How to Sell Virtual Sponsorship to a Skeptic
We’re living in an age right now where it’s virtual sponsorship or no sponsorship. Even once the COVID-19 pandemic is behind us and we can reconvene with regular society, virtual sponsorships are still likely to be around. How do you sell the idea to a skeptical sponsor?
Here are some tips for selling virtual sponsorship to a skeptic:
- Have strong numbers to back up any claims you make (such as attendance data)
- Expand what you sell, adding things like steaming video or virtual booths
- Give a demo of your digital platform of choice
- Come up with some unique virtual activation ideas
- Collect all measures of analytics to track event success
If this will be your first time pursuing virtual sponsorship, then I highly recommend you keep reading. Ahead, I’ll elaborate on each of these 5 awesome, actionable tips so you can soon secure a sponsor or several for your upcoming virtual event!
5 Must-Use Tips for Selling Virtual Sponsorship to a Skeptic
Always Back up Your Claims with Data
My first tip applies to any type of sponsorship, be that for in-person or digital events. If you’re going to tell something to your target sponsor, make sure it’s true, and use lots of data.
I talked about this in my post on how to sabotage sponsorship opportunities, how lying to your sponsor always comes back to bite you in the end. If you say your digital event will get 5,000 attendees but really, it’s going to be in the ballpark of 500, be honest. It’s okay if you’re only drawing 500 people right now, but you need to readjust the type of sponsors you’re going after, targeting smaller rather than bigger ones.
Even if you have a healthier projected attendance number, how did you and your team arrive at this number? Did you pull data from your past events although those were all in-person? Did you look at the competition and see what kind of numbers they achieve digitally since this will be your first digital event? Perhaps you dug further into your industry to get a feel for the average attendance of digital events in your niche.
None of these are bad avenues to take, so good job. Now you need data. Why? For two reasons. For one, you’re working digitally, so there already must be a higher degree of trust between you and the sponsor. Also, and more importantly in this context, your sponsor is skeptical.
Understanding why the sponsor is skeptical will go a long way towards possibly turning things around. Perhaps they were burned by sponsorship in the past so they’re treading carefully. Maybe they too are nervous about delving into virtual events, wondering what the ROI could be.
Whatever it is that has the sponsor feeling uncertain, they can’t really argue with hard numbers. Make sure you have lots of these numbers to show.
Expand What You Sell to the Target Sponsor
If you’ve read my blog and seen posts such as this one, then you should know by now that when creating a list of assets to sell as part of your customizable sponsorship package, those assets should include tangible and non-tangible assets alike. Framing your assets like that will make it much easier for you to adjust to the world of virtual assets where everything is non-tangible.
Let’s say you’ve only worked with tangible assets before, such as expo hall signage, logos, an exhibition booth, maybe even direct mail. Your organization might try now to digitize these assets, some of which will work and others that won’t.
If you need some non-tangible assets to prioritize as part of your sponsorship package, here are a handful of solid ideas:
- Sponsor profiles: These profiles can include written and video content created and produced by the sponsor. The more advanced the profile–such as just written content compared to written and video content–the more money you charge.
- Advertising: If your sponsor wants to be front and center as part of your targeted digital advertising campaign, that would come at a premium cost.
- Recommendation placement: If you’re working with several sponsors and making product or service recommendations to your audience as part of your digital event, you can again sell placement space on this list.
- Streaming video: This application of streaming video is different from the sponsor profiles. The sponsor may use their streaming video opportunity for a product demo or an informative Q&A.
- Virtual booths: Sure, since there are no physical booths tied to your event, you could sell as much booth space as you want. However, your audience only has so much capacity for virtual booths, so you want to use this space wisely.
These are the kinds of assets a target sponsor will be most interested in for a virtual event. Selling these assets proves to the sponsor that you’re doing your homework and could dispel some reservations they have about virtual sponsorship.
Give a Demo of Your Platform of Choice
What platform does your organization plan to use to host your virtual event? Perhaps it’s an old go-to like Zoom or a lesser-known pick like Remo Conference, InEvent, Attendify, Evenium, Cadence, or Socio.
