Ideas for optimizing your event sponsorship investment


How an event photographer can help optimize your event sponsorship investment.

I cover a lot of large conferences and trade shows that are largely funded by sponsors. Sponsors pay to have their company logo, brand message and business development professionals gain access to the targeted audience attending the event. Sponsorships take the form of brief presentations, banners, swag bag stuffing, mentions on the big screen in the pre-roll before the conference day kicks off, as well as areas like lounges, or massage stops, or juice bars. Sponsors pay for the wi-fi access, and brand the room keys at the hotel where the event is taking place. They cover virtually every meal, reception and sometimes outings for guests. It is not unusual for a sponsor to spend upwards of $50k on sponsorships for an event that may last at the most a few days.

A few busy days where attendees are bombarded with information, exposed to branding and logos from hundreds of companies, gather fistfuls of business cards and all while being slightly jet-lagged, hungover and still trying to keep up on their work email.

As an event sponsor, are you getting the most for your money?

As an event photographer I am used to covering sponsored events and of course take the time to gather a set of images that are for the sponsor. These include the room set up with and without people (if they have sponsored a reception, or a dinner), all branded elements (takeaways, gifts for attendees, bags, sponsored areas like lounges, or interactive stations), as well as the speakers and company representatives if the sponsorship includes a segment of air time at the event.

But I think a creative sponsor could get more leverage by actually sponsoring the event photographer directly. Event organizers could work with the photographer to identify areas where direct sponsorships make sense and either split the fee, or leverage the sponsor to cover the photographer’s fees, saving costs for the organizer.

There are obvious sponsorship opportunities like photo booths, but I would recommend thinking “out of the photobooth” box to the more wide-reaching impact an event photographer can have.

Consider: the event photographer is going to be seen by virtually every guest, and interact with almost every one of them at one point or another during a multi-day event. What other sponsorship opportunity can guarantee face time in front of every single guest?

But who pays attention to the photographer, you might say. He or she is just there to document the event and be as unobtrusive as possible.

If you believe that your event photographer should remain in the background, like a liveried wait staff in a posh restaurant, then yes, perhaps you are better off taking a more conventional approach to event sponsorship.

But if you understand that part of what a good event photographer does is engage and interact with people – as a function of doing the job of getting fun and interesting photos of your event – than you may also recognize that adding a layer of sponsorship to that activity can possibly further your sponsorship goals for the event. And it could be far less expensive than a big branding opportunity but reach as much, if not more, of the same target audience.

A few ideas come to mind that wouldn’t cost more than a thousand dollars (which is small change for event sponsorship budgets):

  • Why not consider asking your event photographer to wear a sponsored blazer or jacket?
  • Or design a sticker or logo to attach to the photographer’s flash body which is always visible?
  • Offer branded instant prints to your guests.
  • Plunk a portable instant printer down in the centre of the conference room tables, “Sponsored by YOUR BRAND” and let guests have fun snapping and printing their own photos with their phones

Branding at events is always a bit of a guessing game and it’s hard to know if the money is having the desired impact or if conference warriors suffer the same kind of banner blindness to event sponsors that most of us do when seeing an ad on our phones. Thinking creatively about new ways to leverage your event sponsorship budget is at least worth considering, given the amount of money at stake and the opportunity for increasing your impact.

Instant gratification is key to successful event photography

You looking at me?
You looking at me?

Being in the business of event photography is like being in the business of making bread, in that the most highly valued component of an event photo is its freshness. Whether the shots are a series of candids taken throughout the night, or derived from a more party focused photobooth experience, the appetite for seeing the resulting images is highest immediately after the event. Let a few days go by, or even a week, and the photos are already stale.

This craving for immediacy, aside from being one of the underpinning pillars of modern society (for better, or worse) can be satisfied in a number of ways by an event photographer. The top methods I’ve adopted and offer to clients are:

  1. Onsite prints: while everyone has a camera in their pockets these days built into their phones, and there are petabytes ( unit of information equal to 1000 terabytes or 10^15 bytes) of digital images out there, people still love to get a fresh print in their hands the night of the event. I’ve written more about this subject here and here, and expect to see more people asking for immediate onsite prints in 2013.
  2. Immediate posting of select key photos to password protected website for media use and instant client access. Many events are hosted by PR consultants and agencies using the event to draw attention to a product launch, store/restaurant/club opening or to generate excitement around a brand in association with some larger event, like Subaru did with its new BRZ launch during Grand Prix week in Montreal. These pictures have their greatest impact and are most valued by clients if they can be placed in the hands of media outlets that will be able to use them right away, ideally published immediately on the web and no later than in the next morning’s news. Having a system to capture, edit and deliver these professional quality, high-res and media-ready photos for clients is critical when dealing with some PR agencies and highly valued by most event photography clients.
  3. Live streaming images to overhead projection screen: most event spaces, particularly company hosted parties for employees or award ceremonies, come equipped with at least one or several screens where slideshows are projected. These screens can be accessed and used to show photos from the evening right back at the guests who are featured in them. (We do this often with our sister company lePartybooth). This kind of instant use of imagery is highly popular at events where event planners are concerned with showing guests the best time possible. Employee oriented events aimed at boosting morale, celebrating company victories or simply acknowledging the value and importance of what employees contribute to a company’s bottom line are all great candidates for providing this kind of added value service.