Exhibiting at a trade show can be a significant marketing investment, and take a large part of your marketing budget. How can you participate at a key trade show, without breaking your budget? With a little strategic trade show marketing, you can have your exhibit cake and eat it too. Develop a booth sponsor program targeted to your vendor or service partners, which allows them to be part of your trade show program. If you can create enough value with your sponsor program, and secure enough sponsor partners from it, it can help offset your trade show costs, while ultimately providing value to your attendees.

1. Define the types of benefits to the sponsors.
The first key step is to develop a program that has very specific benefits for sponsorship. These will be the key selling points to securing the financial support of your sponsors. These benefits can include:

  • Logo signage in the exhibit space
  • Dedicated section, pod, or kiosk in the exhibit
  • Dedicated graphics in key areas of the exhibit
  • Engagement with prospective customers through presentation or meeting time
  • Branding in any pre-show, show-site, and post-show marketing materials or marketing activities
  • Access to valuable customer data, such as shared lead lists acquired from pre-show, show-site, and post-show marketing and sales efforts

2. Develop your sponsor packages.
Once you’ve defined the types of benefits that could be available to your sponsor, start thinking about how you can tier the sponsorship into levels or packages, to give your partners options for investment based on the benefits in each sponsorship package. Variations in packages can be based on the number of areas where a sponsor’s logo will be displayed, how prominent their logos will be displayed throughout your exhibit marketing materials or exhibit space, the amount of direct face to face time they might be given through presentations, meetings, etc., or the number of benefits given to them within a package.

Make sure to develop clear written contracts that outline all the details of your sponsorship packages. These contracts should include the price of the sponsor package, the terms of payment, along with all the detailed benefits that comes with the sponsor packages. This might also include timelines for delivery of the benefits, as well as examples.

3. Sell your sponsor packages.
Now that you’ve created your sponsor packages, you have to actively market and sell the packages to your potential sponsors. Define your target sponsors, and give yourself enough lead time ahead of the show to secure your sponsors. Make sure to provide marketing materials that clearly show the benefits that they will receive in exchange for their financial sponsorship. If you have any successful history with these sponsor packages from past shows—or some impressive statistics about the target audience to whom you would be exposing them, use that information to help secure their commitment.

4. Fulfill on the terms of your sponsor packages.
Your sponsor programs are marketing contracts between you and your sponsors, so it’s key that you provide and fulfill on all the terms outlined in your sponsor packages. This includes any pre-show marketing activities that you’ve committed to such as direct mailers, and email marketing or telemarketing campaigns, show site commitments such as dedicated booth spaces, presentation time, or customer meeting time, and any post show follow up items that you’ve committed to such as lead lists, and other ROI reporting. Many of your partners might also require/ask for “Proof of Performance” for their own accounting purposes—such as a photo of shirt with their logo, or a copy of a brochure or direct mailer with their logo—so be sure to have those things available if requested.

If all goes according to plan, you’ll have a happy group of sponsors who will walk away with some tangible return on their investment from your program, and you’ll have a trade show exhibit program that was funded partially—or maybe even completely—by your sponsor partners.


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