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Episode 92 / March 11, 2024

Show me the money: Navigating event sponsorship and strategy challenges

Join industry experts Arianna Black, Evan Babins, and Jennifer Feeney as they share strategies for securing and maximizing event sponsorships in 2024.

In this episode, you’ll learn about the evolving landscape of event sponsorships in 2024, providing invaluable insights for event professionals grappling with sponsorship challenges from three industry powerhouses:

  • Arianna Black, Director of Events and Digital Experience for Women In Product
  • Evan Babins, Event Manager for Intuit
  • Jennifer Feeney, Head of Event Sponsorships for The New York Times

Together, they explore strategies for engaging sponsors, navigating budget constraints, and enhancing the sponsor experience to secure early commitments and maximize ROI. The conversation offers a blend of personal anecdotes, practical tips, and forward-thinking approaches to crafting meaningful partnerships with sponsors in an industry where expectations and dynamics are continuously shifting.

Here’s what you’ll hear about in this conversation:

  • How to craft compelling sponsorship packages that offer real value and incentives for early sign-ups is crucial in today’s competitive environment
  • Ways to build and maintain strong relationships with sponsors by listening to their needs and aligning with their goals can lead to more meaningful and lucrative partnerships
  • The power of creativity in how sponsorships are pitched and delivered can help stand out and cater to both large corporations and smaller organizations, enhancing the overall event experience for sponsors.

Mentioned in this episode

Transcript

[00:00:09] Rachel Moore: Welcome to Event Experience by Bizzabo, the podcast where we bring the best and brightest Event Experience Leaders together to share stories, tips, and lessons learned from creating some of the world’s biggest events.

I’m Rachel Moore, your podcast host. 

In this episode, your sponsorship woes will turn into wins with our topic: Show me the money: Navigating event sponsorship challenges in 2024. You’re about to hear from true experts in the ways of wielding sponsorships: Arianna Black, Director of Events and Digital Experiences for Women In Product; Evan Babins, Event Manager with Intuit; and Jennifer Feeney, Head of Event Sponsorships for The New York Times.

We’re about to talk about how power dynamics between sponsors and event planners have shifted, how to navigate changing budgets, how to get early commitments from sponsors, and how to craft a meaningful Event Experience for sponsors that figures into everyone’s ROI. It all starts now! 

[00:01:21] Rachel Moore: Hello, everyone. We are so glad you’re here. Welcome to Show Me the Money: Navigating Event Sponsorship Challenges in 2024.

[00:01:31] We will explore all things sponsorships, those all important relationships that depend on ROI and challenge us all from the moment our event is a twinkle in our eye.

[00:01:41] We know this is true because in one of our recent surveys, many of you use the free response field with reckless abandon to share your frustrations about sponsorships. We heard you. Our goal today is to equip you with knowledge and practical tips to help you nail down sponsors of all sizes and in plenty of time pre event.

[00:02:02] Win the thumb wrestling match between event manager and the sponsor company and overcome the challenges of shrinking sponsorship budgets and shifting expectations. We will talk about how the sponsor’s ROI for your event isn’t just about money but also their full experience. We’re also going to dig into some out of the box ideas you can try or imagine for yourself to offer truly unique and effective sponsorship packages.

[00:02:30] All right, without further ado, let’s begin our journey.

[00:02:34] First, we have Arianna Black. She is the Director of Events and Digital Experience for Women In Product and the driving force behind their annual community conference. She also brings 12 years of expertise in experiential design, event production, and content strategy, and she’s a self dubbed Asana magician.

[00:02:54] Also, her go to event day shoes are knee high keen boots, super feet green insoles, and compression socks. Arianna, welcome to our discussion today. 

[00:03:05] Next we have Evan Babins. Evan is the Event Manager for Intuit and has designed experiences for Nissan Canada, Equitable Bank, Novartis, and TD Bank. From cross country roadshows to regional sales events, Evan focuses on building relationships to craft successful experiences. And his go to event day shoes are Nike Dunks or the classic low cut Converse, I can relate.

[00:03:29] Welcome, Evan. We’re happy to have you with us. 

[00:03:32] Evan Babins: Thanks so much for having me. I’m really excited for today’s conversation. 

[00:03:35] Rachel Moore: We are too. We cannot wait. I’m bringing on the third speaker, Jennifer Feeney. Jennifer is the Head of Event Sponsorships for the New York Times.

[00:03:44] She has designed, marketed, and created sponsorship opportunities around the Oscars, Grammys, Emmys and Sundance on behalf of Entertainment Weekly, plus event design for the Pepsi Super Bowl, Ray Ban, Oakley, AOL, and many more. Her go to event day shoes are fashion forward slingbacks when entertaining clients, but for production, she loves her tried and true comfortable wedges or Converse.

[00:04:09] We’re so glad you’re here, Jennifer. 

[00:04:12] Jennifer Feeney: Happy to be here. Excited to talk about sponsorships. 

[00:04:15] Rachel Moore: Oh, I think our audience is too, right? And we’re all keen to get started. But as we do get started we want to dive into our key topics, but first we want to check in with everyone here. I would like you all to answer this question. Which aspect of sponsorships gives you the biggest pit in your stomach. Maybe it’s securing sponsors in time for the event dates, right?

