From making unexpected use of celebrity spokespeople to employing superhero statues, here are a few clever ways to increase sponsor visibility at trade shows.
At America’s Beauty Show in Chicago, producers ensure that sponsors’ presence extends beyond the show floor. “We work with major exhibitors to offer an overall program to incorporate within their trade show strategy,” says Paul Dykstra, C.E.O. of Cosmetologists Chicago and America’s Beauty Show. Besides their booths, sponsoring manufacturers who exhibit are invited to brand key cards for hotels associated with the event. Sponsors can place products such as shampoos, conditioners, and face washes in attendees’ rooms at these properties.
Sponsors are also invited to host press lounges that surround the show floor, where they can speak directly to beauty editors who come to the show. Key exhibitors are also able to sponsor so-called V.I.P. “closing lounges,” or meeting rooms off the floor. In the rooms, companies can serve snacks or cocktails, show videos, and brand the space with decor of their choosing. Some companies have also opted to provide services, such as manicures or hairstyling, within the rooms.
In August, the BlogHer conference drew about 2,500 bloggers to the Hilton New York, where the three-day event had a traditional trade show setup. “We really tried to find creative ways to integrate our sponsors, so they weren’t just a booth on the floor,” says San Francisco-based director of events Lori Luna.
In addition to branding prominent signage, some BlogHer sponsors used celebrities to engage the crowd, both on and off the floor. Sara Lee called on Top Chef star Padma Lakshmi to judge a sandwich-making contest. Tropicana hosted a breakfast and enlisted spokesperson Bruce Jenner—former Olympic athlete and currently on Keeping Up With the Kardashians—to pour its newest flavors at a juice bar. “When they saw the reality TV stars, people went nuts, especially on Twitter,” says Luna. “We knew we’d get attention on blogs, but we also had 100,000 mentions on Twitter on the first day alone.”
As director of strategic accounts at Reed Exhibitions, Lawrence Settembrini works with the sponsors of New York Comic Con, which takes place at the Jacob K. Javits Center. “It’s a fairly young show in a large building, and we initially had concerns about fans finding their way through the [venue],” says Settembrini. “Our solution was to sell a sponsorship to a company that builds scale statues of superheroes.”
Producers placed the statues at key locations throughout the building, and referred to them in directions. “For example, we provide instructions to our conference and panel areas as such: ‘Head to the Superman statue in the north concourse, then take the escalators down to the first floor,’” says Settembrini. “It’s a pretty simple concept that resulted in sponsorship revenue, helped our attendees navigate the building, and provided a photo opportunity.”