July 08, 2021 Mark Bornstein
Now that physical events are possible again, marketers everywhere are considering their options. Stay virtual? Go back to physical only? Or perhaps have the best of both worlds by going “hybrid.”
Hybrid events are the talk of the town these days and for good reason. By going hybrid, we can extend the scale of conferences and events to reach audiences of any size, anywhere in the world.
Suddenly event strategies have potential that we never imagined before. And by bringing the power of digital engagement to events, we can learn more about our attendees and more effectively find our best leads, drive pipeline and revenue.
Hybrid Event Hesitations
But there are considerations. Hybrid events can be more expensive to produce. There are all of the expenditures of arranging a physical event (event spaces, food, hotels, entertainment) but also the need to invest in digital event software and broadcast capabilities to host the virtual elements of the event.
Investment costs are definitely higher, but so is hybrid ROI. More reach means more leads and better data means higher conversions. But there is another advantage to going hybrid: sponsorship revenue.
Why Hybrid Is a Huge Sponsorship Opportunity
Event sponsorship hasn’t changed much over the years. There is the usual array of tiered packages that offer the same basic benefits: signage, inclusion in event collateral, speaking slots, booths and the ability to put branding on different elements of the event.
But in this digital-first world, your sponsors will expect more, and hybrid events completely re-imagine what sponsorship packages look like.
As opposed to physical spaces where signage is limited to available wall space, and let’s be honest, it’s rarely actually seen; digital environments present a whole new element of branding possibilities.
Virtual events are empty canvases that one can paint on, and you can offer sponsorship branding, of all types, virtually anywhere (see what I did there?) And, digital signage has a much higher value than physical signage, as you can put them anywhere and they are clickable.
Sponsor logos can be hyperlinked to sponsor booths, sponsor sessions or even their websites. Now that is a measurable advantage. And with virtual event environments often including many unique digital spaces, there are more branding elements to sell.
Perhaps the biggest reason that companies sponsor events and conferences is to have a booth space to meet and connect with attendees. Physical booths often offer brochures and swag, handshakes and sales pitches.
This makes event attendees a little wary of engaging. Nobody wants to haul around a giant bag of brochures anymore. But offering virtual booths changes that dynamic. Now we can offer customized sponsor booth spaces where attendees can watch videos, presentations and demos. We can offer tons of content that is just a click away.
But what’s even more valuable to sponsors, is that from a virtual booth, you can offer direct CTAs like links to a free trial, pricing page or product page. Attendees can chat with reps, set appointments or even breakout into sales conversations.
Another big perk of sponsorship offers is the ability to deliver a presentation to a conference audience. Depending on the sponsorship level, you may offer keynote presentations or breakout sessions.
The problem is that in a physical space there are only so many presentation rooms. At some point, there is nothing left to offer. By adding a digital event space, you can offer additional presentation opportunities that can be easily integrated into the experience. Presentations can run in sponsor booths, or there can be a sponsor room where breakout sessions are available.
Hybrid events also present partners with entirely new forms of sponsorship benefits. You can offer sponsored virtual chats, sponsored networking lounges and sponsored virtual forums.
This can mean simply branding a networking experience or enabling sponsors to host the experience and drive direct engagement. You can even offer sponsors the opportunities to host their own virtual parties and happy hours.
Speaking of parties, one thing sponsors love is putting their name on the fun, and there are a number of ways in which hybrid events increase the opportunity to do just that. In some cases, entertainment at the physical event, like concerts can be live streamed to the virtual audience.
This provides a number of branding opportunities. But often there will be entertainment that is unique to the virtual audience. This can be anything from gamification, virtual cocktail hours, virtual concerts, and much more. And all of it can be branded and sponsored.
This is the game changer. When you add virtual elements to your sponsorship packages, suddenly you have a lot more to offer than impressions and exposure; you have data.
Every digital component of a sponsorship package can deliver measurable results. Every brand placement can deliver stats on who clicked on logos. Virtual booths not only deliver the names of every visitor but what content they downloaded, what videos they watched, what questions they asked and what CTAs they clicked on.
Virtual presentations can also capture poll and survey results, questions asked and content downloads. Everywhere there is virtual engagement, there will be measurable results that you can deliver to your sponsors.
Live and On Demand
Hybrid events also extend the value of sponsorships long after the live event is over. Physical only events are a moment in time.
But hybrid events can move into an on demand phase, where all virtual event elements remain active. That means sponsors can continue to drive impressions, generate leads and engage prospects for an extended period of time.
In this new world of hybrid events, sponsorships can now be packaged in a myriad of ways. Tiered sponsor levels can have much more definable differences and advantages. Events can offer more opportunities for impressions, presentations and direct engagement.
And, most important, you can offer the insights and data from each prospect engagement which will result in a higher conversion rate. This is what sponsors want most and now it’s yours to offer.
Hybrid events are more complex to build and deliver. We are now bridging the gap between physical and virtual worlds. But the benefits are immeasurable. Sponsorships will be easier to package, and easier to sell.
With virtual and hybrid events, if you can dream it, you can build it. And someone will definitely pay to sponsor it.