[00:04:37] Or balancing sponsorship budget with the reality of sponsor expectations. Maybe it’s proving ROI to our sponsors pre and post event or crafting effective packages that sponsors will flock to. Anything jumping out to you?

[00:04:50] What’s the thing that gives you the biggest butterflies? 

[00:04:52] Evan Babins: I think for me, it’s crafting the packages that sponsors will flock to. That’s always a fine balance between what your cost is, what your sell is, and what you think sponsors will pay for being at your events. 

[00:05:08] Jennifer Feeney: I would say for me it’s balancing the sponsorship budget with the reality of sponsors expectations and making sure that I get ahead of their expectations so that we’re in lockstep. It’s a challenge.

[00:05:19] Rachel Moore: All right. Now we’re going to start diving into some specifics, into the power dynamic between event managers and the sponsors that we try to woo to our events, all right? It seems that sponsors have become far more likely to ask for more ROI proof.

[00:05:35] Before they even consider signing up sometimes we’re even getting their commitment right up to the last minute of the event’s opening doors. That totally adds undue stress from rushing to get their package in place and so they can get the ROI that they’re looking for from your event. So let’s talk about those power dynamics.

[00:05:51] It’s a new day for event planners when it comes to securing sponsorships and can I say we’re not a fan. We’re not a fan of this new power dynamic. But here we are. Let’s dig into how we can all win. Both event designer and sponsor in our event sponsorships. So, first question, Arianna, I’m going to take this over to you.

[00:06:06] What ways have you used to compel sponsors to see the value of joining your events without teasing it out until the last minute? 

[00:06:15] Arianna Black: I was thinking about power dynamics and thinking about the fact that humans are humans. And like, I don’t know about you, but I haven’t filed my taxes. And there’s no incentive for me to do that before the very last minute. We’re a product first company. So one of the things that we did is really go out and talk to our partners and understand how we provide the most value because their situations have changed too.

[00:06:41] And so understanding what it is that they wanted. And then we’ve really built our packages this year around that. And I hate to say that, like, it’s a game, but it is a little bit of a game. And we’ve built in some of these benefits to expire if not purchased by a certain point, because there is more than just the event, there’s the entire cadence of pre and post event.

[00:07:03] So there are benefits that you’ll miss out on if you, and particularly for higher level sponsorships. So we’ve really carefully built in a lot of really important exposure opportunities that if you don’t sign by a certain date, you’re simply not going to be able to take full advantage of. 

[00:07:19] Rachel Moore: That’s a great tactic to do. I think we were talking before, even about webinars and stuff like that. Sometimes these are like game time decisions, but maybe it shouldn’t be if there’s an incentive for them to start getting started before. And I’d love to toss it over to Jennifer. I don’t know if you or Evan have anything you want to add on to that question as far as like, what are some ways that you’ve compelled people to buy now?

[00:07:40] Jennifer Feeney: Yes. So I think one of the things I think we’ve all lived with events is it’s important to be proactive, knowing that closer to the event and on site, we’re ultimately going to be reactive. That’s part of the fun of events in some ways and the headache at times. But as it relates to sponsorships, I think leaning into that proactiveness and those timelines to incentivize the sponsors or the clients to confirm earlier than later. If you have a timeline that is around like the press release of the event or the marketing materials, when the website’s going to launch, when registration is going to happen or production deadlines that will mean something to them so that you can encourage them to come on sooner than later so to provide the best benefit for them. Also leveraging the first right of refusal for return sponsors is a good tactic. And if it’s the venue has limited space, but leverage the venue and the space let them know that it’s a first come, first serve basis. And you want to make sure that they’re well taken care of, but you also have to confirm sponsors as soon as possible, like really anything that you can position so that you’re supporting them, but also subtext supporting the success of the event is I think a wise move. 

[00:08:51] Evan Babins: Yeah. I was going to jump in on the first right of return sponsors. That’s always a huge one. Getting them involved, giving them incentive to be involved. So maybe it’s, you know, sign up in the first 30 days as a return sponsor, and we’ll give you X percent discount on booth pricing or whatever it is.

[00:09:09] But I think those are, I mean, what everyone else said is really our go-tos as 

[00:09:12] Rachel Moore: well. 

[00:09:13] Excellent. and Jennifer, the next question I’ll take to you first. Suggestions for how to avoid those last minute commitments that cause us to all run around in a frenzy even more than normal.

[00:09:23] You know, any other suggestions to just as far as, like, making sure we’re trying to avoid that last minute stress. 

[00:09:28] Jennifer Feeney: For me, the secret sauce is to build that social currency with sponsors well in advance, even if it’s, even if they’re not a sponsor, but they, if they trust you and they know that you care about them and their brand initiatives, then they’re going to be more on board for any of your requests.

[00:09:45] I mean, they might not follow them because they have their own vantage point, but it will make everyone’s job easier if the social currency is really positive overall. 

[00:09:55] Rachel Moore: That’s a really good point. Arianna and Evan you agree with that too. Are you setting up that social currency? I feel like I’ve, everybody, I’ve seen your activity on social just myself, but you’re probably out there trying to kind of, cultivate those relationships just like a normal marketing person would.

