8 Cool Event Marketing and Sponsorship Activation Ideas

I’ve heard it – heck, I’ve said it!  Event sponsorship is boring! There are only so many things you can sponsor, so many ideas, so many ways to reorder an event sponsorship proposal. Today’s post is focused on some of the cool event marketing and sponsorship activation ideas that I’ve seen recently.

Should you still do the typical stuff like logo placement, speaking opportunities and product giveaways? Absolutely! But you should also add some unique ideas to the mix.

Check out these cool event marketing and activation ideas:

The Ultimate Speaking Opportunity

I was at an event where each of ten sponsors (no Gold, Silver, Bronze here!) were given the stage for five minutes each. Their goal was to convince the audience to visit their city and their method was to show off the best their city had to offer. Their activation budget was up to them! They went wild and had an “activation arms race” trying to beat the other sponsors with more and more ridiculous ideas, giveaways and entertainment. Some sent their mayor, other sent local musical talent with briefcases of free alcohol for the crowd, other sent horribly inappropriate comedians.

The end result? A sell-out event every year, a highly tailored sponsorship package and something way more interesting than the typical “wine sponsor” or “gold sponsor reading a dry speech for 15 minutes” at the front of the room.

Another Photo Booth? Not Quite

We’ve all seen them, the photo booth complete with fake mustaches and silly hats. Hilarious at first, then sort of annoying and now they just kind of blend into the background. How would you feel about a photo booth with commercial-grade, Hollywood-quality superhero outfits? And instead of a booth, a station with a photographer who set you up in live action scenarios to battle your favourite villain?

Now that’s a photo booth! The sponsor was on the hook for the costs of the photographer, insurance and costumes and, of course, the sponsorship fee. Who do you think would sponsor such a thing? Not a costume company, or a toy store or even a comic book store. It was an insurance company wanting to show off the fact that they were young, hip and cool. When the managing partner took the stage dressed like Bane from The Dark Night Rises…the crowd was convinced, and never forgot.

Oh yeah, to get your picture taken you had to fill out a request for quote card from the insurance company. We ran out of quote cards because the station was so popular.

When in Doubt, Add Fire!

I didn’t see this particular piece of sponsorship activation but I have it on good authority that it really happened. Tired of banners and signs everywhere, this property decided it would do something different. They hired a group of fire breathers and fire dancers to show off their sponsors. They, through the magic of the fire dance, spelled out each sponsors name in flames while they danced. They also used a flaming rope, that they swung like a propeller, to display sponsor logos. Years later, both property and sponsor are still talking about this activation opportunity.

The Finish Line Grocery Store

Have you ever been to a race, crossed the finish line and then lined up for a half banana and a bunch of disgusting samples given to you as you stumble your way through the mass of people? I can think of nothing more delightful than this experience after exerting myself for 5-42K!

A local grocer and newly minted finish line sponsor, decided to take their activation up a notch. Runners would cross the finish line and enter a…grocery store? That’s right! An outdoor grocery store (heavily branded) giving runners their choice of fresh produce and fresh juices. They brought in live music and had staff on hand to help people choose what they wanted, letting each participant experience their brand rather than just seeing their logo.

Social Media Army

Have you ever thought of charging a company for the right to staff your social media army and run your social media contest? No? You should! It’s worth a lot! I have seen sponsors run selfie contests where you have to seek out the sponsors, take a selfie and tweet it using a hashtag for your chance to win something awesome. Promotion and the “something awesome” all taken care of by your sponsor and the right to run the contest? Well, they pay for that too!

Free Headshots!

While not as cool as the fire breathers, this is a great opportunity for the sponsor looking to build their e-mail database. I have worked with brands who set up a booth and provide a professional photographer to do high-quality headshots. People typically dress their best for conferences so what better time to update your LinkedIn profile photo? The catch? The sponsor e-mails the headshot to the participant, capturing their contact information. Because this is a premium booth and a value add to the conference, they typically get prime real estate and multiple call outs from the stage. Not a bad way to drive up your exhibit space revenue.

Live Social Media/Smartphone Contests

Social media is a wonderful thing, as is the ubiquitous nature of the smartphone. Why not use these tools to add activation opportunities for sponsors? Asking your audience to answer questions through social media, connect on social media and interact with their brand in exchange for a cool prize is a great sponsorship activation tool for the sponsorship looking to grow their social media profile.

Cell Phone Charging Station

Speaking of smartphones everywhere, the sponsor who runs the charging station will be the most popular sponsor on site! You can give out portable charging units or have a ton of plugs and adapters- the choice is yours! Make it a valuable activation opportunity by requiring users to hand over their e-mail address as their form of payment.

Your Chance to Win…Something Horrible?

At a golf tournament I used to run we had a sponsor come on board and provide the world’s ugliest statue for a raffle. Ugly would be a compliment for this thing. Every single person who attended the tournament (144 people) were automatically entered into the draw to win this horrible item.

The sponsor got to take the stage multiple times to make bad jokes about this wretched statue and call out people by name who had yet to buy their way out. You see, in a reverse raffle the only way not to win the item was to buy a raffle ticket. By the end of the event, nobody was left in the draw and the sponsor’s CEO was the talk of the event.

Event marketing and event sponsorship can be boring for the sponsorship sales professional, but not because they have to be…because we let them be! The last idea on the list is actually the best idea of all: sit down with your prospects and tell them that you want them to pick their own activation plan and no matter how ridiculous it sounds on paper, tell them that you will make it happen. Get ready for the most fun you’ve ever had in a sponsorship sales meeting.

Activation Strategies and Shortcuts (Academy Members Only)

We do an entire module on activation in The Sponsorship Academy, not to mention monthly sponsorship action plans and monthly coaching on activation ideas within your sponsorship strategy. Not a member? Join us! Members, log in now and let’s keep the learning going!

Chris Baylis is a corporate sponsorship and cause marketing expert. Chris has managed the entire spectrum of the sponsorship process, raising millions of dollars for charities, associations and not for profits and is a board member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals. Connect with Chris via: The Sponsorship Collective | Twitter | LinkedIn | Google+



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