Fresh ideas, new technologies: how to reinvent outdated sponsorship models

By Kristen Wright, Director of Marketing, Forj

If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that “don’t put all your eggs in one basket” isn’t just a saying, but solid advice.

Many association leaders, overly dependent on bringing in sponsorship revenue through annual meetings, were panicked as authorities deemed the in-person events unsafe. Even those that have turned to virtual or hybrid events have faced challenges related to exhibitor hesitation – an unfortunate trend that almost half of the organizations surveyed by ASAE said to continue in 2021.

As most associations return to in-person events, forward-thinking leaders are also diversifying their revenue mix (and engagement channels) with ever-on digital strategies.

These integrated approaches go beyond the confines of a single event to build stronger relationships with sponsors and B2B marketers, which include exposure opportunities throughout the year.

“I’ve seen many instances where an association has a big event and then it’s like, ‘We’ll see you next year,'” said Matt Heinz, president of Heinz Marketing Inc., who has more than 20 years of experience in marketing, business development and sales.

“You generate all this momentum, bring people together and keep them waiting 11 and a half months for the next one,” he continued. “Think about what you can do to continue that experience in between: any touchpoints you create to keep people engaged are opportunities for the association and the sponsor.”

A modern approach to traditional sponsorships

Leading an association in an increasingly digital world allows leaders to innovate on behalf of their sponsors. With the right technology, associations can pitch new ideas to increase visibility and build connections beyond events, while offering on-demand engagement, real-time data analysis, and fully customized program options.

Rather than limiting partners to event booths, give them the option of having a presence on your website or hosting community forums. Or allow them to share their expertise by hosting webinars that simultaneously highlight their solutions.

Whether through email, sponsored content, or other channels, provide sponsors with ongoing opportunities to facilitate engagement, contribute to the conversation, and establish themselves as thought leaders. In doing so, association leaders elevate the concept of sponsorship from a simple source of revenue to a successful symbiotic relationship that extends member benefits.

“I’ve been told that consumer decisions are based on emotion and B2B decisions are based on logic,” Heinz said. ” If it was true, [sponsors/B2B marketers] would have much easier tasks – all they would need is an ROI calculator. But emotions are part of it; relationships are part of it. »

Create legitimate and ongoing value

Heinz said the associations are in an enviable position in that they have earned the trust and attention of their members over time.

“Associations have done hard work to grow their audience – it’s a long-term investment,” he said. “That’s why when you look at the manuals of so many B2B marketing groups, you’ll find that trade associations are at the heart of their programs.”

As trusted knowledge hubs, associations must put reputation first, a rule that applies to all engagement channels, whether in-person, digital or hybrid. “The question is how do you keep getting your audience’s attention,” he said. “You have to be careful about putting revenue and presentations ahead of your audience, because you risk losing the credibility of your vehicle.”

The good news? Content provided by sponsors allows associations to present a variety of ideas and perspectives. In addition to relevant products and services, each sponsor should be considered a source of specialized industry information.

“Some of the best content – best practice guides, blog posts, videos – comes from providers who know that if they can be the meaning makers in their space, they can capture attention, gain trust and truly become the holder when the prospect is ready to buy,” Heinz said.

To that end, Heinz said associations have the opportunity to guide sponsors on how to maximize exposure opportunities throughout the year through compelling content that doesn’t come across as a sales pitch.

“Associations can do the math and say, ‘When we calculated the ROI of a full year of omnichannel programs with our sponsors, we found the ones that sold the least the most because they got continued attention. by engaging with their prospect,” Heinz. mentioned.

This will increase the return on investment for your sponsors while improving the member experience.

“If you lose your audience’s attention, it’s really hard to come back,” he said.


The team at Forj, an MX platform for professional associations and community organizations, thanks Matt Heinz, President of Heinz Marketing Inc., for his expertise in B2B marketing and sponsorships. For more information on how Forj can help improve member and sponsor experiences, visit www.forj.ai.

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