing just that. Whether you use some of these ideas as-is or tweak them for your sponsor, I’m sure your prospects will be very intrigued by what you come up with!

I can help you meet more of your sponsorship goals this year too with my free training called How to Grow Your Sponsorship Program. I’ll present three areas where your energy and time should be focused. Sign up today!