UK: Exhibition Sponsorship: Is it Worth the Money?

Last Updated: 17 November 2011

From the minute you express interest in exhibiting at a trade show, you will be flooded with sponsorship opportunities. How can you tell which exhibition sponsorship opportunities are really good deals and which are a waste of money?

This article explains how to assess an exhibition sponsorship opportunity, and how to maximise your return on trade show sponsorship.

Exhibition sponsorship costs

Just participating in an exhibition is expensive: registration fees, display costs, shipping, giveaway items, booth staff salaries and accommodation, and more – you're talking about some serious money. You can be an exhibition sponsor at varying levels, but if you're not careful the sponsorship fees can increase your exhibition costs substantially.

For example, you may be offered an ad in the trade show directory for a mere £250. Double that and your logo shows up on a few prominently placed banners. Prices for exhibition sponsorship opportunities rise steadily, allegedly keeping pace with the enhanced exposure more money can bring. As logic goes, you get more visibility the deeper you dig into your wallet.

But is it really worth it? Does more money spent on exhibition sponsorship really equal increased attendee attention and consequently better sales? How can you tell?

How to assess an exhibition sponsorship opportunity

All trade show sponsorship opportunities are valuable – to the right exhibitor. There must be a good match between the exhibitor, their goals and objectives, and the results the exhibition sponsorship can deliver. Before you agree to a sponsorship deal, make sure that your participation will move you closer to achieving your goals and objectives. Otherwise, don't do it.

There are four criteria you can use to assess whether an exhibition sponsorship opportunity is right for you and likely to deliver your desired result.

  1. Target audience draw

    • Does this trade show draw a large group of attendees who are in your target audience?
    • Will this group be likely to buy your products and services?
    • Is there a clear benefit in putting your name in front of these trade show attendees?

    If you're at a trade show outside of your industry or region, or a trade show that draws smaller numbers of attendees from your target audience, exhibition sponsorship is probably not the route to take.
  2. Percentage of exhibiting cost

    Consider the cost of exhibition sponsorship as a percentage of your total exhibiting expense. If the sponsorship is equivalent to more than 50% of your overall exhibiting budget, step back and think: Is this the best way to invest my money? Would my purposes be better served by a larger exhibit, or even exhibiting at an additional show?
  3. Number of same-level exhibition sponsorships

    Make sure you know how many other companies will be sponsoring the exhibition on the same level as you. As a rule of thumb, the more money you spend, the less same-level competition you will have. It is important to know what level your competitors are sponsoring at, as your own exhibition sponsorship, if appropriate, should be comparable or better.
  4. Exhibition organiser support

    Anyone can sell exhibition sponsorship opportunities, but not everyone can make them valuable. Consider the trade show management:

    • How well do they promote the show?
    • How well do they work with the media?
    • What will they do to ensure that exhibition sponsors are mentioned often, prominently placed, and kept in the public eye?

    Organisers play a pivotal role in trade show success. If you find an organiser who understands your goals and objectives, exhibition sponsorship can more than pay for itself. On the other hand, if a trade show organiser is not behind the show's sponsors, save your money.

How to maximise the return on trade show sponsorship

If, after assessing a trade show sponsorship opportunity, you find that these criteria are met to your satisfaction, move forward. Here are three ways to maximise the return on trade show sponsorship.

  1. Offer added value to exhibition attendees

    Use your exhibition sponsorship opportunities to give something extra to the attendee. This can be something tangible – tote bags, books, pads – or, perhaps more valuable, a knowledge-based intangible. Consider sponsoring speakers, mini or full workshops/seminars, panel discussions and the like to get the attendees' attention, capture it for a period of time, and keep your name highly visible.
  2. Promote your exhibition sponsorship heavily

    Once you have committed to an exhibition sponsorship, it is in your best interests to promote it every chance you get. You want as many attendees at the show as possible, especially if they are members of your target audience, to know about your exhibition sponsorship and how it can help them. Consider special advertising, and explore co-op advertising possibilities with the trade show organisers.
  3. Partner with other exhibitors

    By collaborating with companies that are in the same industry but are not your direct competitors, you can sponsor an event such as an exhibition or trade show to a greater degree than you could manage alone. Explore this option if you want to achieve a high level of visibility at a given show, yet don't have the budget to do it all on your own.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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