Today we’re talking about sponsorships for virtual events! Because sponsorships and exhibitions are a huge source of revenue in the industry. But now that planners are trying to figure out how to turn in-person events into virtual ones, things get a little bit confusing. How can they replicate this? What are the best strategies? Overall, is it even possible to create such a thing as sponsorships for virtual events? Well, the short answer is – yes, it is.

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But in order to help us figure out how, we have a very special guest. On this week’s episode of #EventIcons, out amazing host Will Curran welcomes Peter Poehle. Peter has been on the show before. And he is one of the biggest sponsorship experts in the industry. So this means that he has a lot of tips and advice for planners that are going virtual with their events. If you’re curious to learn how all of this will work, then join us for another iconic edition of #EventIcons!


A Disruptive Time

“Well, the last two weeks clearly have been totally disruptive for the whole industry”, says Peter. “I mean what we have seen, first of all, before the whole crisis started. We have seen that more and more requests were coming in from virtual events where people said, “Yeah. We’re making a podcast. We’re making a YouTube channel, et cetera.”

“And people were starting to get used to doing these requests. At the same time also for sponsors, this was still something which was a little bit uncommon. So they didn’t know really how to handle this and how to go, how to deal with virtual events. Because it was still something which is a little bit new kind of for the sponsors, especially when it comes to the smaller sponsorships then this might be quite difficult actually because they don’t have the experience”.

A Learning Curve

“We see this dynamism developing into shifting to the virtual world, sponsors adapting to this, just getting used to it”, he adds. “And seeing kind of also even an opportunity in the virtual sponsorships that they haven’t seen before. It’s really kind of a learning curve that we see for the moment where we see that both organizers on one hand, but also the sponsors, on the other hand, have to learn a tremendous amount how to deal actually with virtual sponsorships. Because they have either never done it before or simply have neglected it because they didn’t have to do it before”.

Sponsorships For Virtual Events: What’s Possible?

The million-dollar question is – what is possible with sponsorships for virtual events? “Well, the good news about virtual sponsorship is actually that it can be much more compelling, much more interactive, and much more engaging also when it comes to these sponsorships”, says Peter.

“The reason why is simply in the old world, in the old-fashioned world of sponsorship, it was very easy just simply to satisfy a sponsor by hanging somewhere a logo. Of course, you can replicate the same in the virtual world. But what’s really compelling is actually just to make this much more interesting by giving the sponsor as a possibility to get really into the show, to participate kind of in the show”.

A Practical Example

“Let’s take a normal, a real example of a conference. Let’s suppose you are going to organize a virtual conference. You might have several speakers, you might have even several rooms. So, if you have the right software to do this, you could, for example, give to your sponsor the possibility to run a certain workshop in a dedicated room to connect directly with the audience. To provide the added value that the sponsor actually should also provide. And all this can be done in a rather easy and simple way because you don’t need to allocate a physical room for it, you can do it virtually”, explains Peter.

“You will give the possibilities to the sponsor to do things that she could eventually not have done before. Simply because you have the technical means to do it now. If you give the sponsor the possibility, for example, just to show a video to live chat directly with people. That’s something which is pretty amazing”.

“Another possibility if you’re running a conference. You can perfectly also give the possibility to the sponsor to make it product placement. Or you’re going to speak during the show about his product. What is possible if you have, for example, virtual product, you can include it, you can say, “We’re going to have here some screenshots of it. We’re going to show you how it works.”

Negotiations & Partnerships

“So, all these can be negotiated with the sponsor and gives opportunities that sometimes in the normal event, you would not even have had. This is just the tip of the iceberg of the activations that you might have in the virtual world”, he adds. “I see it was from a very positive first side. I say we have plenty of new opportunities and possibilities that you can do in this virtual world. To be really honest, we’re even only at the beginning to really fully explore what can be done”.

“The key at the end of the day is always the same. You need to see your sponsor really as kind of a partner that you include in your events. So that you have someone that you can work with building your event and making this event a success. That’s kind of key for as a success”, Peter concludes.

Sponsorship For Virtual Events

Giveaway Bags

Peter talks about the role of giveaway bags in sponsorships for virtual events. “These typical swag bags work quite well. But the success of any swag bag depends heavily on how you actually see the things that you put in. If you, as a sponsor, you put in something which is interesting, which is compelling, then you will succeed”.

