Last January, Lori Luna became events manager at BlogHer—a San-Francisco-based network of female bloggers—and immediately set to work planning the organization’s fifth annual conference. Held in Chicago in July, the event sold out four months in advance, drew a record 1,500 guests (up from 1,100 the previous year), and had the support of big-name brands. “We don’t just have gratuitous sponsorships,” Luna said. “If not for companies like Pepsi, Tide, General Motors, and Microsoft, our attendees wouldn’t be able to enjoy $199 tickets that cover all of their meals, parties, open bars, and—most importantly—the conference’s broad, diverse content.” Registration fees covered one-third of the conference’s total cost; sponsorship dollars helped underwrite the rest. According to postconference research, 52 percent of attendees spoke to PR reps for various brands at the event.
How did you convince major brands to sponsor the conference?
It was really a culmination of things kind of coming together. It’s the growth of social media, and the companies recognizing that they need to get in on this. More than 50 percent of women are participating in some form of social media each week—these are statistics we have in our white papers. So sponsors are starting to see us as the go-to organization to reach this audience, whose voices are gaining power, and who are not just mommies. In our network, we have women who talk about health; they talk about education; they talk about politics. Sponsors see that this is a very influential target audience, and one they really need to wrap their arms around.
What were some of the brand activations?
At the Chicago conference, Suave brought in a couple of celebrity hairdressers who gave our guests makeovers, and Microsoft did a lounge where guests could pamper themselves. Pepsi had video booths where they asked attendees questions about social media. Tide brought Tim Gunn in, and he did a meet-and-greet with a blogger and gave her tips about revamping her image. Our sponsors realize that they need to engage our guests—not just give something away and say, “Okay, here you go.”