[00:10:10] Evan Babins: I mean, I think it’s about getting the full team involved to really push, you know, not only sales, but also getting the word out about the event. So using your sales team, using your full marketing team, you know, a lot of people are having this discussion now about bringing in C level executives in the company to pump out information through their channels.

[00:10:29] Cause they’re, you know, obviously super You know, watched and followed. Your CEO, your company is probably going to be the most followed person in the company. So getting them involved with the right messaging that we want them to share, not messaging that they want to share but really arming them with the tools that they need to get the message out, get the conversation started and to help them drive your goals and getting sponsors and getting partners to your event is huge. 

[00:10:59] Arianna Black: I can say that I always feel really privileged in these conversations because I come from a community event perspective. So butts in seats is not my problem. And I, if sometimes it’s the excitement of attendees, like they’re asking when are tickets going on sale, when are tickets going on sale?

[00:11:19] And so the set of puzzles that I get to, you know, deal with are very different. But what we find is that our attendees and our sponsors are not separate groups. Our attendees are often women in our community who then want to get their company involved. So they become advocates on our behalf. So for us what I guess could be the hype cycle is this excitement of the attendees that then drives the sponsor.

[00:11:45] Rachel Moore: Really good point. Evan, what about first time events? Okay. So, Okay. Sometimes we do these events where there’s not a track record. There’s not really proof of our way to say, Hey, we’ve gotten this before, which a lot of sponsors are looking for.

[00:11:58] How can we win our sponsors over without that proof if it’s a new event? 

[00:12:03] Evan Babins: Yeah, I think the number one way you can win is having an amazing prospectus. So a prospectus that you’ve really worked hard on, that really shows the goals of the event, really shows what you’re trying to get out of it and more importantly, what sponsors will get out of it.

[00:12:20] So we’re in the middle of a sponsorship play right now for an event that we have in the spring. We recrafted the entire prospectus from scratch. We really rebuilt the packages. Going to a more package based, you know, sponsorship play versus just single booth pricing. And we’ve really gotten a lot of really great feedback on it and a lot of people signed up already.

[00:12:41] So I think that’s a big part of it is the prospectus. And then, like I mentioned earlier, is using your network, using your company, your team to really drive home the value of what the offerings are. Whether it’s through customers, through prospects, through people in the industry, really being able to get the word out to show the industry and your target industry that this is the place that they need to be at, regardless if they’ve heard of you or not.

[00:13:11] Rachel Moore: How about the other two Jennifer, Arianna, I think you have a lot of longevity behind the events that you’ve helped to produce, but any other insights on that? 

[00:13:19] Arianna Black: I can speak to, you know, we think of our sponsors for first time events as really partners in co creating these events with us.

[00:13:26] So, while I don’t have this track record of, like, how many attendees, you know, exactly how many leads you’re going to get, it becomes about building with them rather than building prior to them and then selling to them, but really understanding what it is, how they want to help shape the experience and then doing that together and going in with this understanding that we haven’t done this before.

[00:13:47] I mean, I think that’s the best thing about events in this, you know, post COVID era is that we have not. We have not lived through this yet as an industry. So we’re getting this opportunity to be a little bit more vulnerable, a little bit less polished, and to say, Hey, like, let’s figure this out. Let’s see if people like this.

[00:14:03] Let’s see if this is building the kind of relationships and the kind of ROI that you’re looking for. And if not, we’ll try something different next time. But the whole, like trying to produce this perfectly polished here is this thing that I’ve done a gazillion times. Like that doesn’t exist right now.

[00:14:18] We are all still figuring this out. We’re in this different space where we can be a little bit more authentic. And so we’ve really leaned into that. 

[00:14:27] Jennifer Feeney: Yeah, I agree. Arianna that I approach it with transparency and and a collaboration or a partnership.

[00:14:34] I also share that if they come on board with us from the beginning, that we’re willing to make concessions that we wouldn’t otherwise be able to as a building the process or the event together which gives them a larger opportunity to have a voice in the process. And I also like researching who’s sponsoring similar events that has a good track record that has, you can tell that they have the funds to to back up as a sponsor and go after them.

[00:15:01] So there’s a lot of different ways. Also, I’m sure you all know this, but the way that a lot of businesses forecast their budgets, if it’s in Q4 that’s when they’re looking to allocate funds. So having conversations in Q4 or Q1 tends to be more lucrative than other times of the year. So that’s something to keep in your back pocket as well.

[00:15:23] Rachel Moore: You know, Jennifer, I couldn’t have asked you to do a better segue into the next topic we’re going to hit. So that was brilliant. The thing you just brought up something we all want more of, but aren’t likely to get, sponsorship budgets.

[00:15:33] There’s a continuous tightening of the budget belt happening across companies of all sizes. So pitching to sponsors has become even more challenging than before. Evan going to take this one to you first. How and when do you approach potential sponsors to ensure you have a shot at getting their budget allocated to sponsoring your events that kind of tings off of what Jennifer was just talking about?

[00:15:54] But when do you do that? 

