“At the end of the day, there is one group that is more important than all others, and it’s the attendees,” Donna Kastner, vice president of expo/sponsor sales and activation for Velvet Chainsaw Consulting, says in the latest video for The Intersection: Where Technology Meets Inspiration, presented by PCMA and PSAV Presentation Services. “If the attendee experiences something valuable, helpful, things change for them — it gets better for everybody else.”
The topic of the video? “Increasing Exhibit/Sponsor Sales & Value.” What does that actually have to do with the attendee experience? Simple: Attendees who have a great meeting experience associate that with the sponsors who helped make it possible — assuming you’ve done enough to link the two in their minds.
“We try to work with some of our major, longtime sponsors and members to go through an annual partnership with them, so we’re not trying to sell one-off sponsorships,” Kent Allaway, CEM, CMP, vice president of meetings and trade shows for the Produce Marketing Association (PMA), said in an interview. “We want to work with those companies and their marketing plans to achieve their goals and objectives for the year that relate to sponsorship and brand exposure.”
PMA produces hundreds of events around the world each year, culminating in the 20,000-attendee, 900-exhibitor Fresh Summit Convention & Expo. That means a lot of opportunities to help sponsors connect with attendees — at a time when attendees have more demands on their time and attention than ever. “Slapping a logo on a sign is really no longer what a company wants for their brand,” Allaway said. “They want the engagement with the audience; they want to make sure that audience fits their need.”
For PMA, that’s meant everything from product placements during the show — including sponsors’ food items “in a meal, on a menu, on a table,” Allaway said — to pushing out sponsor messages through social media. But sponsors have to do their part, too. “If you spend a dollar on sponsorship, you should be spending at least a dollar on activation,” Allaway said, “so the money that you spend for the actual sponsorship is not where it ends. Sort of like buying a booth — you get a piece of concrete, but then there’s a lot of stuff you have to do to that to really make it valuable.”
Allaway has found that many smaller or mid-sized companies have a challenge when it comes to activating their sponsorship. “Not only do they not have the resources to pull it off,” Allaway said, “but also they don’t want to spend the money and they don’t really understand it’s what they need to do to get the most out of it. So we try to help them with that.”
Seven takeaways from Velvet Chainsaw Consulting’s Donna Kastner:
1. Align sponsorships with categories that attendees most value.
2. Zero in on a short list of top investors.
3. Leverage leadership relations.
4. Trim back your sponsorship menus.
5. Everyone is in sales — all staff must command the value proposition.
6. Extend the runway — help sponsors develop 90-plus-day plans.
7. Give exhibitors a low-cost taste of sponsorship.