Still thinking of sponsorship as just putting a logo on something? Then you’re missing 90% of the sponsorship world — and losing out on future ticket sales.

Sponsorship isn’t an item you check off and forget about. It’s a process. And once you’ve secured sponsors for your event, the most important step in that process is activation. Here’s how to do it right.

What is sponsorship activation?

Think of sponsorship activation as a way of “switching on” your sponsorship. It isn’t just about doing what you said you would, it’s about achieving the goals of your sponsors. For example, your sponsor might want a speaking opportunity at your event, but if your audience would hate another speech then it wouldn’t be a successful activation.

Activation is where audience goals and sponsor goals come together in a way that achieves the outcomes of both parties. Plus, the event gets to charge a premium for all of the assets associated with the activation opportunity, delivering the triple win that everybody wants.

The secret to sponsorship activation revealed

The secret to effective sponsorship activation is delivering something attendees will love. If you guess wrong at what your audience wants, you’ll have angry sponsors on your hands (and in some cases, even angrier attendees).

Here are three steps to nailing your sponsorship activation so both brands and fans stay happy.

  • Step one: Ask your audience what they love about your event, program, team, space, and festival. Ask them what they hate. Also, ask them what they want more of and less of.
  • Step two: Tell your prospective sponsors what you heard from your audience. Ask your sponsors for ideas to solve those problems, add more value, and give attendees more of what they love.
  • Step three: Ask your sponsors what outcomes they are trying to achieve. “Title sponsorship” is not an outcome. Neither is an exhibit booth. An outcome is something like “we want to increase the size of our email database by 12%” or “we are looking for warm leads among your city’s population.”
  • Step four: Now, create an opportunity that solves a problem for your audience (or gives them more of something they love) and attach your sponsor’s goal outcomes to that opportunity.

Putting your sponsorship activation into practice

If your audience wants networking opportunities, work with your sponsor to create a space and a contest to encourage networking. If your sponsor wants to grow their email database, then run a contest to drive people to your sponsor’s email sign up in order to come to a free VIP networking event.

The best activations are created when you ask your audience what they want, then ask your sponsors what they are trying to achieve. Then, bring the two together in one cohesive activation. (If you need some inspiration to come up with activation ideas, check out these “15 Brand Activation Ideas Attendees Will Love.”

Of course, activating a sponsor doesn’t end with the activation idea. You need to execute flawlessly. Make sure every single team member knows what tasks they must complete for a successful activation, whether they’re on your event staff or the sponsor’s team.

Want to learn more about how to win and manage sponsors? For more tips about working with your sponsors, read the 2019 Guide to Event Sponsorship.

A version of this blog was originally posted on The Sponsorship Collective.