[00:15:57] Evan Babins: So I’ll go like kind of two scenarios quickly. If it’s a return event, so a year over year event, I don’t think that’s a problem to go to sponsors at the event or the week after the event for next year. You want to get them as early as possible. You really want them to see the value in this year’s event so that they can be prepared and be ready to spend next year.

[00:16:20] Hopefully you get to spend more money next year on a next year up or the next package up because they’ve had such a great experience this year. So that would be on their year over year event sort of model. If it’s a net new event I think it’s about, like I said earlier, getting the marketing material out early as possible, getting your prospectus out as early as possible, building out a really elaborate sponsorship strategy plan.

[00:16:44] So looking at who you want to target, how you’re going to target them, where are they? Are they in different communities? Are they on LinkedIn? Are they offline? How are you going to find these people and getting to them before your competition is, because there’s a lot of events out there. There’s a lot of events that compete with each other.

[00:17:01] So being first to the table, first to someone’s pocketbook is always the way to win sponsor budgets, I feel. 

[00:17:09] Rachel Moore: Nice. And then Jennifer, I know you talked a little bit about hitting him end of year. So Arianna, I’m actually get over to you. Any insights there too, about like, like when you’re kind of tapping for these sponsorships, like ahead of your event? 

[00:17:20] Arianna Black: You know, we did a sponsor listening tour last year. And we went into this in October and we really approached it from, again, the product perspective of talk to the customer. And while we really did find out that, yes, a lot of sponsorship budgets that were coming out of recruiting previously had been diminished there are other funds that we can access.

[00:17:42] So we really dug into why this event, what is it that we bring that is important to you? And, you know, in the the old paradigm, it was all about recruiting. It was all about access to talent. And right now, while that is definitely diminished, there’s also the idea of continuing to instill brand leadership as a thought leader in the DE& I space as well as development.

[00:18:04] So we found that we had to reformulate everything that we did to really speak to a development- first incentive rather than a recruiting- first incentive. Which involves having to develop a whole new set of relationships, because you’ve got to figure out who has the keys to that and how can you build for what they need?

[00:18:23] But for us, it was really like a lot of listening and a lot of listening and some really valuable conversations. And I can’t tell you how many sponsors were like, thank you. Thank you for asking me what I needed rather than assuming and then trying to sell me something. 

[00:18:40] Rachel Moore: Jennifer, I’m going to take this next question over to you. Should event planners be solely going for sponsorships from larger companies to try to ensure there is an available budget? What do you think about size of target there? 

[00:18:55] Jennifer Feeney: I think it really depends on the event and what you’re trying to build overall.

[00:18:59] I mean, there’s smaller brands that can bring a lot of value to an event. And if they don’t have the funds, they can possibly offer a barter situation just to get the event off the ground. And a lot of larger companies might have budgets allocated elsewhere. So it really just depends, which I know isn’t an ideal answer.

[00:19:18] I think knowing your audience is key so that, you know, the cadence of how to approach them and what’s important to them. There’s some agencies that can help, target different industries that are investing a lot in different sponsorships. So you can lean into that. And just doing a lot of research on who’s like I said earlier, who’s investing and what they’re investing in.

[00:19:39] You can sort of see it over time when you really do research and those are good companies to go for. With larger companies, they also have a lot of different departments. So while you can get in the door with one area of the large company, that might not be the one that’s allocating the budgets.

[00:19:54] And it’s going to take time to find the right department. And sometimes within the companies, they don’t know what department it is. So it really just takes a lot of patience and conviction, quiet conviction. 

[00:20:06] Rachel Moore: Arianna we were going to next ask you about those small organizations and Jennifer again, you’re just like setting up these segues brilliantly, by the way, this is great. We were going to ask you about smaller organizations.

[00:20:16] You know, can those be more meaningful even if they might have far lower budgets or if any at all to dedicate to sponsorships? 

[00:20:23] Arianna Black: I think someone touched on it earlier that it we’ve moved away from a flagship event model into engagement 365 as, you know, as an industry. Community is the hottest word ever, but it is a real word and it is a real thing. And so as part of our offerings, we’ve really realized that some sponsors might not want to be on that national stage.

[00:20:46] They might feel they can’t compete. I’ve been that 10 by 10 lost in the sea of, you know, giant gorgeous booths where it’s like, why am I here? And so building smaller. more intimate, more targeted opportunities to engage with the community has been really effective for us. Because we are supported by local chapters, we’re super lucky to be able to do this in various locations and really partner with smaller folks that might not be in the San Francisco tech space.

[00:21:17] Rachel Moore: Evan, I’m going to take the same question over to you and kind of mixed question where I do want to ask you about the smaller, you know, organizations to have as sponsors, but also then I want to get your thoughts on the larger ones, but go to smaller first.

[00:21:28] What do you think about engaging smaller companies for sponsors? 

[00:21:32] Evan Babins: Yeah, I think, you know, especially in our world where we’re dealing with small to medium sized businesses, you know, we always like to showcase them and spotlight them as much as possible. Obviously if it makes sense from a sponsorship perspective and if the companies that you’re looking to sponsor align with the event and how you want to execute and what the vision is and how you want your sort of exhibit hall or sponsorship, you know, floor to look like or your trade show booth to look like.

