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3 Catalysts of a Positive Sponsorship Experience

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As the event landscape evolves, so are meeting planners’ approaches to their outreach and relationships with sponsors. Sponsorship remains one of the most crucial and challenging components of getting an event up and running. On the one hand, sponsors provide much-needed capital and in-kind contributions, which helps meeting professionals put together the best possible experience for attendees. But what can you, as a meeting professional, provide in return? How can you ensure that your event sponsors are getting the maximum value out of the partnership?

As you continue reading this post, you’ll learn more insights and ideas for creating the ultimate sponsorship experience.

What Makes an Event Memorable?

The first step in creating a positive sponsorship experience is to take a step back and consider the past. Think about events you’ve attended that have left a lasting positive impression on you. Why did they have such an impact?

Our LAI Live team recently connected with local meeting planners over lunch to learn about how they’re approaching future sponsorships. We asked them to recall what made a past event experience positive and these were some of the examples that stood out:

One of our guests recounted her experience at a college graduation she attended. For most people, finding their family members in the sea of matching caps and gowns can be difficult. At this graduation, however, students were encouraged to carry their own uniquely designed balloons, giving their families a fun way to identify their graduate. It seemed like a small gesture, but it was a big deal for the families who wanted to spot out their grad before they walked across the stage. Just like at the Usher concert, these graduation planners anticipated the needs of everyone attending and went above and beyond to satisfy them.

Another person spoke about her experience attending an Usher concert in Las Vegas. Tickets for such a big name cost an arm and a leg, so she opted for the nosebleeds. She was excited just to be in the arena watching her favorite artist perform her favorite songs. So, she was shocked when Usher moved throughout the arena to interact with audience members seated in all tiers — not just the front row. Not only was it an amazing experience to see Usher closer than she expected, but this concert also changed her personal approach to planning events. It made her realize the impact you can make when you surpass your attendee expectations in unexpected ways.

While those two examples are very different, they both follow the formula for a positive and memorable event experience.

We explain in more detail in the next section.  

The Three Catalysts of Positive Event Experiences

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The formula our LAI Live team developed for creating a positive event/sponsorship experience has two key ingredients:

Pain Point + Catalyst(s) = New Experience

Pain points identify the problem at hand. For example, the pain point for Usher concert attendee was that tickets were expensive. On top of that, sitting in the nosebleeds meant having to admire Usher from afar.


Catalysts are what take an event from good to great … and beyond. From our conversations with clients, we’ve identified three common catalysts that address pain points and make for a new experience. These catalysts are:

  • Emotion
  • Anticipated Needs
  • Wow Factor

When Usher interacted with fans who were too far away to see him up close, he used that wow factor as a catalyst for a positive new experience.

So how can we replicate this for our sponsors? Keep reading for some new ideas!

Applying the Three Catalysts to Your Sponsorship Strategy

Now that we’ve taken a much-needed step back, it’s time to move forward. Think about why companies sponsor events. Reasons often include:

  • Building brand awareness
  • Generating new business opportunities
  • Engaging with potential prospects in person
  • Promoting a product or service
  • Establishing thought leadership and authority

There are, of course, more reasons. But with some of these in mind, how can we apply one or more of the three catalysts to what matters most to sponsors.

If you’re looking to go the Emotion route with your sponsor, think about some of the ways you can offer them a seat at the table for your event’s programming. Remember, sponsors are more likely to feel they’re getting their return on investment when they are regarded as a partner and not just a benefactor. As you’re considering what additional roles they can play in your event, remember that they shouldn’t be deployed as extra salespeople; their talents are best leveraged as doers and thought leaders.

Where can your event use additional support? How can your ideal partnership tie into that? These are the things that you should be thinking about as you integrate your sponsors into your event’s programming in a way that makes sense and benefits everyone involved. It’s all about making your sponsors feel heard and valued beyond their monetary contributions.

Balancing your organization’s needs with those of your sponsors can be challenging, but addressing their Anticipated Needs is an important way to create a positive experience that turns into a long-term partnership. There are countless ways to anticipate your sponsor’s needs, but it can be as simple as these two things:

  1. Keeping them in the know
  2. Helping them make connections

When you choose to collaborate with other organizations, your brands become tied together. Your sponsors should hear the news and views of your organization directly from you. Consider sending out a sponsor newsletter on a regular basis.

When it comes to helping them make connections, find out who their ideal prospect is and who they want to meet at your event. Any sponsor will appreciate having a partner that is willing to step in and make introductions, even if it doesn’t lead to the desired result.

If you’re looking to Wow your sponsors, consider surprising them in little (or big) ways that they’ll appreciate. Whether that’s presenting them with the opportunity to host a conversation over coffee and pastries or providing them with a social media package after the event that includes a recording of their session and professional photos that they can publish on their website and social media accounts, there’s plenty of room to get creative with how you approach this catalyst.

No matter your approach, keep this wisdom from leadership & sales mindset advisors Colin Coggins & Garrett Brown in mind:

“Are you adding value or extracting value?”

Event sponsorship is a two-way street. Meeting planners seek out sponsors to support them in achieving the goals for their events, and those sponsors have their own objectives when attaching their name and dollars to an event. The more planners and sponsorship partners can work together to nurture mutually beneficial relationships, the more likely it is to create an outstanding experience for everyone involved.


The LAI Live team can help. Contact us to get started.

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