You have your choice of platforms for digital events, but you want to select one carefully. Although a known name will perk up the ears of your sponsor more than a little-known platform, don’t choose your event platform solely based on name value alone. You have to do your research, ensuring the platform has the capacity for the projected attendees and the types of entertainment you plan on hosting. The digital events platform also has to fit into your organization’s budget.
Seeing is believing, so turn your skeptical target sponsor onto your digital events platform by running a demo of the platform. During the demo, you want to display all the capabilities of your platform, especially for the intended purposes you plan on utilizing during your virtual event.
When your demo wraps up, give your target sponsor the chance to ask any questions they may have. You might even get the sponsor to download the software on a trial basis so they can get a feel for how it works.
If this is the first time you’re using a virtual events platform, I can’t stress this enough, but you need to become familiar with your platform inside and out before the demo. Your target sponsor already has one foot out the door. If your platform glitches up or crashes in the middle of your demo or you can’t figure out how to get one of the main features to work, it’ll be game over.
Create Unique Virtual Activation Ideas
Another great way to change a skeptical sponsor’s mind is to sell them on rock-solid activation ideas. I have a few such ideas in this post that you can use to get your creative juices churning. These digital activation ideas encompass areas like online networking, contests, and social media.
If you’re looking for even more virtual activation ideas, I’ve got ‘em. Remember though that wherever and whenever you can, you want to put your own unique spin on these ideas to keep your skeptical sponsor interested.
- Virtual mall: Once your audience attendees get a feel for what your target sponsor sells, you can redirect them to a virtual mall where they can pick up the sponsor’s products or services without having to click out of your digital event.
- Freemium offers: Few people can resist the temptation of free offers. Your sponsor can present event attendees with something freemium, such as 30 days free of their service before they have to pay.
- Swag bags: If it fits for your sponsor to offer virtual swag bags, that’s one such option. You can also mail out physical swag bags to all event attendees so your virtual event feels a little more legit and special.
- Virtual scavenger hunt: Unlike physical scavenger hunts, which are limited by the parameters of reality, a virtual scavenger hunt throughout your digital event space can have attendees looking for almost anything. This is a great chance for branding!
- Branded waiting rooms: If you have attendees waiting in a virtual line before the start of your event, branding the waiting area is a smart idea. During this downtime, the attendees might even do some research into the sponsor.
- Sponsored entertainment: Getting a big-name pop star to show up at your event typically requires a lot of red tape to go through. Asking them to pre-record a song or log into Zoom at a certain time and perform from the comfort of their own home? That’s a lot easier and more achievable to do.
As you should see by now, the sky is the limit when it comes to digital activation ideas. Create a tantalizing list the target sponsor can’t resist and their skepticism should melt to nothing.
Have Strong Analytics Software to Track the Success of Your Event
You need an event platform able to handle the scope of your digital event, yes, but also one that offers the kinds of analytics your organization demands. If your event software by chance can’t do that, then you must have an analytics software that can. Make sure the analytics software integrates with your digital events software to cull numbers all day.
The more analytics you have, the better. You want to know who showed up, which speeches/digital booths/entertainment the attendees liked most, who bought products in your digital mall, what the best-sellers were, how much traffic the sponsor’s website and social pages got, etc.
Then feed all these powerful analytics to your sponsor. Once they realize that yes, a digital event can go off without a hitch and sometimes be even better than a physical gathering, they’ll be eager to participate in more virtual events with you in the future.
Virtual events had already started becoming the norm for years now. The COVID-19 pandemic forced any remaining detractors into the world of digital events since we can’t meet in person for the time being. If you’re trying to sell even a tough target sponsor on a digital event, with the tips in this article, you should be able to address and ameliorate all the sponsor’s concerns. Best of luck!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Chris Baylis is the President and CEO of The Sponsorship Collective and a self-confessed sponsorship geek.
After several years as a sponsor (that’s right, the one investing the money!) Chris decided to cross over to the sponsorship sales side where he has personally closed tens of millions of dollars in sponsorship deals. Chris has been on the front lines of multi-million dollar sponsorship agreements and has built and coached teams to do the same.
Chris now spends his time working with clients to value their assets and build strategies that drive sales. An accomplished speaker and international consultant, Chris has helped his clients raise millions in sponsorship dollars.