Assessing Trade Show Sponsorships: Smart Move or Waste of Money?
by Susan Friedmann
Let’s face it. Participating in a trade show is expensive. There’s no doubt about it. When you add up all the expenses associated with trade shows — including registration fees, display costs, shipping, giveaway items, booth staff salaries and lodging, and more — you’re talking about some serious money.
But wait! There’s more. From the minute you express interest in exhibiting at a show, you’re flooded with sponsorship opportunities. For a mere $250, for example, you get an ad in the show directory. Double that, and your logo shows up on a few prominently placed banners. Prices rise steadily, allegedly keeping pace with the enhanced exposure more dollars can bring. As logic goes, you get more visibility, the deeper you dig into your wallet.
Is it really worth it? Does more money really equal increased attendee attention and consequently better sales? How can you tell which sponsorship opportunities are really good deals and which are a waste of money?
All sponsorship opportunities are valuable — to the right exhibitor. There must be a good match between the exhibitor, their goals and objectives, and the results the sponsorship can deliver. Before you agree to a sponsorship deal, you must make sure that your participation will move you closer to achieving your goals and objectives. Otherwise, keep your money in your pocket.
There are four criteria you can use to assess if a sponsorship opportunity is right for you and likely to deliver your desired result. These criteria are:
1. Target Audience Draw
Does this show draw a large group of attendees who are in your target audience? Will this group be likely to buy your products and services? Is there a clear benefit in putting your name in front of these attendees? If you’re at a show outside of your industry or region, or a show that draws smaller numbers of attendees from your target audience, sponsorship is probably not the route to go.
2. Percentage of Exhibiting Cost
Consider the cost of sponsorship as a percentage of your total exhibiting expense. If the sponsorship is equivalent to more than 50% of your overall exhibiting budget, step back and think: Is this the best way to invest my money? Would my purposes be better served by a larger exhibit or even exhibiting at an additional show?
3. Number of Same Level Sponsorships
Make sure you know how many other companies will be sponsoring on the same level you will. As a rule of thumb, the more money you spend, the less same level competition you will have. It is important to know what level your competitors are sponsoring at, as your own sponsorship, if appropriate, should be comparable or better.
4. Organizer Support
Anyone can sell sponsorship opportunities — but not everyone can make them valuable. Consider the show management. How we do they promote the show? How well do they work with the media? What with do to ensure that sponsors are mentioned often, prominently placed, and kept in the public eye? Organizers play a pivotal role in show success. If you find an organizer who understands your goals and objectives, sponsorship can more than pay for itself. On the other hand, if a show organizer is not behind their sponsors, save your money.
If after assessing a sponsorship opportunity, you find that these criteria are met to your satisfaction, move forward. Here are three ways to maximize the return on trade show sponsorship:
1. Offer Added Value
Use your sponsorship opportunities to give something extra to the attendee. This can be something tangible — tote bags,books, pdas — or perhaps more valuable, a knowledge based intangible. Consider sponsoring speakers, mini or full workshops/seminars, panel discussions, and the like to get the attendeesâ€™ attention, capture it for a period of time, and keep your name highly visible.
2. Promote Heavily
Once you have committed to a sponsorsip, it is in your best interest to promote it every chance you get. You want as many attendees at the show as possible, especially if they are members of your target audience, to know about your sponsorship and how it can help them. Consider special advertising, and explore co-op advertising possibilities with the show organizers.
3. Partner Appropriately
By cooperating with companies who are in the same industry although not your direct competitors, it is possible to sponsor an event at a greater level than you could manage alone. Explore this option if you want to achieve a high level of visibilty at a given show yet don’t have the budget to do it all on your own.
Remember, sponsorship is just one more tool in your trade show toolbox. Used properly, it can help you achieve your goals and objectives. Keep a close eye on your plans and another on your budget, and I’m sure you can make sponsorship work to your advantage.
Susan A. Friedmann, CSP, The Tradeshow Coach, Lake Placid, NY, author: â€œMeeting & Event Planning for Dummies,â€? working with companies to improve their meeting and event success through coaching, consulting and training. For a free copy of â€œ10 Common Mistakes Exhibitors Makeâ€?, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; website: http://www.thetradeshowcoach.com