What Is Sponsorship for Meetings and Trade Shows?

What are sponsorships, and why are they used? Sponsorship involves a meaningful exchange of value (such as money, goods, or services) in exchange for marketing benefits to the Sponsor. Sponsorships are usually related to an exhibit; however, not always. They can create additional revenue to offset conference or convention costs, and they help maintain relationships with partner vendors.

sponsoships in meetings spending

Global Sponsorship spending from 2007 to 2018 (in billion U.S. dollars)

In the chart you’ll see in 2018, companies spent 65.8 BILLION dollars, so it’s a large market to tap into.

Types of Sponsorship

There are several different types of sponsorships you can create.

Title or Main Sponsor: will underwrite the majority of the event, and its name will be associated with the name of the event. (We do not typically see this in our events.)

In-Kind Sponsor: provides goods or services at no cost to the event in exchange for recognition to attendees. (We do not generally see this in our events.)

Tiered Model: Example – Bronze, Silver, Gold, Diamond with predetermined benefits associated with each; easiest to administer.

Credit Model: a hybrid between a customized model and a tiered model with pre-set benefits; in my opinion, this is the best way to generate the most revenue.

Customized Model: you must customize a sponsorship for each Sponsor, very time-consuming.

Understanding what type of sponsorships can be developed for your meeting or trade show is crucial to let prospective sponsors know precisely what they’re paying for.

Creating a Sponsorship Prospectus

The medium in which you communicate the different sponsorships available to any potential sponsors is via a “Sponsorship Prospectus.” A sponsorship prospectus is a sponsor benefits package that contains information to assist in decision-making as it relates to spending marketing dollars.

When creating a sponsorship prospectus, think from the Sponsor’s point of view. How does this sponsorship benefit the Sponsor’s company? Compile statistics from your last expo to provide reliable information to ensure your Sponsor that whatever product they are trying to sell, you can provide relevant information to attendees at the exhibit hall. What are the percentages of attendee types, for example, 28% Manufacturing, 32% Homebuilders, etc.? Also, providing them with statistics of titles is helpful such as 62% are Owners, 14% General Managers, so they know they are dealing with the people who can make decisions about buying their product.

You also need to tell them what benefits they will receive for their various levels of sponsorship monies. For instance, if they pay $40,000 for a Platinum Sponsorship, they will receive a 20’x20′ booth, four complimentary registrations, a banner ad on the mobile app, logo on the conference website, etc.

Keep an Eye Out for Every Opportunity

Another component to think about when creating a spreadsheet to determine sponsorship costs is identifying opportunities. Start with your hotel at which the conference and exhibit will be held. If it is a location where they are used to hosting large scale tradeshows and conferences, then the hotel will know how to capitalize on your sponsorships by charging marketing fees for various opportunities you can put together at their property. Be sure to ask them if they have any marketing opportunities and the fees involved. Also, check for costs to produce, install, and dismantle. You need to be sure and include those costs when determining how much you will charge for the overall sponsorship opportunity. These hotel opportunities can include floor clings, mirror clings, door clings, gobos, floating logo in a pool, digital signage, escalator clings, elevator clings, logoed tables, and registration desks. I even did a logo in an aquarium behind the check-in desk at a hotel in Vegas once! The sky’s the limit – get creative!

Another area of opportunity is your agenda. Does a certain sponsor want to get in front of your board members at the start of their meeting for a 3-minute presentation and a logo on the screen? What about having one of your partners sponsor the keynote speaker and a VIP private cocktail reception where only a few of their people get a signed copy of the speaker’s book and a photo? Food and beverage are the highest line items on budgets, so try to monetize it and have sponsors help you pay for the Welcome Reception or the breakfast, lunch, or breaks?

Have one partner sponsor your conference website, and a different partner sponsor your mobile app. What about email blasts to registered attendees? The list goes on and on about items that can be monetized and sponsored.

Selling Sponsorships for Meetings and Trade Shows

Ok, now that you’ve created a sponsorship prospectus, how do you sell sponsorships? Roll out the sponsorship prospectus in stages. Go to any sponsors who sponsored last year by tier first and give them a sense of urgency on when they need to decide before you open it up to subsequent tiers and eventually to all prospective sponsors. In many instances, we will not sell sponsorships, the sales team of our clients will sell the actual sponsorships as they have the day-to-day close relationships already established with their partners. Once they sell the sponsorships, we will typically then manage those sponsorship deliverables sold. This can get tricky to ensure that all sponsors provide high-resolution logos, that you provide them with all of the many benefits included under each sponsorship level.

Great graphic from GIST on what benefits a sponsor can expect.

You have to be very organized as to who gets what. Create a spreadsheet of sponsorship deliverables and include the sponsor name, what they are sponsoring, contact info, booth number, amount of sponsorship, deliverables, and status. You then must have a plan to meet your deliverables, such as adding those due dates into calendars, when a sign must go into production, when it is installed and dismantled, etc.

Treat your sponsors like partners and engage them to assist with marketing your conference!

• First, create different size banners and send them to all your sponsors, asking them to put them on their website to promote your event and drive attendance.

• If you announce a high-level keynote speaker, again have your partners post over all their social media platforms.

• If they are a speaker at your conference, have them film a 30-second video regarding what they are speaking about and how it can benefit a prospective attendee.

• If they will agree, have them put a conference link in their email signatures.

Remember, the goal is for the Sponsor to get in front of as many attendees as possible so they can sell their products and services, so they are usually eager to help you in marketing your event! Don’t be afraid to ask for their assistance. All they can say is no.

Lastly, please, please, please make it a point to meet and thank your sponsors! I can’t tell you what a long way the words “thank you” go with a sponsor. 

• Forge a relationship with the Sponsor and send a quick email or text if you hear of a promotion they received or if they’ve had a baby. They remember these little interactions.

• At the conference, go into the tradeshow and visit each sponsors’ booths, shake their hands, look them in the eye, and tell them, “thank you!”

• After the event, send out a Sponsor Survey to gauge their experience and see if there is anything you can do better.

• After the event, it is best practice to send out Thank You Letters to sponsors. In the age of emails and social media, when a person receives a handwritten thank you note, it is a personal touch that will make an impression.


If you have any questions or need us to assist you with your conference or trade show, drop us a line! Feel free to check out our Events page for more bright ideas on making your meetings creative, efficient, and easy.

Holly Swanzy

Author Holly Swanzy

Senior Program Manager | Meeting and incentive travel planning professional for 25 years. Delighted when I can collaborate with my clients to not only relationship-build, but determine their goals and provide them with stellar customer service to ensure we achieve their goals.

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