How to sponsor and attend an event successfully

By Anne Brillet, director, Unearth Marketing

From the slopes of Whistler during Crankworks, to local grassroots race events and major UK cycle shows, we have organised and attended our fair share of events during our time in the cycling industry. We have witnessed huge successes and disappointing failures – not to mention the oh-so-tricky “not quite sure how that went”. Through it all, we’ve learned a few things – here are our tips to ensure your event participation is worthwhile.

1. Choose the right event
Before deciding whether to attend an event as an exhibitor, ask yourself whether the event is right for you and your store. Does this event cover the right discipline? If your customer base is primarily commuters, attending a triathlon race might not be the best use of your time and resources. Is the event well attended? Again, potentially not the best use of your time and resources if the event is attended by 100 or fewer people.

2. Identify the benefits
When preparing or deciding to attend an event (or any other marketing activity for that matter), there are four simple questions that you should be asking yourself:

– Is the activity going to make me money? Am I able to sell products or services at the event?
– Is the event going to be bringing new customers to my store? If so, how?
– Is my presence going to create a social media or PR buzz? Will local magazines be present? Are there going to be any social media activities meaning people will talk about my business?
– Is the event going to increase my database of email addresses or my social media following? If so, how?

3. Sign a clear agreement
With those four questions in mind, you need to draft an agreement with your event organiser. Attending an event with no real plan isn’t strategic for your business, which is why it is key to have a firm idea of your objectives and what you are aiming to achieve. Once you have a clear vision on how you would like to activate the event, discuss all the elements with the organisers and agree on a simple but achievable plan. Once both parties have agreed, draft your contract and have everything in writing. This avoids disappointments further down the line, especially if there is a cost attached to your attendance.

4. Allow time to prepare
The digital realm of the event, as well as all activities prior, is as important as the event activation itself. It is key that your business is receiving its fair share of promotion. Here are some ideas:

– Offering a free bike “health check” voucher for attendees prior to the event
– Attendees picking up race bags at your store
– Training/info evening at your store or training plan via email
– Training rides starting from your store
– Voucher for a special offer (ie: free £10 voucher for purchases over £100)
– Free spaces for your store ambassadors/team
– Advert in all social media, website, email platform of your event organiser
– Regular reference to your store in all event’s social media platforms

Remember that some activities will not generate instant cash but will give you the opportunity to showcase your business in its best light, as well as putting it on the map for people who might not be aware of your existence. If some of your store team or ambassadors take part at the event, ask them for a write-up of their training complete with an engaging array of photos shot during the event. For your business, the lifespan of the event extends beyond the afterparty!

5. Create the right first impression
Your setup on the day is key to giving off the right vibe – lots of the attendees will be coming across your brand for the first time. Ensure that branding and images are up to date, displaying your current logos as well as inspiring relevant images. As much as you can, try and create an experiential stand for your attendees. Find out from your event organisers if you will be able to retail at the event and make sure your card machine will have signal (yes, we speak from experience here)!

Try to build a stand that has a wow factor and encourages attendees to take pictures and post on social media. However – as booth builds can be quite costly – be creative and use local materials and resources. Consider the USPs of your brand, and ensure these are communicated visually. Bring along some literature for attendees to take away in the shape of a leaflet or a catalogue (eco-friendly print though!) and think back to those earlier 4 questions: make money, send people to your store, make a buzz and capture data (GDPR compliant obviously!).

6. Assemble the right team
The team on your stand can make or break the event activation. Ensure that your team is motivated and keen to be there. Help this along by allowing for regular breaks and time to explore the event as a punter, whilst clearly communicating with the team that the event is important to your business and should be treated like a workday. Agree on the rules with your team ahead of the events and set your expectations high. Interacting and engaging with passers-by, no sitting down on stools on their phone, no disappearing for hours because they found a friend… (again, experience). Pick the most outgoing of your team members to secure success.

7. Engage the public
Creating a display of beautiful product is essential, but unless you’re showing off a headline-worthy pre-production concept the chances are you’ll need something else too. If you can, set up an activity to encourage people to engage with your team. Put in some effort, as anything that appears an afterthought won’t do your brand image any favours. Consider your four questions again. When capturing data, having a tablet or computer is considerably easier and more GDPR compliant than pieces of paper. Here are some ideas:

– Massage station for post-race
– Unique giveaways
– Guess the weight of a bike
– Spin the wheel
– Beer fridge or coffee machine

8. Follow through on your leads
Once the event is over, it’s easy to think all is done, but it’s quite the opposite. Checking in with your audience needs to take priority. Ensure that you email all your captured contacts with a “thanks for popping by”, a reminder of your store’s location and an enticing offer. Use your social media channels to showcase your pictures from the event and share professional photos from the race organisers. Ideally, some of your store team or ambassadors will have taken part and can do a summary write-up with their own images.

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