“On the other hand, you, as an event organizer if the swag bag is well composed, you can also give something to your attendees which is indeed fun. Now, transferring this to the digital age isn’t e new idea. I mean, digital swag bags have been around also for normal physical events”.

The Possibilities

“The possibilities that you have for these digital swag bags are, of course, extremely interesting. Because, first of all, you can have a swag bag which is much bigger. So, a digital swag bag is not constrained by any physical dimensions. At the same time, also, it depends, again, on the creativity of the sponsor who’s going to put something in the swag bag. You can give them the platform. But at the same time, you will need to insist that the sponsor is doing something which is interesting with the swag bags. And it’s online, it always relies on the resources that you’re linking to or that you’re providing”.

“So, if the sponsor takes the time and builds up some resources which are interesting, with some added value then this can be an absolute advantage. Again, as these digital swag bags have not been around only now for two or three weeks but already for a couple of years, they are quite a standard in the events industry. You can perfectly use them also for your virtual events. They should work perfectly well also here. The functioning of it is quite simple”.

“So, everybody who’s registering for the event itself will automatically receive the swag bag. That’s typically not very difficult. Plus also the biggest benefit of the swag bags in a digital world is setting them up is super easy. You don’t need to provide any physical bags, you don’t need to provide anything which is physical. You can just fill in as much as you want, which is also beneficial of course. Because you can propose to a lot more sponsors to put their items or gadgets in this digital swag bag”.

Sponsorships For Virtual Events In Uncertain Times

With an uncertain economic environment, how can planners get sponsorships for virtual events? “For the moment it’s really a difficult situation. I think there is no beating around the bush. There is total uncertainty on the sponsor side. We have seen now for the moment that the whole market for sponsorships on SponsorMyEvent, to be really honest, has completely crashed”.

“I believe that now is the right moment just to keep in touch with sponsors, to reach out to them still and just get them interested in your events. Especially if you’re planning to have virtual events because business goes on. I mean it’s not that business simply stops and there is a need also for these companies to have visibility”, says Peter.

A Positive Outlook

“If you, as an event organizer, can propose them a virtual event which might be very compelling because you might have a lot of attendees for your event, then this might be even successful. But I would not bet for the moment that you will have tons of sponsors for the pure reason that they might have internal guidelines that they simply are not allowed to commit for your event”.

“At the same time, I would say just don’t stop now your activities reaching out to responders. Do everything possible to find your sponsors, reach out to the sponsors, speak with the sponsors. They might tell you for the moment that they cannot commit. But still, you have your foot in the door and you can use it at a later moment. When you will be ready and when they will be ready as well. Just simply to unlock the sponsorship. The time might be difficult but there is also hope that this will change again”.

“But I believe if you’re persistent and you’re really, really discussing with the sponsors, coming up with really interesting compelling ideas. And if you can prove them also that you shift your event to the virtual world, that this event will take place, that it will attract a lot of people then the same rules at the end of the day apply. You just need to make the sale and you need to convince your sponsor. Because you have the product, which is your event, you have the sponsor, which is your client. Now, you need to sell it. You need to bring in the deal and that’s it. So, nothing has changed actually from this perspective”.

Collecting Data

“Collecting data in the virtual world is so much easier depending on what platform you’re using for your event. If you go to the virtual world, there you can trace every single movement of your attendee, every single interaction. You can provide all these data later on in anonymous form, of course. You can provide it to your sponsor, and that’s absolutely interesting”.

“If you have an event organized, you have the possibility, by using the right software to virtualize your events, to provide data, which is showing to the sponsor that his sponsorship was a success. And that his money was well invested, then you’re absolutely on the winning side. That’s another benefit that I see from virtual events because you have this whole traceability that otherwise, it would be very difficult actually. So, it’s plenty of data”, explains Peter.

“One thing that is always very important, you need to be very careful not to disclose any confidential data. So, you cannot just simply give out email addresses from your attendees to some sponsors if you don’t have the explicit authorization to do it, for example. So, with these things, you need to be extremely careful. But for all the rest, actually, virtual events are kind of a pot of luck. Actually, a pot of gold actually for data mining”.

