Even with all of the different marketing tools available we continue to see event sponsorship generate high marketing returns, as reinforced by a recent poll we conducted with over one hundred B2B marketing executives.

The majority of those polled also agreed that event sponsorship will be a large part of their next-year plans. More and more events emerge every year, making the decision about which to sponsor increasingly challenging.

Why are events so favored?

When done well, events of all kinds bring together a network of thought leaders and decision makers from a variety of industries in an environment that puts sales teams face-to-face with prospects. This dynamic allows for new relationships, inspires change, shortens sales cycles and delivers opportunities directly to those who will be responsible for following up.

Not only does sponsoring an event help you to procure new and repeat business, but it can also position your talent as thought leaders. Tertiary benefits of sponsorship are the opportunities for employees to network within a new community, enhance their skillset and further increase their knowledge about the industry they are serving.

There are dozens, if not hundreds, of events every organization has to choose from each year. The smaller your budget for events, the more impactful this decision becomes.

We’ve outlined three steps to equip you with the knowledge you need to make the right choice for driving event sponsorship ROI.

Step 1: Deciding the Type of Event You Should Sponsor
There are a multitude of events your organization can sponsor, both live and virtual. In-person live events, private events, virtual events, and councils and associations all provide unique value.

Determine what your underlying goals for event sponsorship are, then choose an event which can help you attain those objectives.

In Person Live Events –
Even in our digital age, nothing surpasses the ability to get face to face with your prospects and customers. In person interaction is an ideal way to solidify brand loyalty and uncover impactful and lasting connections with new prospects, while cementing and growing opportunities with current customers.

Look for events that supply you with more than just a booth. Forums should be interactive and networking rich to ensure relationships can be cultivated. Sponsoring in person live events can support goals around demand generation, branding, thought leadership and pipeline development.

“Not only does sponsoring an event help you to procure new and repeat business, but it can also position your talent as thought leaders.”

Private Events –
Business-focused, small group online events or in person dinners with key prospects, peers and experts in the field can be a productive way to exchange ideas and effectively market your product or service.

Sponsoring private events can support account-based marketing objectives and generate more one-on-one time with prospects and customers, free of competition.

“Sponsoring private events can support account-based marketing objectives and generate more one-on-one time with prospects and customers, free of competition.”

Virtual Events –
Virtual events can prove to be as lucrative as live events when executed properly as they create an environment for your organization to connect with prospects and customers, bypassing the costs associated with traveling. Virtual events can help you access the relatively inaccessible and enable you to collect insights from your constituents through polling and panel discussions.

Councils and Associations –
Councils and Associations are not the typical first choice to sponsor, but have proven to be a great complement to event sponsorship due to the 365 day access. Unlike typical events which are a one- to three-day affair, memberships in these groups provide access year round and can also be a great content marketing distribution channel.

Councils and associations are vehicles for thought leadership and industry insights, as through these peer-to-peer engagements business opportunities will present themselves.

Step 2: Ask Your Event Organizer Smart Questions
(and why these questions are important!)

Now that you have aligned your goals with the type of event you’d like to sponsor, we recommend asking smart questions to dig deeper into the events or shows you are considering.

1. How long has the event been running?
The longer it’s been running, the more history you’ll have to evaluate.

2. Do you have any case studies from past sponsors you can share?
Case studies (plural) can provide you the perspective of your peers. What did they get out of the event? Why do they return? 3

Download the entire list: 17 Questions to Ask Your Event Organizer

3. Do you have past sponsors that would serve as a reference? Can I contact them?
Have an unfiltered conversation with a peer to get your most important questions addressed, without the presence of the show organizer.

4. How many sponsors have returned from last year?
If there are over 10-15 sponsors and exhibitors returning, ask them to provide you the percent. Be wary if the percentage is below 50.

5. Who is the organizer of the event? What is their primary business and reputation?
There are several organizers who have a less than stellar reputation. Get to know these names and steer clear of their events.

6. If an executive profile is director and up, what percentage of your audience is executive?
Will you be talking to influencers or decision makers? Know this ahead of time as this will determine who you send from your team and more importantly if this event is even a right fit for you. A show is more likely to deliver quick hits and returns when over 50% of attendees are executive level.

7. Is there a fee for participants? What are they paying for? How much are they paying?
This is an important question to ask because if they are not paying, they are not committed. If they are not committed, the number of “registered” and the number of “attending” can prove to be two different numbers. In fact, numbers could drop by 50% or greater! Additionally, even if they show, that doesn’t mean they will attend sessions, exhibit halls, etc. If they are paying a significant fee (between $1,000 to $5,000) they are likely to attend from beginning to end.

8. If the meeting is based on guaranteed meetings, is the agreement two ways? Would the prospects also have chosen us?
Many organizers of these events will guarantee a meeting with a participant, regardless of whether they want to meet you. This, in turn, becomes an expensive and wasted meeting.

