Having trouble getting sponsors to commit to your event? Your cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all sponsorship package may be to blame. In addition to basic sponsorship perks like logo-emblazoned swag, guaranteed trade show booths, and speaking opportunities, high-end event sponsors are increasingly drawn toward packages that include customized offerings and rewards.

What Event Sponsors REALLY Want

A February 2019 report released by EventMB Studio and Cvent cites the need for event managers to offer sponsorship loyalty programs — i.e., incentives and rewards for sponsoring events across multiple years or multiple locations. Another report, published on the Bizzabo blog earlier this year, suggests that offering exclusive by invitation only packages will increase an event manager’s chances of getting sponsors to commit.
It’s clear that sponsors want more value, exposure and awareness for their investment dollars than ever before, so if you’re an event manager, you’ll need to step up your game. To get your creative juices flowing, here are some of the most unique, creative and sometimes over-the-top event sponsorship ideas that we’ve heard of.

Off-Floor Sponsorships

Off-floor marketing — such as airport and pedicab advertising, hotel and building wraps, and escalator/elevator clings — can expand a sponsor’s brand exposure way beyond the bounds of the event venue.

San Francisco-based Cabrio Taxi offers exhibitors additional opportunities for brand exposure beyond the booth.

While it’s true that many show organizers, convention centers, host cities and municipalities prohibit off-floor marketing (also known as off-floor activation), the good news is, there are plenty of venues around the U.S. that are off-floor marketing friendly.
According to ALT TERRAIN, an agency specializing in outdoor guerilla marketing and “street team” promotions, the following convention centers allow a variety of on-street advertising and marketing activities with the proper city permits:

  • McCormick Place in Chicago
  • Moscone Center in San Francisco
  • Javits Center in New York City
  • San Diego Convention Center
  • Washington D.C. Convention Center
  • Henry B. González Convention Center in San Antonio
  • Georgia International Convention Center in Atlanta
  • Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans
  • Philadelphia Convention Center
Adult Play Areas

Why should kids have all the fun? Most games that you can think of — including Jenga, chess and Twister — can be custom-branded and can be made GIANT!
Sponsors love publicity, and where boisterous public fun is encouraged, media attention is sure to follow. If you can carve out a large enough space at the event venue and ensure a round of press releases touting the activity, prospective sponsors will be eager to jump on board.

Image courtesy of ROAR Events.

Of course, some sponsors may prefer to go in a different direction by sponsoring dedicated quiet areas as a respite from the noise of the showroom floor. Using branded portable conference rooms or closed-off hotel banquet rooms, sponsors can gain exposure by offering attendees a more relaxed take on child-like things, such as a branded adult ball pit or a relaxation room decked out with adult-sized bean bags.

Trompe L’oeil Viral Photo Opps

You may be unfamiliar with the formal term “trompe l’oeil,” but you’ve no doubt seen examples online and in the news. The trompe l’oeil is an optical illusion that gives a flat, one-dimensional painting the impression of a 3D object. Due in part to the popularity of selfies, trompe l’oeils have become a social media sensation. Every year, hundreds of people pose in front or on top of these optical-illusion displays to make it look like they’re actually in the painting.
Sponsorship packages that include an opportunity for this kind of viral social media exposure are sure to win the hearts of would-be sponsors.

Image Credit: Studio Koontz, via http://www.studiokoontz.com/2013/07/odaiba.html.

Virtual Sponsorships

With so many trade shows and business conferences being live-streamed these days, it just makes sense to offer virtual sponsorships. Most event apps offer dedicated space on every screen to serve up sponsor banners and ads. Whatever you do, don’t overlook this hidden source of sponsorship dollars. It can help you acquire sponsors from around the world — sponsors who otherwise might never show up at your physical event.

VIB (Very Important Bathrooms)

Where is the one place that every single attendee will be at least once during your event? That’s right … the bathroom. Assuming venue management allows it, event managers can offer prospective sponsors the chance to make an otherwise forgettable bathroom visit much more memorable. With a few simple additions, an ordinary public restroom can be converted into a branded luxury bathroom, complete with logo-branded mints, soaps, hand towels, make-up stations, and even bathroom attendants wearing sponsor-branded clothing.

Final Thoughts

Sponsorships are vital to every trade show, expo and conference. By expanding sponsorship packages to include exclusivity, in-person and online options, broader exposure and even media attention, event managers should have an easier time selling prospective sponsors on the overall value and ROI of sponsoring.

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