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Digital branding concepts can provide more value than tangible assets as well as being a more sustainable option for events to provide integrated opportunities for sponsors.
Event planners are always looking for innovative ways to brand their event. At the same time sponsorship is changing and the age of paying for logos to be printed on a banner is no longer sufficient to warrant a investment from most sponsors. Digital branding options can be more flexible and customizable than other alternatives, which opens the door for creativity.
Traditional event branding such as logo placement on banners, signs, bunting, etc. can of course benefit from digital channels when attendees push pictures of these to the digital space where monitored engagement takes place. Offering your sponsors a package combining traditional and digital branding could be an attractive proposition.
Cost of Digital vs Traditional Branding
There are many different factors to consider when determining if digital or more traditional branding strategies are right for you, with cost being an X-factor. In some instances, the cost of custom designs and hiring in the screens to present your digital offer can be very costly. However if the venue you are working at has the hardware you need and your designs are already complete, you could have a very low cost solution.
Digital branding opportunities are not necessary more or less expensive than other alternatives but there are two ways they are always superior to the traditional.
Digital Is More Sustainable
There is no denying the environmental impact of large scale printing and throwaway branded objects. If you visit exhibitions such as New York Comic-Con, IFA Berlin or CES you will see a unique and almost unfathomable volume of single use items for promotional purposes and way-finding that has to be contributing significantly to the elevation of landfills. While the use of power to supply some digital sponsorship opportunities isn’t exactly a neutral carbon footprint, many of the ideas have a lot less impact in terms of waste.
Branding Backed By Data
One way digital branding opportunities will always have an advantage over traditional ways are increased ways to gather empirical data for sponsors. The ability to analyze actual impressions and (more importantly) brand engagement gives brands much more in return for their investment. Without strategy or digital opportunities, you are exclusively offering an antiquated vanity of displaying a logo, with no possibility of effective measurement. When you do that, you are no longer speaking the language of the modern marketer… and you’re going to lose them.
Here are 11 ideas for incorporating digital branding into your event.
- Hashtag Strategies
Hashtags provide you the most value for sponsorship because they don’t cost a dime to create. While that’s true, you don’t own them exclusively and without an investment in time and resources, no one will know about them. Still, strategies around hashtags should be an important first step when you are formulating the plans for your event.
Official Event Hashtag
The official event hashtag is where your attendees will gather online to discuss every aspect of their experiences before, during, and after the event. It is very difficult to incorporate a sponsor into the hashtag itself. It’s an enticing opportunity to be sure but it would more than likely result in a drop in overall engagement around the hashtag because of confusion. For your sponsors to get the most value from the official hashtag, they should be made aware of the hashtag as early as possible in order to include it in their messaging and to give them an opportunity to engage organically with attendees before, during and after the event.
Event Specific Hashtag
Nine times out of ten it doesn’t make sense for sponsors or trade show exhibitors to create a unique hashtag exclusively for their appearance at an event. If they have an ongoing campaign and participating in the event is part of that campaign, by all means they should use the hashtag they’ve been using. The one time of out ten where creating and promoting a hashtag exclusively for an appearance at event is when a sponsor has an activity taking place for attendees that is so special that it is like an event within an event. Examples of this might be contests with significant prizes, guest appearance by a celebrity at the booth or sponsor area, or a give-away of an exclusive branded item. If what you are presenting is a significant enough of an occurrence that people will naturally want to have a conversation about, you might have a case to create a special hashtag.
- Social Media Displays
One of the most prominent examples of digital engagement during live events are social media walls. Often during events, eyeballs are locked on this area as it hopefully complements and adds to the overall experience. While anyone can contribute to the content on the screen, there are often static banners associated with the designs of these displays that allow a sponsor logo or tagline to be visible at all times. This type of logo placement is more impactful than banner inclusion because it’s in a position adjacent to where attendees are anticipating value to be given. In addition to this type of sponsorship, many of the technologies that run these displays include the ability to integrate sponsor messages that either fit in seamlessly with the crowd-sourced content or pops a bit more by design.
Youth Discoverability Summit by Fifth Element Group
- Presenter Slide Theme
This can be a controversial one and the disclaimer on this is that it requires your presenters to agree to the terms of your slide theme designs. Make sure to be fully transparent and have a specific dialog about the inclusion of sponsors within content they create for your meeting or conference. Some presenters may have conflicting relationships or contracts of their own that prohibit them from this type of engagement. That being said, this is an undersold area, highly visible, and could provide a lot of sponsor value with strategy. While one sponsor logo included on all slides for a conference or meeting might be your strategy, this type of opportunity may produce better results through topic or message alignment between brands and presenters.
Cleveland Magazine’s Ever After Bridal Show
- Conference App
Conference Apps are constant companions and attendees are often dependent on them during the days they are attending an event. Each section within the app is an opportunity for sponsorship and the more aligned with the section that sponsor’s services or campaign is, the more beneficial the relationship can be.
Suggested app section and sponsor pairings:
- Agenda: Presenting Sponsor
- Speakers/Attendees: Special colors to frame the headshot of sponsors who are also either speakers or attendees.
- Exhibitors: An exhibitor with a strong call to action/giveaway
- Photo Feed: Photographer, Videographer, Photo Novelty Company
- Social Leaderboard: Someone in the marketing space
- Survey: Event Tech Company
- Map: Local CVB or DMC
- Social Media Shout Outs
The least expensive sponsorship opportunity an event can offer is a message about a specific sponsor through their social media channels. While thanking them for their contribution is a great gesture, an offer of a real testimonial would be more beneficial for an event brand. Never cross any lines that call into question your credibility, only give testimonial style social media mentions if you can give real feedback to your followers. If you are not in the position to experience a sponsor’s products or services in action, you could potentially speak about their professionalism, reputation, and the exchanges you’ve had between your companies. These types of posts are much more valuable to a sponsor because they will be more apt to share with their fans as well.
