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Event sponsorships have long been a tool for B2B marketers to connect our sellers with buyers. As we return to in person events, selecting the right event sponsorship investments are evermore critical.

Over the years, I’ve managed both small and large event sponsorship budgets from $50,000 per year all the way to several million dollars per year. But there are 3 cardinal rules that I use to evaluate event sponsorships and sponsorship ROI.

Rule #1: Industry Impact

As companies grow, the position of a company in its industry grows in importance. Choosing the right event can demonstrate your leadership in that industry. And while Industry leadership can be quantified in several ways – mostly brand valuation and NPS — there is a softer side of the evaluation. Can an event play a key role in positioning your firm as an industry leader?

Choosing the right events is critical here and certain events will align to your position as an industry leader. To evaluate industry impact map in a 2×2 matrix of all the large events in your industry where the horizontal is events size (indexed by c-suite participation) and event coverage by trades that have a positive sentiment.

Rule #2: Helping Sales

Probably the most important rule for event sponsorship investment is can we turn the event sponsorship into new accounts or revenue for the company. Or better thought of as helping the sales team sell.

All to often I see companies spend money on event sponsorships that don’t help the sales team sell. Or they choose elements / booths / designs that don’t allow the sales team to engage prospects or customers. It’s a huge missed opportunity and waste of investment.

The way to measure this is using expected audience participation as an index of buyers / total audience size. Sometimes the smallest events can help sellers best.

Rule #3: Tent Poles

Every event strategy should have 2 to 3 key industry events annually that are tent poles for your event investments. These tent poles are great vehicles for thought leadership; big announcements; and executive participation.

At Microsoft, CES was such an event. Not only is it a tent pole for the Consumer Electronics industry — which as the builders of XBOX, Windows, etc. was core to our company. But it also allowed us to demonstrate our R&D / future products in the right context. Additionally, other lines of business could build their own activations along side our corporate CES investment. This allowed us to extend our story telling in the context of each division’s audience.

For example, for advertisers we created a “lounge of the future” one year for CMOs to hang out and experience CES from the lens of brand marketers. Our CMO experience sought to answer, “Now that you’ve seen 100 futuristic televisions from world-class CE manufacturers, what does this mean for marketers telling their stories and building the brands?” “What does this mean for TV advertising?” In a way, we were able to showcase how MSFT can play a role in helping those brands tell their story across all our divisions in the context of the future of television. What better way to elevate your brand in the eyes of a customer or prospect. And by doing it as a lounge (versus a booth) we were able to provide the sales team a place to meet clients and use the CES milieu of topics as a way to start a conversation. What better way to support sales.

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