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Ep 045 – 9 Creative Ideas to get Sponsors for Your Virtual Event

How do you monetize a virtual event? You’re still putting in a lot of time, money, energy and resources, and now in a new platform that you’re not completely familiar or comfortable with. So you may need to recoup some of those costs or how about even making a profit??

Some of you considering a virtual event may be a single company looking to reach out to your audience. Others of you may be trade show organizers trying to make the change to virtual events.

But talking with some folks who are going virtual for the first time, they are having a really tough time getting vendors and companies that were sponsors in the past for live events to sponsor virtual events. Some just don’t understand what they can get for their money, what kind of exposure they will have – and its up to you as the event organizer to educate them on this. That is your only chance.

1.      Show value to the sponsor

2.      Make the amounts appropriate. Your costs are probably going to be considerably less, so if you charged a sponsor $5000 last year to sponsoring a networking event, maybe bring the total down to something more reasonable. You can still make the same profit from your event!

3.      Appeal to continuity of long-term sponsors. Important to continue building relationships – especially during this time

4.      Consider bartering, trading in-kind services

With the world and business landscape changing, Companies all over are looking for new ways to reach out to new customers. Make it easy for them!

So what can you offer to potential sponsors? Many of the traditional sponsor opportunities aren’t available – or are they. Things Like lunch, lanyards, tote bags and more may seem unavailable but I’m hoping to get you to think in new ways today!

So here’s 9 Creative ways to offer sponsorship opportunities for your Virtual event. Many of these are creative takes on what is done at live in-person events. So be sure to not stop at just these 9 – grab your team or reach out to your vendors and past sponsors and brainstorm new ways and opportunities to make this a powerful event for all!

1.      Mail out an event Program – this can be extremely powerful! At in-person events, there typically is an event program handed out to everyone. Many of these never get read, or maybe just skimmed over. But with a virtual event, having a physical program arrive in the mail will grab people’s attention! Not only will they read through it prior to your event, but you can reference it often during your event. Love this!

2.      Mail out sponsored gifts – use your creativity to send out logo’d items that meet the theme of your event or bring value to your attendees. Or can be special ones just from your sponsors.

3.      Event Swag Bag – you know the tote bag or backpack full of literature and promo items you get when you show up at an event. You can do this! And you can do it physically or digitally.

·        To do it physically would be how show organizers do it today. Have sponsors pay to have their literature or giveaway items put into a special event bag – and that bag would be mailed out to all attendees. Again – having something show up in the mail can have tremendous impact. 

·        To do it digitally means that everything your sponsors would include in the swag bag would be digital or electronic. Things like pdfs of literature, access to white papers or exclusive videos and training, discount offers, e-gift cards and more. Get creative and offer value to your sponsors AND attendees!

4.      Sponsored Drawings – one effective way to have attendees stay with you throughout your entire event is to have prizes at various times and at the end where the winner must be there. The sponsors can either pay an amount to cover the cost of the prizes, or donate the giveaway prizes, or some combination of both.

5.      Scavenger hunt or bingo card – these are done at a lot of shows to get people to visit several booths or all the booths if it’s a smaller show. Attendees get a card where they have to get a sticker or sign off from each booth, and then when they complete their card they turn it in to win prizes. For your event – mail them a card or include it in the program, or have it downloadable. For each booth or company they visit, they get a special code. Or if you’re doing your own event, then give them a special code or keyword for attending different demos, seminars or workshops. Add in prizes and you have a great way to keep people engaged.

6.      Wearables or items to display at certain times – the one thing we get at every live event is a lanyard imprinted with the sponsor’s logo. It becomes like a souvenir and I have a ton of these hanging on my wall from the many shows I have attended. I call them the battle scars I’ve earned as a trade show warrior!! So who says just because it’s a virtual event that you can’t still do lanyards! A great sponsored item which can be mailed out to attendees. Can even give a prize to someone who wears their lanyard during the event. Same can go for t-shirts, buttons or other items which you can give away prizes for wearing during the event.

7.      Sponsor a lunch or dinner – will your event go through the lunch or dinner hours? Why not have someone sponsor this! You can even coordinate local food delivery to happen for your attendees at the same time!  May be a bit more work, but how cool would it be to say Lunch included with our virtual event? Or to keep it simpler, you can send e-gift cards so attendees can get their own lunch or dinner. Companies like Door Dash and Uber Eats offer gift cards so this is definitely doable!

8.      Keeping with the food theme – kinda – is an after-hours Wine or Alcohol networking event – these are typically the highlight of many shows to give attendees the opportunity to network in a more casual setting while enjoying a drink or glass of wine. Your sponsor can pay for a small bottle of wine or liquor to be sent to each attendee (or those who sign up for this extra event) and maybe even with a glass with the sponsor’s logo! 

9.      Virtual Marketplace – as part of your event, especially if exhibitors typically would have taken orders at the live event, is to have a way for attendees to order products or services from your exhibitors! There are so many affordable and powerful online store platforms out there which can be used to make this happen.

So there you have it! 9 very do-able ways to get sponsors for your virtual event! And as you saw there are many of these 9 which are just variations on things already done at live events today. 

So are you ready to not only make an impact and make great connections, but make a profit as well? Yes – make money at your virtual event!! 

Did you get value from this today? Then be sure to subscribe to Trade Show University on whatever podcast platform you listen to so you never miss an episode!! And be sure to go back through and check out past episodes – you can double your results!! I promise you. Send me an email to!

About the author, Jim

Jim Cermak has over 30 years of exhibiting, planning and working trade shows. As a Professional Trainer, he helps companies transform their results at trade shows, expos, events and conferences.

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