A corporate sponsor’s relationship with a creative event can sometimes be akin to a bad, drunken one night stand. So much was promised, so many platitudes were given during the lead up to the event but the day of the event proved to be an epic disappointment.
To add even more displeasure to the proceedings, the corporate sponsor is placed at the icey peripherals of the event, sometimes even beside the toilet. They can only shuffle two feet from their pull up banner that is in dangerous risk of toppling over. They stare over at the main event activity with a mixture of abandonment and loneliness, they don’t fit in.
You sold them a lemon and didn’t even consider their feelings. They won’t return next year. They will feel sore about giving you their cash and probably will ward off other companies from ever touching your event again.
Sponsorship is a difficult marketing activity to measure. If it’s a trade show event, it’s a bit more straightforward as you can get some leads via sign-ups at your booth. However, if it’s a conference it’s a tricky one because most event organisers don’t want the sponsor to hound the attendees for their emails; they find it too intrusive, which is fair enough.
For most creatively-focussed events the guts of the money to run it comes from corporate sponsorship. However, a lot of organisers suddenly adopt a superior attitude to corporate sponsorship once they secure it. They are of the mindset, "well corporations make millions every year so they owe me because I don’t, I’m just a hardworking creative."
If corporate sponsorship does not sit easy with you then don’t go after them. Don’t be disingenuous just to get cash. But if you do want to seek them out for sponsorship, make it work for the both of you.
Sponsorship should be seen as an opportunity to create something memorable at your event that will enhance the attendee experience. You’ve already pitched the sponsor that their involvement in your event is a great awarenes-raising activity, but so many events don’t follow through once they’ve secured the corporate sponsorship.
As an event organiser, it’s up to you to make the sponsors feel welcome and to make sure that they fit in with the overall branding and feel of your event. You need to work closely with your design team on this to avoid sponsor churn. Below are some great examples of excellent event design that can be adapted for your event sponsors.
SuperGraph is a contemporary graphic art & design fair in Melbourne.The sign-post feature, which you can see here, at the event is a simple but a very clever approach that is both useful to the attendee and on-brand for the event.
Bibliothèque designed the drop down banners for D&AD New Blood Festival. This design encourages you to look up. It captures your attention clearly versus several pop-up banners from sponsors randomly scattered around an event.
Wrists & Boxes
Experiential Marketing News have some great ideas on their Pinterest page. We’re fans of the Heineken wrist band. It’s a clean, simple way to monitor and use drink tokens.
Those clever folks at Samsung have developed the first immersive virtual reality music video, it’s a concept that they have rolled out at several festivals.
For Samsung's product reveal in 2016 they went all-out to create a memorable event experience through creative use of their event space via a visual display box. It adds intrigue and wonderment to your event. It allows your sponsor to be associated with positive emotions.
On a smaller scale, The Pavilion at the library of Birmingham is a cartoonish pop-up that draws people in effortlessly. It’s function was to facilitate a series of creative events. It’s goal was to offer an alternative view of what a library space can be.
The lessons here are to not play it safe. Think of new, interesting ways that a sponsor can inhabit your space. Think beyond the pop-up banner and sad table in a corner.
This is Paper makes beautiful things. When they were invited to move into the Museum of Modern Art for one day, they decided to move their studio there. If your sponsor makes something physical consider setting up a workshop for them. Even if they don’t, they can facilitate the making of something useful for your attendees.
KAKAO Game Partners Forum Brand eXperience Design highlight how simplicity works. The areas are clearly separated by function. There is no clutter. Your sponsor should enhance the event and provide a function.
Green Man Festival knows how to make great consistent design as you can see here. The illustrations that they use are beautiful and quirky. Parking passes and permits for events are something that most event organisers give no thought to. However, for your attendee it could be the first experience that they have with your event. It’s a perfect platform for a sponsor to engage in a conversation with an attendee before they even meet them face to face.
Some events are a cacophony of logos and it’s overwhelming. For example, Veuve Clicquot decided to focus on one of their brand tenets, luxury, and use it to create an experience of a rooftop garden which you can see here.
To Sum Things Up
A corporate sponsor believes in what you do, if they didn’t they would not give you their cash. You need to get into the mindframe that availing of corporate sponsorship means that you have promised to increase their awareness at your event.
But, and it’s a big but, you need to make their brand fit in comfortably with your creative event, if it doesn’t they will notice and so will your attendees. Personify their brand tenets and think of memorable ways to introduce them to your community of attendees so that they fit in. Wonderment is something to strive for. Your sponsors deserve to be part of that because they are integral to your event.