[00:21:57] So that’s always important to think about. When you look at the larger companies, you know, I think a lot of people like we’ve talked about, we’ve touched it on here. I think the common misconception is huge companies have huge budgets to spend money on, when I think a lot of the times the massive companies, you know, like international, global companies want to keep their margins tight.

[00:22:20] They want to keep their costs as much as they can in check. So a lot of these massive companies don’t have, don’t want to spend, you know, millions and millions of dollars. They have the same mindset as a small company where it’s like, let’s do things that make sense. Let’s do things that we’re get value from, but like, we’re not breaking the bank just because we’re, you know, Facebook or Google or whatever it is.

[00:22:43] They all still have budgets and finance people they have to answer to. And so it’s about finding the niche that you can sell into these companies, big, medium, or small, and getting them to buy into what you’re looking to do and what you’re looking to sell them. And I think you can sell sponsorship packages to any size company.

[00:23:06] It’s a matter of getting your alignment down pat and what your goals are and how you can market that and how you can sign up as many sponsors as humanly possible. 

[00:23:18] Jennifer Feeney: I would say paying attention to companies’ brand initiatives, their brand messaging. If they’re going to market in 2024 with something that’s more sports related, then that’s a good time to approach them about a sports sponsorship.

[00:23:32] And like Evan said, they’re competing. There’s so many different things that are competing for their budget. So it’s not about the event as much as it is, like, internally what they have to navigate. So don’t take it personally. I also I use Google alerts often where I will set Google to do my research for me so that I can find out what’s happening and what’s trending.

[00:23:55] And then I can use that as an opportunity to reach out to different people within the company and just congratulate them on what they’re working on and not necessarily talk about the event or sponsorships, but just to keep that conversation going and to stay top of mind. 

[00:24:09] Rachel Moore: Great insight there as far as like really trying to stay proactive where you’re like you’re present, you’re treating that like a 365 relationship rather than just a fiscal. 

We’re back with more Event Experience to talk about how a sponsor’s ROI can go far beyond lead generation and revenue. 

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[00:24:54] Rachel Moore: We’re back with more Event Experience to talk about how a sponsor’s ROI can go far beyond lead generation and revenue. 

[00:25:04] Rachel Moore: Let’s move into the next topic, sponsorship experience at our events. So we can get this philosophical about sponsorships now and how they’re very similar to how we treat attendees. And, Arianna, you even touched on that earlier in one of your responses. You kind of look at them the same. Of course, we want an ROI on the events we design from the people who attend it.

[00:25:23] But we also realize as event designers the full event experience for the attendee is crucial to gaining that ROI. The same concept, believe it or not, applies to sponsorships. They’re in it for ROI, but we all know that if we did make this purely transactional, like we just said, we’re probably not setting out to achieve full success for us or for them.

[00:25:42] So, Arianna, I’m going to take this one to you first. How can event planners ensure a fulfilling experience for sponsors at in person events that goes beyond just serving up booth traffic for them. 

[00:25:54] Arianna Black: This really plays into also building an incentive to sign on early for us because part of early signing is having full access to your small circle stairs like your support squad and we do a ton of education and support everything from helping craft your agenda descriptions, because we know that the agenda drives the bus, to supporting their speakers that might be first time speakers and making sure that what it is that they’re presenting is going to align with our audience. Nobody wants to see another demo. And so, simply sitting with them and saying, well, like, hey, do you have a case study we can bring a client in with you?

[00:26:34] Like, working with them really collaboratively and creatively to make sure that whatever it is that they’re bringing to the table at this live event is not going to hit crickets. And so the earlier they come on with us, the more we can really provide that support. 

[00:26:49] Rachel Moore: Yeah, I want to go to either Evan or Jennifer with that too.

[00:26:54] How you’re making sure it’s a fulfilling experience from start to finish for in person events.

[00:26:59] Evan Babins: You have to look at an event as only one piece of the puzzle. What are you doing before the event and pre content?

[00:27:06] What are you doing at the event for during content? And what are you doing post event content? And all three of those blocks have to build together to make the foundation of what you’re doing. And so it’s about using your pre event content to help drive traffic or drive people to your booth at the show. On site it’s about showcasing what’s happening So if it’s like an Instagram live that you do or live updates on x or whatever you’re doing right on site, keeping the message going. And then post event, it’s like maybe you do a recap video of what happened at the show, teeing up where you’re going to be for the next event, where people can find you, you know, to ask more questions or like Arianna said, you know, we’re not doing demos at the show, but maybe post event, it’s like, Hey, you know, you love the way we’ve talked to you about in the booth, come sign up for a demo on our website and get people to your website.

[00:27:58] So it’s all about building that cadence, looking at it as not just a one small aspect. The event is one small aspect of the overall campaign or of the overall overview of what you’re doing. So I think that for me is how we deal with in person. 

[00:28:15] Rachel Moore: How about you Jennifer? 

[00:28:17] Jennifer Feeney: Yeah, I’ll jump in.

[00:28:18] I think that events take on the personality of those in charge. I absolutely do. And this is going to sound really almost baseline, but the more positive and warm the overall experience is from pre event, during event, post event will make the attendees happier.

