By Marlys Arnold, Exhibit Marketing Strategist; Speaker, Author, Consultant; Trade Show Insights Blog/Podcast Host
Many exhibitors think that sponsorships are only for the big guys – you know, those companies who already have large island booths and big budgets. Actually, sponsorships are often available in all price ranges, allowing even exhibitors with a 10×10′ space to gain some added exposure, brand awareness and increased booth traffic.
Which brings us to the first point in using sponsorships: know why you’re sponsoring and what you hope to gain from it. Is the element you’re sponsoring in line with your company goals? Does it reach your target audience? For example, if your company targets dealers rather than end users, sign up to sponsor the dealers-only reception, rather than something that targets the entire show audience.
Do your homework. Talk with past sponsors to find out whether the sponsorship element helped reach new customers for them, and if so, how. Ask clients and prospects which parts of previous shows they found most beneficial and memorable (dinners, receptions, show-floor attractions, registration bags, show directory, etc.).
There are four basic categories of sponsorships: Events, Attractions, Advertisements, and Merchandise or Gifts. Each has advantages and disadvantages, depending on your goals and budget. Events are perhaps the most popular type of sponsorship but are often not used to their full potential. Companies often simply tack their name on an existing hospitality event at the show, without any additional promotion. But keep in mind that every event should be an experience and should clearly feature your product or company. This does not mean a blatant sales pitch, but rather a focus on networking and building rapport.
Often exhibitors limit themselves to the options listed in the exhibitor kit. Instead, think of exactly what kind of sponsorship would best help you meet your goals, then propose an idea to show management. Partner with them to design a creative and effective sponsorship – don’t just write a check and forget about it!
Most of all, remember that whatever you choose to sponsor, it should be an extension of your booth, not a separate element. Take responsibility to promote the sponsorship, just like you promote your booth.
With experiences as both an exhibitor and a show organizer, Marlys Arnold has a unique perspective on trade show exhibiting. As an exhibit marketing strategist, she travels the country consulting and training on how to create experiential exhibits that produce significantly higher numbers of qualified leads. She’s led workshops for events ranging from local consumer expos to some of the largest trade shows in the U.S. She hosts the Trade Show Insights blog/podcast, and is the author of Build a Better Trade Show Image, the Exhibitor Education Manifesto, and the ExhibitorEd Success System. Exhibit Design That Works (the first book in the YES: Your Exhibit Success series) debuted in July 2017. She’s also the founder of the Exhibit Marketers Café, an online education community. Opinions are her own.