Having one or more sponsors can be a big asset to an event, so finding and securing the right sponsors is an important accomplishment. We wrote a post about it for in-person events here. But as more formerly in-person events pivot to virtual spaces, many organizers have been left with questions about sponsorship. Most importantly, how do you get sponsors for a virtual event?
How Is Virtual Event Sponsorship Different from Live Events?
The process for finding and securing virtual event sponsors is mostly the same as it is for live events, except for the fact that virtual events are vastly different than physical ones. That means the benefits you can offer an online event sponsor are different too.
One major benefit is that many virtual events are seeing much higher attendance numbers than their corresponding live events. Virtual events are cheaper to attend and require less of a time investment too, since there’s no travel involved. Any online event can potentially have a global audience. For instance, around 15,000 people registered to attend Salesforce’s annual “World Tour” event, scheduled to be held in Sydney in March 2020. But the Salesforce team made the decision to hold a virtual event instead—and ended up with 80,000 registered attendees, along with 1.5 million social media views.
Another benefit of the virtual event is that, once it’s over, the event content can remain available to viewers for an unlimited amount of time. Many in-person events do record their keynote speakers, but other sessions aren’t recorded, for the most part, and the content disappears once they’re over. But virtual content can easily be recorded and made available for any length of time. This extends its lifespan and means sponsor brand messaging gets more views, over a longer period of time.
For instance, at physical events it’s typical for a sponsorship booth to be located near the event check-in point, so every attendee passes by or through it. Something similar can be achieved for a virtual event, by adding a link to the virtual sponsor booth on the check-in page. But online, you can go one better: Serve additional sponsorship advertising in other locations—on the event website, on the event platform, etc.
You may initially find it harder to convince potentials that online sponsorship is worth it. If they’ve never sponsored a virtual event before, they could have trouble seeing how valuable it can be. Part of securing sponsors is about proving the level of impact your event can provide. You need to be able to show them that the ROI makes sponsorship worth the spend.
Create a Virtual Sponsorship Package
When putting together an online sponsorship package, start with those aspects of in-person events that are still applicable. Most of the branding opportunities available at a physical event are still there for a virtual one. You just approach them a little differently. Think about what you’d offer to live event sponsors, and then consider what might change for a virtual event. Some options include:
- Sponsored speakers, workshops, and other sessions
- Email advertising
- Sponsored social media messages
- Advertising on the event website
- A virtual booth or exhibit
- Branded login or check-in screens
- Branded session backgrounds
- Branded event app, or app advertising
- Sponsored push notifications
- Gamification opportunities
- Branded swag and/or prizes
Some of these items won’t change at a virtual event. Email advertising and sponsored social media messages, for instance, can stay much the same. But a sponsored speaker will need a little alteration for an online format, with a livestream to the online audience rather than a presentation to an in-person crowd.
Prove Sponsorship ROI
Providing branding opportunities is just the first part of putting a sponsorship package together. You also need to be able to show potential sponsors that these opportunities will pay off. If you’ve held a virtual event before, this should be relatively simple, as you’ll be able to use metrics from the previous event to show ROI. Otherwise, you’ll need to use metrics from your live events, but in a way that shows how those numbers can convert to ROI in an online setting.
Some metrics are easily applied to both kinds of events. Attendee numbers, for instance, is a solid indicator of potential value that is easy to understand no matter what kind of event you’re hosting. The higher the numbers, the greater the advertising potential.
Other metrics to consider include:
- Lead capture
- Audience engagement
- Brand awareness
- Social media reach
Registration survey data provides another opportunity to secure virtual event sponsors. Include some quick questions in your registration process—such as job title, location, and industry—and you can use that information to build out your attendee demographic data. Pitch to the right sponsors, and that data could help seal the deal.
When you pitch to sponsors, try to anticipate what they might want from a sponsorship deal. Lead with this information, and let them know early on what they stand to gain. Ultimately, sponsors want ROI, but they don’t all measure it in the same way. Some possibilities include:
- Brand exposure
- Product sales
- Brand repositioning
- Goodwill among customers and the general public
- Outdoing the competition
Make sure to hype up the unique benefits of online events. Online advertising has a particular advantage that live events can’t equal: the ability to track views and clicks. You can’t quantify how many people look at a banner at a live event. But you can track exactly how many attendees view an online banner ad. More importantly, you can track how many of them take action on that banner. Virtual events have the potential to generate the kind of data that a live event can’t equal. Make sure you emphasize this when pitching to potential sponsors.
Pick Your Sponsors
Once you’ve developed one or more sponsorship packages, it’s time to find the sponsors! This process is much easier than it sounds. You have a couple of good options for finding virtual event sponsors that don’t involve lots of cold-calling.
One option is simply to work with an event planning company and let them handle it. This means you don’t have to worry about the work of finding the right sponsors and negotiating sponsorship deals. It’s all done for you, so you can focus on other tasks.
Another method is to use a sponsor-finding site such as:
These sites offer lists of sponsors, categorized in various ways. You can browse through lists or use filters to find different types of potential sponsors.
It can be useful to narrow your search to online event sponsors that tick the right boxes. This may help you find willing sponsors more quickly. For instance, companies that have sponsored events before are more likely to understand how they can benefit from sponsoring a virtual event. Another good filter is to look at audience demographics. Sponsors that are a good fit will have an audience demographic that overlaps with yours in some way, without being directly competitive.
Make Your Pitch
When pitching to online event sponsor, it’s important to tailor your approach. Don’t send the same proposal to every potential sponsor. Make sure each one receives a proposal that’s tailored to their target demographic—and explain how your event will help them reach that demographic.
A good pitch should be thorough, but it doesn’t need to be overly complicated. Aim to include the following:
- Your company: Explain what you do and why it matters.
- Their connection: How does what you do relate to them? Where’s the overlap between the two company’s demographics?
- Your needs: What are you asking for in terms of sponsorship? Be specific about what funding you need and the purpose of that funding. If it’s a service deal you’re looking for, provide the specifics of your needs.
- Their benefits: Most importantly, explain exactly how their company benefits from the sponsorship deal. You’ve painted a picture of your company and what you need, now flesh it out by showing them why they can’t pass up your offer. Be specific, with details about branding opportunities and potential benefits.
Great Sponsors Help Make Great Events
Just as you’re looking for companies to sponsor your event, most companies are always on the hunt for new ways to market themselves. Even if your pick hasn’t considered virtual event sponsorship before, a great pitch can help get them onboard. Craft a detailed proposal that clearly outlines the benefits, so potential sponsors sit up and take notice!