- Gamification Participation
There is almost always a way to include some form of gamification into an event of any size. Be it something as formal as a scavenger hunt, a trade show check-off list, a social media leaderboard or something as simple as giveaways from the stage, games equal engagement.
The secret to successful gamification sponsorship is through dialog with potential sponsors on ways to facilitate their unique messaging. If they are actively engaged in a specific campaign, taking a part the name of their campaign to reverse engineer a game around it is actually easier than it sounds.
If your potential sponsor isn’t engaged in a thematic campaign, this actually gives you an opportunity to help them develop one which would kick-off at your event. When designing a challenge for attendees, the most important consideration is that it's easy to understand and fun, but for the sponsorship activation to work they have to also know why what they are doing is related to the sponsor.
- Live Streaming Sponsor
For many, this is the only view they will have for your event. Why then are too many live streaming portals bare of sponsor logos? Often these live streaming opportunities are at no cost to those watching which makes their threshold for accepting sponsor messages all that much higher. Depending on the live streaming provider you are using, there should be a number of different ways sponsor messaging can be present. If you are using social media mobile live streaming for your event the opportunities are currently less robust but both Facebook Live and Periscope are working on ways to integrate interruption messaging into live streamed broadcasts.
- Digital Displays
While digital displays can easily fall into the same traps as printed banner logo inclusion, multimedia options entice more than one sense thus are more engaging. Short video clips, use of gifs or looped video can result in something considerably more enticing to attendees to pause and look at. Digital screens also offer the ability to be more timely and helpful with your messaging. If the software running the screens can display scheduled content at specific points in the day, messaging can tie into scheduled events such as lunch, keynote presentations or activities. Sponsor inclusion on digital screens is never nearly as effective if it doesn’t take advantage of what makes the medium special.
- Snapchat On-Demand Geofilter
Snapchat allows anyone to submit designs to be an optional filter for users at a given time and place for a fairly reasonable fee. There are limits on these designs including the surface area it take up on a photo, no calls to action, and no photo imagery but the ROI right now is high because it’s so inexpensive (as little as $5.00).
Knowing Snapchat’s user base is young and loyal to the platform, event producers have a unique opportunity for targeted marketing for their sponsors who are interested in the 30 and younger crowd. Since you can set hard beginning and ending time limits on the filter’s availability, the designs can accommodate for different sponsors at different times as well as messaging relevant to the activities scheduled during those specific periods. For maximum adoption rate, focus the designs to be what people would naturally want to share with their friends… which isn’t an ad.
- Photography Opportunity
Photography opportunities are a staple at almost all types of events. The successful ones provide a backdrop or props that make them too desirable to pass up. The trends on these activation points seem to rely heavily on design and theme integration, which leave out step and repeat banners and event green screens, traditionally always where a sponsor came in. Physical props like couches, grass walls or floor, and even oversized props are much more in vogue leaving less obvious opportunities for sponsorship. Vinyl decal logo placement on props can give sponsors one way into those pictures but digital inclusion of a lower one third of images is usually the best way to adapt to any look.
Always keep in mind the state of the attendees when participating in photo activation when sponsors are involved. The effects of alcohol have a way of changing the context of photos and the tie-in with a sponsor’s reputation.
Photo from Photo Booth of the Stars
- Event Website Sponsorship
Some sponsors may be tepid on the idea of investment in banner ads because they’ve had diminished success over the years in converting impressions into clicks. While that is what seems to be happening for the one-size fits all websites, trusted niche destinations on the web, focused on knowing their audience, are winning over sites with huge impression numbers. Event websites speak to a very specific audience only and allows for sponsors to get the most from the investments they made.
Ad placement, sponsored content, or even video content will help build a campaign of awareness culminating in the activation at the event. In addition, event producers can offer a remarketing option for sponsors as a way to increase the likelihood of conversion. For exhibitors and sponsors, this is your chance to separate yourself from the rest of the contributors by creating a FOMO moment that attendees are actively searching to take advantage of as soon as they hit the floor.
- Digital Tool-Kits
Some multi-day and multi-track conferences have embraced the value of niche content and included proprietary information as part of the attendee package. Gone are the days of giant workbooks and binders attendees lugged around; branded USB drives attached to lanyards can be loaded with any amount of content. The most valuable content comes in the form of peer submitted standard operating procedures and tools or presenter created content that supplements their presentation. These tool kits are an excellent place for photo and video examples of the latest trends. Including sponsor and exhibitor content in the form of tools and contact information integrates them further into the needs of your attendees.
- Post-Event Attendee Survey
A staple for good meetings and events, surveying your attendees is a form of engagement that provides you with the data you need to raise the bar for your next venture. Sponsors have one last chance to convert when associated with what is often the last communication between the event and the attendee. One creative way to take advantage of sponsor involvement in a post-event survey is to provide the potential reward(s) for survey participation. Significant participation in a survey has become more and more difficult without the use of some sort of prize or chance at winning something and a sponsor can help alleviate that burden while increasing the number of completed surveys.
Another unique option for sponsorship related to surveys is to give one of your questions on the survey to your sponsor for their most important question. Access to your attendees for this type of exit data may very well justify the sponsor’s commitment to your event.
Digital sponsorship opportunities at live events not only provide more opportunities for ways to sell sponsorship, some of the options are more engaging than their analog counterparts. Customization, interactive elements, and messaging integration are all benefits unique to types of digital branding solutions. The most successful branding options for sponsors are when the emphasis is on raising attendee value over simply slapping a logo on something. If you can find that sweet spot between sponsor messaging and attendees needs, you’ll have a sustainable branding platform that will support your event’s goals.