[00:28:33] It’ll make the sponsors happier. And everybody will want to come back. An example. The New York Times. We just did our climate event. It’s our third year is going to be this year and it’s during Climate Week. It’s intentionally during Climate Week and it’s also during the UN UNGA. We have been told by many different people that the New York Times Climate Event was a really interesting experience because it had a lot of different facets and it did have creative, artistic -it just had a good vibe overall.

[00:29:00] It wasn’t so formulaic. It wasn’t so flat. It wasn’t all about like climate and perhaps doom and gloom. It was about a lot of different aspects and people enjoyed going. They just enjoyed going. At the end of the day, they’re going to remember a really good experience and that can create, that has more value than I think we, we realize.

[00:29:18] Rachel Moore: Yeah. Well, so that gets us into kind of more nebulous area. What about virtual events? Evan, I’m going to go to you first. We just talked about in person, you can do a lot of that stuff that’s, you know, there’s activity, it’s people and stuff like that. But virtual’s, different ballgame. What ideas have you successfully tried to craft a full sponsorship experience that keeps them coming back to a virtual event?

[00:29:42] Evan Babins: I think you have to look at a virtual event as, and I’m, I hate to say this but it is in our world today in 2024, this is where people are. People don’t necessarily want to fly around the world to go to an event like they used to in 2017 or 2018.

[00:30:01] So it’s about optimizing for your target demo. And if your target demographic is sitting in their home office, because that’s where they need to be, then you’re crafting an event for people who are in their home office. If your target demo is people who are onsite and who love it and who are a CES fanatics, like, you know, I am, that’s going to be an in person, but virtual has its own legs.

[00:30:25] There’s so much positives about virtual, your audience size is almost endless depending on the platform you’re using. You don’t have to cap it at your room capacity for fire code. There’s no fire code on the internet that I know of so far. So it’s about optimizing your strategy in the beginning.

[00:30:44] In that pre, during, and post, like I talked about before, but just switching it to a virtual audience and a virtual engagement model where so it’s like heavy content online, heavy content on social, heavy email blast, maybe, and then after the event, it’s the same, right? So it’s just about optimizing for online versus offline and making sure that again, you’re producing for where your audience wants to be and where they’ll get the most ROI and the most and the, where they’ll be the happiest. 

[00:31:17] Rachel Moore: Great poinAt. Arianna or Jennifer, anything to add on that about virtual? Yeah, I know this will be based on kind of like where if your events lately are more in person and stuff, but any thoughts there?

[00:31:28] Jennifer Feeney: I think It’s easier to prove ROI with virtual. There’s a lot of different metrics that you can ladder into and share afterwards with the sponsors, with prospects for the next year. My favorite is hybrid. I think that, you know, you can’t underestimate the importance of in real life, but then to take that in real life and leverage it into digital extensions and also live stream during the event I just think there’s a lot of interesting ways that things can come to life for both online and in real life with a hybrid model. But the thing for me is just ROI I can’t measure ROi in real life like I can virtually. And so it makes a big difference. 

[00:32:08] Rachel Moore: For this final topic, let’s get creative. Okay. If we truly are crafting a rewarding partnership for our event sponsors we need to think out of the box and all of you at some point in your answers today have mentioned that, like, here’s where we are today.

[00:32:23] It’s not where it used to be. And we’ve got to be inventive, especially with those small budgets and the sponsor sitting in the driver’s seat these days with that power dynamic. So I’m going to toss this anyone who wants to go first. What are some creative pitch or solicitation tactics you’ve tried with sponsors to get them to buy in. And I know we’ve covered some of the things like the FOMO and things like that, but anything that’s like a little bit like, Oh, this was a little bit untraditional. How I tried to pitch a sponsor. 

[00:32:50] Evan Babins: So right now, like I mentioned earlier, we’re in the middle of a sponsorship. We’re selling sponsorships for our event series that we’re doing in the spring. And we meet with potential sponsors like kind of every day.

[00:33:00] And it’s all about reading the room and like sort of the virtual room was we’re on zoom meetings with them and selling the sponsorship through prospectus and everything else. But I think it’s about not necessarily like how can you sell them in a creative way, but it’s like, how can you take their like the vibe you’re getting in the meeting and use that to your advantage?

[00:33:20] So it’s like if someone you feel is like really leaning into like the gold package that you’re talking about, it’s like expanding on that and really hyping that up. And if they’re like shying away from like sort of the higher tiers, maybe it’s like you back off a little bit from there and really focus in on where you feel their energy is being directed to. I mean, that’s what I tell my team. And we’re in these meetings is like, let’s really try to figure out at what point in the conversation, the sponsor, like has like the, they’re like eyebrows, like light up, like they have that light bulb goes off and we’re like really hone in on that piece whether it’s, you know, an activation aspect or whether it’s, you know, whatever topic we’re talking about, really just trying to pick up on those cues to really be able to drive home that sale and the conversation with a signed contract, you know, at the end of the call, 

[00:34:10] Rachel Moore: it’s interesting because what you just talked about, Evan, and I’m going to circle back to Arianna, you had mentioned this in one of your answers about, you know, making this a social, you know, kind of a rapport.

