Planners are accustomed to scoring free swag from sponsors, but new trends are emerging to make event sponsorship a much more organic, integrated function of the overall meeting. Here’s a look at some new approaches that add value for the sponsors, planners and attendees alike.

Give people what they want

It’s pretty much a given that attendees will respond favorably to sponsored treats like chocolate and ice cream. But think beyond the supermarket-style “free sample” approach. suggests you ask attendees to “tweet for ice cream using the hashtag for your event along with the sponsor’s name,” as opposed to simply giving out sample cups full of fudge ripple. Of course, your food sponsorship doesn’t have to ignore your more health-conscious guests. For example, Fran’s Chocolates is a wonderful (and universally popular) sponsor of Smart Meeting events but we also offer more nutritious refreshments from our sponsor Sunny Delight as a nice counterbalance. Whether your sponsorship includes snacks or swag, try taking a more holistic, balanced approach to how you deliver the sponsors’ products and you’ll likely make a bigger impression on your attendees.

Give people what they need

Another popular trend is to find sponsors that provide real-time, practical benefits to your attendees. Wi-Fi sponsors, sponsored cell phone charging stations and branded portable USB chargers are just some examples of products and services that can be used by attendees to support the event. By turning sponsors’ products and services into necessities as opposed to novelties at your events, your sponsors will enjoy a more captive audience that will likely pay much more attention to the brands on offer. For example—although not a necessity per se—we provide each attendee with a collapsible wine bottle transport bag, courtesy of our sponsor WineSkin. This unique gift helps solve a practical problem with business travelers: How do you transport a bottle back home when your suitcase is already full of event materials (and swag)?

Support your sponsors, too

Modern events can provide a number of perks to your sponsors too. User data from event apps can track positive sentiment toward your sponsors’ brands, or measure the number of mentions your sponsors receive from attendees on social media. Sponsors will be happy to get that info. Consider inexpensive value-adds for your sponsors, like including order forms for their products along with the free gifts they provide for your swag bags. You can also include sponsors’ logos, websites, offers and so on in your own social media promotions before, during and after your event. Have a conversation with your sponsors and get creative about giving them an extra boost at your events. It will not only make their contributions more meaningful to your attendees, it’ll also help sponsors realize a positive ROI from your events that will keep them coming back year after year. Have any other creative ideas about how to make the most out of your event sponsorships? Let us know by tweeting your suggestions to @smartmeetings.