This is a guest blog from event sponsorship guru, Rasmus Bech Hansen – Co-founder of Airfinity, a UK based technology firm seeking to make it as easy, precise and accountable to sponsor an event as digital advertising.
In 2017, the majority of companies still perceived event sponsorship as an add-on to their other more important, business generating set of marketing activities. Sponsoring an event is, to this day, associated with doing good, giving back and showing off the softer side of the company.
My prediction is that 2018 will be the year where this ends, where doing well replaces doing good as a reason for sponsoring. A confluence of trends will transform event sponsorship into becoming recognised as a marketing channel in its own right alongside display ads, search, social, TV or print advertising.
Why is that and what does that mean for events?
The shift is a result of two major developments in the world of marketing and two equally big trends in the world of events.
Big sponsor trends
As everyone should have noticed by now, 2017 was the year where digital advertising and social media, in particular, came under intense scrutiny for the first time. Fake data, advertising next to offensive content, and the rise of ad-blocking has led many to question whether pure digital can drive growth – even marketing behemoths, like P&G, cut their digital spend by more than £100M.
This all means that marketers are restlessly looking for the next big thing – a new format, a channel with the best of digital’s precision but in a more authentic, impactful and trustworthy way. What could it be? Events!
Parallel to this, the corporate towards accountability and efficiency is taking a new level of ruthlessness. A recent report in Marketing Week noted how more and more companies have set up marketing efficiency departments. If you can’t prove your ROI, you simply won’t get a part of the marketing pie. Since events already constitute a big spend for many firms, if they aggregate their total event spend (which very few do, but that’s just a matter of time), the demand to prove ROI will follow.
Big event trends
In the world of events, the growth in great event tech firms means that it has never been easier to run an event. The playing field is being levelled which means we are seeing the emergence of a new type of entrepreneurial, niche-focused, independent organiser. Events have become a profession more broadly available and the result is an increase in the number of smaller events.
The second big trend in the world of events is the rise of data – both in terms of what is now available and how important it is to use it when making decisions. Every event leaves a big data footprint and with advancement in event tech and registrations, such as RFID, this footprint is growing more and more every year. All this data means that events can give sponsors what they are looking for when they consider the ROI.
An advanced marketing channel
The combination of a rise in demand for newer and more authentic marketing formats, the increasing focus on reliable data to prove return on investment from the corporate side, the proliferation of events, and the increased data availability from the events side, is a perfect storm. In economic terms, it’s both a demand and supply side revolution at the same time.
I believe we will see more money and more demand for event sponsorships, but only for events that up their data game and are able to prove their true value. It will be harder to pitch an event sponsorship proposal, but there will be more money to pitch for. Like it or not, event organisers will see a decrease in responses to “do good” messaging and more positive responses to messages that outline the full business value.
2018 will be a goodbye to the glossy sponsor-decks and a hello to data graphs that document how real people engage with sponsor topic and content and how that adds to the company’s bottom line.