Sponsorship, or partnership as its rapidly becoming known, provides a necessary form of income for associations and not-for-profit events.  This subsequently helps to keep delegate registration costs low and attendee numbers high.  But the world of sponsorship is changing as a result of the change in business relationships. This article explores a few of those changes in more detail.

The growing importance of “experience”

Marketeers continue to invest in “experiential” marketing to expose their brand and products to existing and new clients.  Trade exhibitions and conferences offer the ideal opportunity for buyers to interact with a brand and its products.  With stricter regulations such as GDPR these opportunities are becoming more important for companies wishing to grow their market share.

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How is sponsorship changing from a compliance perspective?

Over the last decade we have seen more of regulation across the pharmaceutical, medical device and financial industries.  This in turn has led to more restrictions on promotional activities albeit for the greater good.

For example, Medtech Europe now prevents any member from directly financing the attendance of health care practitioners (HCPs, KOLs etc) at congresses.

The pharma industry in Europe has for some time had to go to the nth degree to ensure that prescription drugs are not promoted to the public.  Additionally any meals provided to HCPs must fall within certain financial limits.  Furthermore giving out branded coffee mugs is not even possible as they could be perceived as an “inducement” to prescribe a certain drug!

Breaking these and the many other rules are likely to result in hefty fines from the respective industry bodies.

Change from a measurement perspective

At the same time marketeers need to demonstrate ROI on investments and exhibitions are no exception.  Measurements can include footfall, interactions, badges scanned, leads, confirmed business or any combination of these.  For this reason some organisers are now able to show “heat maps” of popular areas within an exhibition.

The partnership era

Out of all of this a new era is growing, that of partnership with commercial sponsors.  The approach from conference organisers is becoming much less about “here’s the package price” and more about “here are the opportunities, which are going to be the best match for you?”.  Conversations about price and cost are also being replaced with those around “level of investment” and “return”.  Conversely, more and more sponsors are happy to promote their participation in conferences to their own customers providing an opportunity for you to win more attendees.

What can organisers do to help companies reach their demographic?

Organisers must modernise and ensure that they are working with up to date practices in order to ensure sponsor success.

  • Help your clients measure their success.
  • Ensure your conference is compliant for your industry.
  • Look after your sponsors. Talk with them, not at them.
  • Identify creative opportunities for mutual benefit.

By Rob Eveleigh, MD, Brightelm

First published on 20/03/18