9. If the meeting is based on guaranteed meetings, what is being offered to the participant in exchange? Waived participant fee? Hotel? Air?
If the participants get a free ride to have meetings with you, the foundation of the meeting is tainted. Think about the last time you were pitched a time share for a holiday club. Did you want to sit through the sales pitch, or did you just want the free weekend away? 4

Download the entire list: 17 Questions to Ask Your Event Organizer

10. Can I see past reviews of the content?
Content is the number one reason participants choose an event. If the content does not deliver, neither will the event.

11. Are speaking opportunities purchased?
This goes back to the value of the content. If the organizer is selling the speaking opportunities, they are not vetting the content.

12. How many non-sponsor participants attend?
When asked how many people are attending, many organizers will give a total number which includes the sponsors. At the trade shows in particular, the vendors tend to outnumber the prospects.

13.What’s your value proposition for sponsors? What makes you unique?
After a while, you’ll feel that all the events start to blend, but there are a few that truly stand out and have a unique value proposition. Those are the events that your team will want to attend. Those are the events that will likely generate your greatest returns.

14. What should I expect as a return?
First ask, what are you seeking, and then make the match. Are you looking to fill a database or a pipeline? Are you seeking quantity or quality? How will you follow up with these contacts? How will you generate a return? What is your Measure of Performance (MOP)?

15.Who are your competitors?
By learning who they compete with, you’ll better understand the organizers primary business while also discovering new events to evaluate.

“After a while, you’ll feel that all the events start to blend, but there are a few that truly stand out and have a unique value proposition.”

Step 3: Cost Per Lead – Is Your Math Correct?
Many companies are still too focused on quantity versus quality when it comes to events. Keep in mind that your organization should be looking at both the sponsorship fee and soft costs associated with events. Below is an example of a traditional trade show event versus a Frost & Sullivan Executive MindXchange event. Note that attendee/participants numbers are much higher with a traditional trade show, but the harder-to-measure (and often forgotten) soft costs can drive your cost per lead through the roof.

Traditional Trade Show
Sponsorship Fee: $10,000
Additional Fees: $15,000 (rentals, drayage, setup costs, travel & entertainment, etc)

Total Participants: 5,000
Executive %: 15% (director and above)
Unqualified Leads: 225
Soft Costs: $50,000 (This represents the manpower needed to comb through the 225 unqualified leads and the lost sales opportunities)
Total Cost: $75,000

Outcome: One Opportunity


A Frost & Sullivan Executive MindXchange

Sponsorship Fee: $35,000
Additional Fees: $5,000 (travel & entertainment only)
Total Participants: 150
Executive %: 80% (director and above)
Relationships: 20
Soft Costs: $0
Total Cost: $40,000
Outcome: Seven Opportunities 6

If you look at the TCO (Total Cost of Ownership) for a sponsorship of a trade show versus an event like Frost & Sullivan’s Executive MindXchange, the latter will prove to be much more cost effective. Look for events that supply much more than a list of names!

Many organizations don’t account for the soft costs of the manpower behind going through long lists of names, prospecting, identifying the right point of contact and building a relationship.

Most of the list from traditional events may not actually be prospects, and these long lists can take upwards of six months to identify an opportunity. Capitalize on events that will actually provide a pipeline today and foster a forum for true relationships with decision makers to develop.

Bonus: How to Extend Your Event ROI
Staying connected and relevant is a way in which marketing can help sales teams succeed. Creating LinkedIn groups, integrating your investment with other activities the organizer offers and brainstorming new ways to keep in touch with these prospects is critical to your marketing return.

Consider creating a content asset which event producers can distribute and repurpose. This will give your asset additional legs, provides valuable thought leadership and keeps your brand front and center well after the event.

If your organization is giving a presentation or has a speaking role, record it! After the event you can broadcast the recording in a webinar setting, take a short clip of the recording to use as a teaser video to get users to perform the desired action (i.e. visit a landing page), use the video as social media content, or come up with a new way to use the footage – the possibilities are varied and abundant.

“Integrating your investment with other activities the organizer offers and brainstorming new ways to keep in touch with these prospects is critical to your marketing return.”

If you attended an interesting workshop at the event, blog about it to share what you’ve learned. To make company newsletters livelier, take photos at the event and add them into the content with a snippet of what your team experienced. You can even pull interesting quotes or facts you heard at the event, send them to your graphics team, and then post the excerpts as social media content.

All of these avenues (and more if you get creative) will demonstrate to your prospects that you’re a leader in the space and will support your sales teams in making that next connection and closing the deal.

What are your favorite questions to ask when choosing an event to sponsor? Share them in the comments below!

For a listing of Frost & Sullivan’s best-in-class ExecutiveMindXchange events visit www.frost.com/cal