Thinking Of Being An Event Sponsor?… Learn From SXSW.
photo credit: Bill’s Music Blog
I got to my hotel the third night of SXSW Interactive exhausted, drained, voice half gone, and dumped my huge purse out on the bed to see what was so damn heavy that my entire shoulder was numb from carrying it. In my purse were 9 Zone Bars. NINE Zone Bars. I had them because Zone Perfect had street teams giving away goods on every corner. They were aggressive and made sure everyone had product in their hands. Aside from the slight insult that Zone Bar is a diet product and it’s kind of like a waitress assuming you want diet Coke instead of regular…. they moved a ton of bars. Did Zone get product into people’s hands? Yes. Did they effectively sponsor SXSW? I would give that a resounding….. maybe.
Here’s the deal, SXSW is a conference FULL of early adopters, bloggers, talkers, people who want the newest, latest, etc. We also expect brands to talk to us online (engage). This changes things for sponsors because as we get tired of advertising, we’re getting tired of traditional sponsorship. Which means handing me something to try or hanging out at a vendor table isn’t working so well. Chevy did plug-in stations for people to charge their phones and laptops and it was extremely helpful. Would they be able to replicate that exact sponsorship at a pet show? No. They spoke to a specific need we had at the interactive event and helped us solve our charging problems. Amazing job. I even remember the name of the company that did it. Perhaps it’s a softer sell but when my phone was about to die and I couldn’t find a friend I was supposed to meet, I knew I needed to get myself to the Chevy charging station. I did not have such a strong need for the 9 Zone Perfect Bars in my purse. Having been to an absolute ton of conferences in the last year, I’m seeing a big trend with sponsorships. People at tables hawking stuff while attendees try to ignore them. The sponsors are clearly on the outside feeling…. not so cool. Kind of a shame considering the sponsors have something to offer the event, namely money, staff, and good ideas. The event goers usually have lots of needs at events beyond banners to look at and tables to pass by.
Not that giant stuffed bunnies (a la Energizer or the giant Twitter Bird we saw this week) aren’t fun because I’m sure everyone agrees that they are. Causing a fun spectacle could be a good use of sponsorship dollars. It will get some laughs, attention, and if you’re at an event with interactive folks someone is definitely going to take a picture and post you some free press. What I’m saying is don’t just get the event kit and buy a package that gets you a table and a banner. Ask what they have as far as options for a more interesting sponsorship or come to the table with an idea. Just ask anyone who had to charge their phone during SXSW who helped them out.