[00:34:22] Jennifer, you mentioned the same thing. I think one of the things you know, you already kind of answered this question. You set up a Google alert, so you can like know, you know, it’s doing that automated research for you. So, you know, there’s an opportunity to go reach out. And again, it’s, I think you’ve all said that.

[00:34:37] There is a solicitation that has to happen, but you’re reading the room first and vibes, I’ve heard vibes mentioned a few times, that really seems to play a part. Would you all agree with that? That’s seems to be a big thing, a big way we get into the hearts and minds of these sponsors.

[00:34:54] Jennifer Feeney: Absolutely. I mean, if you think about it, we all want to work with someone who’s who cares who’s paying attention, who’s listening. I think the listening part is a really big thing as well. It can’t be underestimated at all, like the partnership feeling and knowing that you’re in it for them.

[00:35:12] This doesn’t answer your question directly, Rachel, but I call it stacking the deck where you really look at all the different levers that you can pull and you build it so that it makes it the most enticing for your sponsor or your client who you’re speaking to. And then. I approach it with a white glove service.

[00:35:29] Like I really try to stay ahead of their ass. I stay anticipate where they’re going. And I provide that to them in advance, both like during the conversations and also once they’ve secured the sponsorship on site. And sometimes it’s as little as like bringing them coffee in the morning because they’re maybe setting up their booth and they’re exhausted.

[00:35:46] They’ll remember that. Like they’re in the thick of it and you’re showing that you care and you’re showing that you’ve stayed ahead, but so a step ahead of them and you realize that they’re in , the weeds at the moment. So that goes a long way. And especially when it’s, you know, genuine and sincere.

[00:36:00] And then back to your question, Rachel, about like creative ways. I love leaning into the creative concepts. It’s part of the favorite part of my job, but I did have a conversation, a few, actually. I’ve had some sponsors pitches and the meeting has started with the client telling me that they’re not interested in sponsoring events.

[00:36:17] And I listen and I say that’s okay. I totally understand. It’s a new world. We’re coming out of this pandemic, you know, really have a conversation with them about it and then share some ways that they, you know, could be involved when they feel like it. , I’m just trying to help them find their footing, just like we’re all trying to do, and so it tends to go over better. And then the last thing I’ll say, which is very different than what I just said was never, in my opinion, never underestimate the the power of ego. If there’s C suite that wants to be involved, if they want to have a voice, if the people you’re speaking to want to prove themselves to the C suite, there’s a lot of different levers there that will work in your favor.

[00:36:55] If you sort of pay attention to it. 

[00:36:58] Rachel Moore: Arianna, I want to cut over to you, too. Any thoughts there, too, about creativity or even, you know, expounding on the fact that this is about vibes and about, you know, just being there to listen to our sponsors? 

[00:37:10] Arianna Black: You know, I have two thoughts on this, and one is very tactical.

[00:37:13] Creativity also speaks to listening. If you just send me a prospectus, it’s definitely going to get lost in my email. There’s 260 of them in there torturing me right now. But if you come to me on LinkedIn, and you share with me a Calendly link, where I can just book an appointment, and I don’t have to get lost in my email, and you can talk to me like a human.

[00:37:35] So I think sometimes short cutting the email circuit I think people are often interested in talking to us. But their inboxes are also just like a swamp. And so just getting right to the human in, in whatever way we can in, in the places that they are speaking. So for example, if you know me, you know that I’m active on LinkedIn.

[00:37:56] I’m easier to get in touch with on LinkedIn. And if you can just send me a link to just jump in the room and talk to you, we’re going to meet. If you get lost in my email, it’s never happening. So I think also being creative about how and where we talk to people. The other creative piece for us has been, you know, in 2019, our event was just the event.

[00:38:19] And your sponsorship included event presence and then digital attendee communications. And some of the social sphere. And we’ve really gone beyond that to really look at how can we co create content? How can we do partner blog posts? How can we do on site activations that might tee up and lead into a larger virtual event?

[00:38:40] So really, like, diversifying what we offer, so that maybe you’re not interested in sponsoring an event, but you’re super interested in being in the newsletter, co authoring a blog, having one of your women featured on our speaker profiles. So we found other ways to meet the need for folks that don’t necessarily want to do something live.

[00:39:01] Rachel Moore: This discussion has been awesome and super organic, thank you all so much too for all of your input. 

[00:39:07] Not only was today’s webinar incredibly informative, I can’t even speak, I’m speechless, it was so informative. But we have more for you. The strategic event sponsorship handbook. Download it fresh off the press. It’s your guide. 

[00:39:19] Now. Let’s go ahead and dive into some questions. How do you feel about self service sponsorship?

[00:39:24] Evan, I think you wanted to tackle this first.

[00:39:27] Evan Babins: Yeah, I have a lot of things to say on this. I’m a huge believer of like Arianna said, have the conversation. Don’t just make it a dropdown item on a website that you’re choosing packages from. I think it’s about, and we’ve, we’re experienced this on every day, when we talk to sponsors and we talked to potential sponsors, you get a different vibe from people.

