This month, PRSA Boston’s theme has been cause and marketing partnerships, and if anyone knows about the B2B sponsorship game in Boston it’s HubSpot. The company’s annual event, “INBOUND,” is one of the most anticipated motivational and educational experiences in the city, drawing over 14,000 attendees in 2015.
We interviewed Nathaniel Eberle, (@ThanEberle) director of PR and brand at HubSpot, who for over his 18 year career, has built and executed publicity and digital media programs for emerging technology companies and global brands. Before arriving at his current position at HubSpot in early 2015, he worked for Weber Shandwick, Tufts University and Racepoint Group.
1. How do you keep up-to-date with what’s new in the sponsorship industry?
When we look at what’s going on in the industry, we pay close attention to the biggest events, and specifically how companies use those opportunities to really break the mold and provide a top-notch, memorable attendee experience. We love seeing brands that take chances with their sponsorships, because it provides great inspiration to us when we go to tailor experiences of our own, whether through sponsorships or through our own hosted events.
2. Tell us about an important trend you think will impact the corporate sponsorship market this year.
I think we will continue to see the rise of creativity. While opportunities like branded wifi, goodie bags, and logo’d banners will never disappear, attendees don’t really derive much value from these in relation to the sponsoring company. They’ve become ubiquitous among a sea of sponsors. Brands will start to see some real return on their dollars when they aim to “wow” attendees with unique experiences that add serious value to the event and add surround-sound experiences through social media. Even though it takes some extra brainpower (and maybe a little extra dough) to create a tailored sponsorship, the return will be much higher for meaningful and memorable experiences than for an otherwise standard sponsorship.
3. What factors are most important to you when weighing decisions about who to sponsor?
When we’re deciding whether or not to sponsor an event we take a close look at what our dollars are affecting and how big an effect they will have. Partnerships with our technology partners or agencies are often mutually beneficial because of the large area of overlap in our goals, and can be especially valuable when they’re in our hometown (or the home region of another HubSpot office). For example, we recently sponsored a Startup Pitch-off event by TechCrunch here in Boston, featuring the launch for our new program, HubSpot for Startups. Because many attendees were from startups themselves, they were able to get a ton of value from our presence, and on the flip side, HubSpot’s new program got some valuable face time in front of its target demographic.
One exception to the above is in regions where trade shows are THE place to convene and do business. A great example is the upcoming DMEXCO event in Germany — while we tend not to invest in trade shows, for our industry, this particular event is the must-attend (and expected) event in Germany. When we’re deciding whether or not to sponsor an event we take a close look at what our dollars are affecting and how big an effect they will have. Partnerships with our technology partners or agencies are often mutually beneficial because of the large area of overlap in our goals, and can be especially valuable when they’re in our hometown (or the home region of another HubSpot office).
4. How do you know when a sponsorship has been successful (or not) and has been worth the investment? Are there certain metrics you prefer to track?
As we all know, sponsorships can be hard to track because it’s not always about lead generation (which would be easy to measure). Instead, it’s often about building brand awareness or supporting a cause. While we have tools to measure brand awareness overall, drilling down to the marginal return for a specific sponsorship can be difficult or impossible. That’s why we usually look for sponsorship opportunities that are tied to thought leadership (speaking), as it ensures we can get up on the stage, where the impact is one-to-many and much greater than from a booth or table (which is very much one-to-one). It’s much the same when we’re sponsoring an event that supports a cause — we always try to get up onstage and talk about why that cause is important to HubSpot, and really get that messaging across in a meaningful, one-to-many way.
5. What is your “must-attend” conference, trade show, expo, event or meeting of the year?
Naturally, our “must-attend” event is INBOUND, HubSpot’s annual event here in Boston where the inbound movement meets up to learn and grow every year. In 2015, we saw over 14,000 registered attendees, and hosted content ranging from heartfelt with The Malala Fund to hilarious with Amy Schumer. With over 250 sessions and hundreds of hours of content for attendees, it’s our chance to provide a really great opportunity for like-minded brands to showcase their messages – in innovative ways – as sponsors of the event.
Join us on Tuesday, March 15th, as PRSA Boston hosts a webinar training session for corporate brand, marketing and PR managers on how to negotiate and design a corporate sponsorship. It’s free, so register today!
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