What do job fairs, benefits, trade shows, exhibitions, conferences and concerts have in common? These are all events that have pivoted toward the virtual world. The increase of virtual events was already on the rise before 2020, but now it’s greater than ever and continuing to grow.
Virtual events can be attended by an audience that traditional events may limit, due to proximity and financial restraints, opening the door to reaching new people. They are very cost-effective to host, eliminating things like traveling costs, hotel stays, venue rentals, and logistical expenses. There are now several virtual event companies and platforms that will organize and manage virtual events. Overall, holding an event virtually can save a lot of time. money and hassle.
According to Allied Market Research, the events industry was valued at $1,135.4 billion in 2019 and is expected to reach $1,552.9 billion by 2028. That increase is set to come from virtual events according to Grand View Research, which shows that virtual events, which accounted for nearly $78 billion in 2019, is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of more than 23% from 2020 to 2027. And while these numbers are great for the events industry, I too see opportunity.
One of the most popular ways of monetizing events, even virtual ones, is with paid sponsorships. Whether it’s through live streams or webinars, there are plenty of opportunities for companies to get exposure for their brands by becoming a sponsor. While sponsorships aren’t a new concept (my agency has coordinated many sponsorships for concerts, festivals and sporting events) the increase in virtual events has exposed many additional opportunities that may work very well for some brands.
Virtual events offer similar opportunities for advertising as live events do. There’s logo and messaging placements, VIP pass giveaways, website and email marketing, social media mentions and posts and more! In addition, virtual events also offer gamification, digital banner ads and video messaging opportunities.
No matter the opportunities available, sponsorship ROI is tied to brand awareness and direct audience engagement. But not all companies hope to achieve the same thing. You must be able to match the most relevant sponsors and their objectives with the right events. This is how you get the biggest bang for your advertising buck.
A big part of sponsorship is also proving impact. The data you gather during an event can prove the value of sponsorship, mainly, what did your client receive in return for their sponsorship investment. Some of the information you will want to follow up with is: the number of attendees, social media reach, leads captured, audience engagement and polling results for branding awareness.
Sponsors invest in events for the attendee’s attention. While you’re not able to have a giant vinyl banner at the check-in table with a sponsor’s logo at a virtual event, take advantage of the technology that virtual events have to offer like home screens that allow attendees to flip through the sponsors of an event. This option not only increases brand awareness but can be tracked by site traffic and click rates.
Looking toward the future, 93% of event marketers plan to invest in virtual events and 68% of them will be looking for a hybrid solution to manage both virtual and in-person events. (Bizzabo, 2020). Event planners are no longer looking at virtual events as something to pivot towards but rather the direction to purposely move forward. That is all the reason it should be considered as a viable media option for brands looking to get their name out there.