[00:39:53] And some people you think will spend 10, 000 on a sponsorship package. We’ve sold on a 50, 000 one and vice versa. I think having that self service do it your own way sponsorship. You’re like almost limiting yourself and you’re putting up your own roadblocks. Whereas if you have the chance to talk to somebody and really engage with them and see what their goals are and what they’re looking to get out of the event, you can sell potentially more bigger packages or just find out what they’re interested in.

[00:40:25] So I’m a huge believer in the conversation model, the not do it yourself model. So yeah, that’s that’s where my head’s at on that one. 

[00:40:36] Rachel Moore: What negotiation techniques or tactics have proven successful in securing favorable sponsorship deals?

[00:40:43] I know Evan, I think you had talked earlier about being in the call, reading the room and doing that kind of sales guy thing where you’re like watching for cues. But Arianna or Jennifer, I would like to ask you that too. Aside from the listing stuff, any other negotiation techniques or tactics that have worked for you?

[00:40:58] Arianna Black: I don’t think so much about this as negotiation. Not every client is going to be our client. Like our value proposition is very unique. We offer access to a very niche audience that is very valuable to the people that it’s valuable to. So really, if we are not a fit, there’s not, maybe not right now, maybe this is a relationship that we just continue to nurture, but the prospects come to us and say, we have realized that you have exactly the demographic that we are targeting.

[00:41:30] Which is like, great. All right. So what do you want to do with them? What’s the experience you want to leave them with? And then we build for that. So again, just going back to really listening and understanding what impact they are trying to have through this event. Like, do you just want a lead?

[00:41:46] Or do you want them to remember your brand as when they’re looking for their next potential employer? Like what is it behind what that sponsor wants? Do you want your product in front of them and then really understanding are we the right group to do that because we might not be. So rather than negotiating I really think about it as a matching of like is what we offer a match for what you’re looking for. 

[00:42:11] Jennifer Feeney: I approach conversations with a curious mind and wanting to help and find a way we can work together. I don’t approach it as I’m out to sell or land this deal, if it’s meant to be, it will be. And it’s, and it tends to take the edge off for me. That’s my own, that’s my own style.

[00:42:29] I like bringing value to the sponsors and how the sponsors bring value to the programs I’m working on. And that’s the sweet spot for me. I keep a really good tabs on what else is happening in the market. Like what are my competitors doing so that I understand, you know, what other conversations they might be having.

[00:42:47] So I know what to leverage or not to leverage. And also that makes my events stronger and the ones that I’m working on. Yeah, and then when it does come down to like the actual agreement or talking about the nuts and bolts more, then it becomes negotiation and they want this. We can offer that.

[00:43:06] And you know what angles to, to lean into and some things can’t be negotiated because it’s the sponsor tiers and it’s the way the sponsors are designed or the sponsorships. And that’s just the way it is. So there’s a lot of different nuances that are brought to the table, I guess.

[00:43:21] Rachel Moore: So you just talked about those things that like you can negotiate, but some things are not. Can y’all give some examples, any, anyone of the panelists, some examples of those things? What are those kind of levers you can, yes, we can give you this, but not this, or, you know, almost like a la carte things.

[00:43:36] Evan Babins: So I’m just gonna jump in and say literally that Rachel like we have this year. We went from a non package prospectus to packages. So we have silver plus, gold, and platinum. And then we have a la carte options. So we were using a la carte options to add on to one of the packages.

[00:43:53] So if you. If your budget doesn’t allow you to move up to the next level, but you want to add on like a meal break sponsorship, or you want to add a swag bag item, but you can’t afford to jump up to the next package, we’re using the a la carte options to sort of beef up a little bit each package. So those are the a la carte ones I would say we have less flexibility to customize, whereas the packages, because we have a bit of flexibility in terms of like the cost versus the sell on them. We can tailor a little bit more. So for example, like yesterday we had someone who was like, listen, I want the gold package was like our sort of second highest package.

[00:44:35] But they were like, I’m three grand short of the budget needed for it. Is there anything we can do? And I was like, listen, like, let me go back. Let me figure it out. We ended up coming back to them with like, Hey, we’ll give you, you know, four more tickets for the event, we’ll give you something on the website, a logo on the website. So we have that flexibility in the packages. Whereas the a la carte options are very one off pieces. So it’s like, we have a hard cost for it. We have a margin and then we sell it for hard cost plus margin. So that’s the way we’re thinking about it.

[00:45:08] Rachel Moore: That’s all the time we have for today. It’s amazing. It flew by. I do want to extend our heartfelt thanks to our distinguished speakers. Arianna Black, Evan Babins, and Jennifer Feeney.

[00:45:17] We’re grateful, very grateful for your time and knowledge and just a great organic discussion today. Thank you again for joining us, and we look forward to seeing you at our future events. Have a great day, everyone. 

[00:45:39] Thanks again to Arianna Black, Evan Babins, and Jennifer Feeney for sharing their expertise with us! And thank you for listening. 

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You can find transcripts of each episode and key takeaways on bizzabo.com/podcasts. You can also watch the webinar on-demand and download The strategic event sponsorship handbook from bizzabo.com. 

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