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Hybrid event sponsorship: 4 things to keep in mind

Some 67% of eventprofs plan to use hybrid as their go-to format once in-person events resume. Are you one of them, asks Jaakko Jalkanen, marketing lead of Brella.

Last year, most of us were professionals in hosting face-to-face (F2F) events. Now, we’re professionals in both F2F and online events. And by this time next year, we’ll be professionals in all three – F2F, online and hybrid.

But to get there, you need three things:

  • The Right Strategy – because not all hybrid events are made equal

  • The Right Technology partner(s) – because technology is essential

  • The Right Timing – just because you are ready for hybrid does not mean your attendees or sponsors are

But perhaps most importantly, you need to shift your thinking.

At their simplest, hybrid events combine elements of F2F and online. However, hybrid sponsorships are more complicated than pulling choice elements of both and merging them together.

You have to look beyond your event and consider the journeys both your sponsors and attendees take before, during, and after your events.

Because the best sponsorships come from adding value to as many relevant touchpoints as possible, to ensure both attendees and sponsors receive maximum value.

So what can you do to provide more value to your sponsors?

Utilize your attendee list. Instead of using one main event to connect your sponsors and attendees, connect them throughout the year.

And I don’t mean mass email campaigns to all your attendees – that’s a great way to increase your unsubscribe rate.

You need to segment your audience based on those who would most benefit from your sponsors’ offerings.

This also has a greater benefit of providing your sponsors more consistent exposure to your audience, which is better than a large exposure all at once.

What this means in more plain terms: if you have a newsletter, a regular blog, social media account – all of that can be monetized for sponsor access to help them reach your audience.

Consider the complete, holistic event journey for sponsors and attendees. This may seem complicated, but simply consider this: how can your sponsors connect with attendees, both offline and online?

You can also segment your sponsorship packages into online, offline, or hybrid offerings. It’s simply about connecting your sponsors with attendees.

For example, if your sponsors have a physical presence at the venue, what about their virtual presence in your online venue?

A virtual presence enables a broader lead capture opportunity, while a physical presence ensures a smaller, yet more personal lead generation experience.

With the right choice of hybrid event platform, your sponsors can drastically increase their return on investment by connecting with the right attendees virtually and in-person.

Invest in customer success upskilling and take a hands-on approach with coaching sponsors. Whoever makes the journey the easiest will win. Sponsors aren’t used to the new landscape, and our clients have seen incredible success by embracing customer success best practices to make sure their sponsors walk away with a profitable experience.

It does require that you understand the new opportunities present in hybrid sponsorships. It’s a lot to learn, but their success is also your success – retaining sponsors year after year is much easier than constantly looking for new ones.

Gain your sponsor’s trust and deep-dive into their goals. Do you truly understand why they are sponsoring your event? Do you have intimate knowledge of their business goals and struggles? That information will truly help craft a personal package that can help them get more out of their sponsorship.

As well, by having candid conversations with them, you can establish their comfort level and expertise in hybrid events. Some companies will take to the new environment more readily than others, but by understanding your sponsors, you’ll be prepared.

And if you take away one piece of advice from this article, let it be this: don’t keep repeating the same tactics. What works in live events doesn’t always work in virtual events, and hybrid events won’t be as simple as taking tactics from both.

Seek to understand both your sponsors’ goals and your audience’s needs and intent. Once you have that knowledge, you’re well on your way to creating a sponsorship and event experience that wows and, more importantly, retains both parties.

User journeys

Let’s consider a F2F event. Your sponsors spend hours of time creating booths and promotions for your event, and a lot of cash for the opportunity.

A major struggle with virtual events has been justifying a price tag at all because there is no opportunity for face-to-face connections.

However, you can provide your sponsors with a valuable experience in virtual – and even more so in hybrid.

Simply consider their journey. What journeys are we talking about? Glad you asked:

  • Attendee journey

  • Sponsors journey

  • Speaker journey

  • Your journey (Organizer journey)

But what does this really mean? Think of a F2F event journey. Everything culminated in the main event, showing up on the event day and seeing everyone. And after that, depending on your model, you may have limited interaction with your audience.

Now with a virtual event, there were no people attending, but you were able to connect more often with your audience.

So what does a hybrid event mean? Well, they can have different journeys. Perhaps your attendees can participate online 364 days of the year and participate online the other one day.

Or perhaps you have a different journey where attendees have more flexibility in choosing when to participate online and virtually. More flexibility is great. Because that’s the real value of your event.

You can provide your sponsors with the broad reach of a virtual sponsorship and the personal touch of the F2F sponsorship.

Consider the three stages – pre-event, event, and post-event. But now at a hybrid event, you must consider the virtual option too. What about attendees who only attend virtually? What of those attendees who simply show up for the face-to-face?

Some people buy “a normal ticket,” which means they will start their journey online; they come to the venue and then go back online. It’s good to remember that these attendees won’t abandon online entirely during the event. Let’s say they don’t have to use technology if they don’t want to. Here’s what they’ll probably do:

  • Check what’s next on the agenda (counting the hours for the Happy Hour)

  • Schedule meetings and chat with people

  • Take notes

  • Join polls, and Q&A

As we shift from virtual to hybrid, it’s time to prepare your sponsorship packages for hybrid now. Shifting your business model and securing new sponsorship will be the key to success.

This blog is sponsored by Brella.


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