To sponsor, or not to sponsor; that is the question. And the answer seems as elusive as those socks that mysteriously disappear in the dryer. One reason the topic is so vexing for most exhibit managers is that there is no solid data regarding trade show sponsorships or the returns they generate. So to demystify the sponsorship conundrum while answering those questions and more, EXHIBITOR issued its 2019 Trade Show Sponsorship Survey, which queried more than 200 face-to-face marketers.
According to the data, the vast majority of exhibitors are investing in sponsorships of some kind, spending an average of roughly 9 percent of their exhibit-marketing budgets on such promotional opportunities. The most popular options include digital sponsorships (e-newsletters, event apps, Wi-Fi access, etc.), print sponsorships (show dailies, show directories, floor maps, etc.), and signage sponsorships (show boards, elevator wraps, digital signage, etc.). But popularity is not necessarily tantamount to value, given the fact that respondents cite speaking- and networking-related sponsorships as the most effective.
While the majority of exhibitors who invest in sponsorships do not set measurable goals to gauge their effectiveness, nearly nine out of 10 claim they meet or exceed their expectations. In fact, more than half of respondents say that sponsorships have helped them improve relationships with clients and prospects and boost brand awareness, booth traffic, and sales leads.
Having said that, not all sponsorship opportunities are created equal. Survey participants identified taxi toppers, headrest covers, and public-transportation graphics as the three least effective options commonly available to exhibitors. Furthermore, while 81 percent of face-to-face marketers believe that sponsorships have "moderate" to "significant" potential in the context of exhibit marketing, 16 percent feel they are of little value, and the remaining 3 percent see them as "a waste of money." Regardless of which camp respondents fell into, the overwhelming sentiment among survey participants is that most sponsorship opportunities are overpriced and lack metrics that prove return on investment.
The following pages feature additional data from the 2019 Trade Show Sponsorship Survey, including a sampling of participants' responses to questions regarding their opinions of and experiences with sponsorships. E