Sponsorship For Virtual Events
Balancing Data & Sponsor Needs

Speaking of data, Peter discusses how planners can balance privacy with sponsor needs in sponsorships for virtual events. “Here in Europe, for us, it’s a little bit easier because of GDPR. If you’re in America, then you don’t have these data protection rules. But still, I feel that it’s an obligation for each and everyone to respect these data protection rules”.

“It’s definitely not a bad thing just to read before you start your virtual events, to read a little bit, what’s GDPR is about and what kind of rules are applied in Europe. And maybe to think if it would not be fair enough also to apply similar rules also simply for your event without being forced to do so. But just also highlight that you value the privacy of the people. Today, people are quite aware of what’s happening with their data”.

“If you as an event organizer, if you can make sure also that they feel secure and that they know that you’re respecting their privacy, then you might have also very happy attendees. That’s something which I personally would recommend. So, inspire yourself basically from what is done here in Europe. At the same time, apply these rules also to your events but also make sure that you’re completely transparent with what’s happening. Trust is something difficult to build. If once you have lost this trust, to regain the trust of the people is almost mission impossible”.

Sponsorships For Virtual Events: Selling & Pricing

“Pricing of sponsorship is definitely a science”, says Peter. “To price sponsorship correctly, there is not a big difference between a virtual event and a real event. There are certain factors that you need to keep in mind when it comes to pricing your sponsorship packages. Actually, I’m not a big friend of sponsorship packages because sponsorship is something that should be flexible and should be actually tailormade for each sponsor. But still, at the end of the day, it’s not a bad idea to come up with certain predefined packages so that you can give to your brand once the sponsor”.

Factors In Pricing

There are several factors to contemplate when it comes to pricing sponsorships for virtual events. “The brand always comes in and the brand wants to sell. You need to put yourself into the position of the sponsor and you need to understand what the sponsor actually is going to sell. And if it’s possible through your audience that you have for the sponsor to generate enough revenue so that his return on investment will be positive”.

“If you have kind of an idea of what revenue the sponsor can generate through your event, then you will find the key also how to price the sponsorship packages. So, first of all, you need to see how many guaranteed attendees will you have. I mean you need to know as much, as close as possible how many people you’re going to have because that’s probably the determining factor”.

“At the same time, you need to know what kind of buying power these people have. What kind of disposable income do they have? Are they able to afford what the sponsor is going to sell? If you know that you can justify the price for this package. Because I know that the audience that I have has enough disposable income to buy the product that you have”.

“The brand will see also how long actually you have been on the market, what kind of experience do you have? You need to show to the brand that you are able also to get visibility. If you can show it to them, then your sponsorship packages can be also higher. Because the brand will know for sure, this person is able to make this a success so we are willing to pay a litte bit more money for the sponsorship. Because we know that there is a certain guarantee that this will be a success”.

Other Things To Consider

“It’s a very complex topic to find the right price for it. Very often I see also that sponsors, that organizes are pricing their packages, especially at the beginning when they are first-time event organizers, too low. Because they feel like, “Oh, we cannot ask so much for it.” That’s why it can really help to sit down and to make these calculations, make the calculation regarding the return on investment from the sponsor. On the other hand, also make the calculation for yourself”.

“How much money do you need to successfully run your event? There we have, of course, a comfortable situation that virtual events can be eventually cheaper than organizing a real event. Because you don’t have the whole overheads that you need to rent a location somewhere, a venue, all these things. But for sure, if you’re doing it also really well, it can be also quite expensive. All these things need to go into your calculations so that you can come up with a considerable amount of good prices also for your sponsorship packages”, Peter concludes.

What The Future Holds

Will wants to know where Peter sees the future of sponsorships for virtual events going. “The future is clearly going into a more virtual world. One of the key factors that I see, which will clearly come is going to be communication between people. You will be able to be in a virtual room and to really interact with other people”.

“All of this will have an impact on the event industry. We’re going to have more and more virtual events, which are going to feel like physical events. At the same time, I believe that we’re going to see a lot of hybrid events. We’re going to see, especially now through the crisis that people have learned how virtual events are organized. They will also see the benefits actually by bringing the virtual world to the real event and to create these hybrid events”.


And that’s a wrap on this week’s edition of #EventIcons! Today we covered the exciting world of sponsorships for virtual events. Hopefully, you are better equipped now to translate this amazing source of revenue into your virtual event. Make sure you come back next week and join us for another iconic episode!



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