Association event supporters are stretching their spending to achieve more

October 19, 2021

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At the start of the year, AH released a series of predictions of what lies ahead for associations and non-profits in 2021. We're revisiting those predictions each month to see what's changed as associations and non-profits continue to adapt.

After a year marked by change—whether it be workforce, conference, or society as a whole—event sponsorship spending is undergoing one of the more significant changes in the association industry. From all-in spending for one annual meeting or event to comprehensive year-round exposure, sponsors are proving to be more responsive to diversified approaches to marketing spending that provide broader exposure beyond a single investment in sponsoring association events. These changes allow for more strategic tactics that yield better results for both sponsor and association.

Rethinking Marketing Spend
The transition has inspired exhibitors, sponsors, and advertisers to think of new ways to allocate their marketing budgets. Today, that means exploring the full breadth of marketing opportunities an association has available. Those opportunities often take the form of sponsored webinars, continuing education sessions and materials, and digital advertising.

“A lot of organizations who have traditionally focused on events have taken some calculated risks in terms of diversifying their spend since the beginning of the pandemic,” said Christina DeRose, Industry Relations Manager for AH.  “With an emphasis on thought leadership, I am seeing many marketing teams begin to think outside of the box in how they choose to get their message across and what will have the most impact.”

“Instead of dropping $10,000 a year on sponsoring a single event, they’re now looking at comprehensive, year-round exposure to engage association members. So, while they still continue to support events, they may reallocate some funds to sponsored webinars or digital marketing opportunities with an association.” To earn those sponsorship dollars, though, associations need to be ready to innovate to capture sponsors’ interest.

New Engagement Strategies
A sponsor or exhibitor is used to seeing their marketing money turned into branded posters or lanyards at an in-person event. However, virtual events require innovative thinking to get sponsors on board.

“Marketers want opportunities that offer more engagement,” DeRose said. “They’ve also placed a greater emphasis on KPIs and data to justify their spending.”

Such thinking has manifested into retargeting ad campaigns, in which online advertising targets consumers based on past internet behavior. The campaigns have blossomed into an effective option for advertisers and sponsors that want to align with an event and support an association without having to rely on the certainty of annual meetings.

“Retargeting ad campaigns have become a wonderful option for a ‘travel-restricted friendly’ sponsorship opportunity, where the campaign is the benefit, but exhibitors, sponsors, and advertisers are being recognized as sponsors of an event without needing to be present,” DeRose said. “So, it’s the best of both worlds, and in having this option available we are retaining the event revenue.”

Sponsorship in 2022 and Beyond
As exciting as this revolution is, event sponsorship spending, there are considerations for its effects on the long-term viability of event sponsorship revenue. In-person attendance can be affected, whether companies have travel restrictions or lack of staff to attend. Coupled with the success of their shifts in spending, advertisers, and sponsors may decide not to send someone to an event in the future, resulting in fewer overall exhibitors at an in-person event.

That effect on attendance could hinder the networking many association members have come to expect from in-person events. However, as has been proven over the past 18 months, associations can and will adapt. By leveraging the success of diversified spending, associations can create more opportunities to engage and provide value to sponsors, exhibitors, and advertisers.  

Learn more about AH’s Industry Relations team, the experts in sponsorship, exhibits, and advertising sales.