Creative Sponsorships for Virtual Events

Creative Sponsorships for Virtual Events

Just because events are going virtual doesn’t mean there aren’t still great ways for sponsors to get their message out. On this week’s Virtual Lunch replay, guest Nicole Burkart from Conference Care Package shares ideas for sponsors to:

  • Host virtual happy hours
  • Encourage sponsor and audience interaction
  • Gamify participation
  • Reinforce the importance of giving back

Here are links to some of the items mentioned in the interview:

About Nicole Burkart:

Nicole Burkart
Nicole Burkart

Nicole Burkart is no stranger to the events industry. She spent more than 20 years – primarily as an event photographer – dealing with both front- and back-of-house, interacting with attendees and sponsors.

She also saw how often sponsors struggled to make an emotional connection with attendees, as well as the importance of comfort and personal care at conferences. And so Conference Care Package was born in 2018. Now, she’s adapting her care packages for the virtual audience.


[00:00:00.300] - Marlys Arnold

You're listening to the Trade Show Insights podcast, Season 15, Episode 17.

[00:00:19.750] - Marlys Arnold

I'm your host and exhibit marketing strategist, Marlys Arnold, bringing you tools to improve your exhibit results. On today's episode brought to you by the Exhibit Marketers Cafe. We've got a rebroadcast of our Virtual Lunch with Nicole Burkart from Conference Care Package, sharing some creative ideas for virtual event sponsorships.

[00:01:02.680] - Marlys Arnold

Nicole Burkart is a good friend of mine. We've been ExpoChat buddies for years now. She's also been a guest on the Trade Show Insights podcast before. And so I invited her here today so we could talk about creative sponsorship ideas, because I know she's got a lot of great ideas. Now, she is no stranger to the events industry. She's been around for over 20 years, much of that time as a photographer. So she worked front of house and back of the house. And she's also seen things from the sponsor side of view, the attendees side of view, point of view. And she also saw how often sponsors struggled to really make an emotional connection with the attendees.

[00:01:43.750] - Marlys Arnold

And she also knows, as we all know, the importance of comfort and personal care when you're at a physical conference. But obviously this year she's also taken it and transitioned it into how do you show personal care and take care of your attendees when they're virtual. So anyway, we've got lots of great comments and ideas to share. So welcome, Nicole, to Virtual Lunch.

[00:02:07.690] - Nicole Burkart

Thank you so much for having me.

[00:02:11.440] - Marlys Arnold

You're welcome. Well, I want to start out talk a little bit about give a little bit of your background and where you are coming from with this. And then we'll kind of start talking about some different conference sponsorship strategies.

[00:02:26.890] - Nicole Burkart

Yeah, well, basically, I've I've been around for about two years. This was supposed to be the year where I was going to really bust out, make some changes. I was going to start exhibiting and all that kind of stuff. But, well that didn't happen. So basically what I've really done is I've modified my packages to take care of attendees needs at a conference. So it had a Band-Aid in case you got a blister and had an Emergen-C in case you had a hangover. It had aspirin. It had for different little things. You just kept you happy on the road. And what I've done now is I've just adopted those things to what are people's needs at home? You know, we're not allowed to we're not going out as much. Even if we are like services aren't available. Everyone's got really long crazy hair. And it's just, you know, it's we all have the same needs, even though we're far apart, we're the same community. So basically, my packages address people's needs at home. So I just launched Seeds of Community, which is basically custom printed seed packages with vegetables and herbs that can be mailed out to an attendee. And there's a couple of different levels that basically I want a package that could be sent out to all attendees, slightly more valuable package that could be sent out to your leads from a conference and then a higher end item. That is a thank you. Thank you. Thank you for continuing to work with me. So but basically all of my all of my packages are based on home care. So, you know, one will be like a spa package? I realize that there's everybody's giving out hand sanitizer and everyone's hands are all dry and things like on your face from the wear in the mask and you're not exfoliating or taking care of yourself the way that you should. So instead of sending out a branded hand sanitizer, why don't we send out something that people can actually use to address what the hand sanitizer does?

[00:04:39.550] - Marlys Arnold

Well, exactly. I mean, because I was going to say the hand sanitizers kind of become a cliche at this point. You know, it was back in the day, it was clever. And there for a few months earlier this year, it was much needed and much appreciated. But now I think the whole thing is getting beyond and getting more creative and getting, you know, doing something that really shows that you've put that additional layer of thought into it. And I actually we're going to kind of walk through some things today and I will put up a link later. But I did a webinar this summer with Personify. They asked me to come on and we Rich Vallaster and I from here, he's from Personify. But we did a little booklet of thirty sponsorship ideas for virtual events. So I have that PDF available. I will put the link up later in the in the interview here. But there's so many different things that you could do. I mean some of the things from the physical world translate over to the virtual world, you know, things like doing.

[00:05:45.940] - Marlys Arnold

Well, like you said, the care packages you've just shifted from, instead of sending them to for a physical event, you're sending them to the person's home or office ahead of time. So then there's other things that are very different about the virtual world. But let's talk a little bit. Let's start with, like virtual happy hours. I know that's become something that a lot of events are doing. And I know that you have some creative ways that you tie in with the virtual happy hour. So tell us a little bit about that.

[00:06:17.140] - Nicole Burkart

Yeah, well, as we're all cocktailing more these days, you know, I basically put together this package that has sort of the accoutrements, the things that put your cocktail to the next level. Like I found these really nice seasoned olives, a seasoned salt, some like elderberry flower liqueur, like those kind of things. And you were so nice to introduce me to this woman who does, she does virtual cocktail hour. She's an actual mixologist. I'm not a mixologist. I can just give you the stuff, and I can give you recipe cards or whatever. But she will actually do a presentation. And I was like, wow, that's such a great way to, you know, first of all, get people talking, you know, make it feel kind of normal, give them something that they had in common, like, oh, they're making this I don't know how to muddle mint or whatever she wants to do. But, you know, there's some way that I think that she and I can kind of coordinate to really help, you know, take a sponsor to the next level. I also found a company that I think they work in thirty eight states, but you can place an order through them and they have a local a local liquor store delivered to their house, which is, you know, you can't mail, there's all kinds of issues with mailing wine.

[00:07:42.750] - Marlys Arnold

Yea, I was going to say the logistics of that or,

[00:07:44.800] - Nicole Burkart

you know, I learn things every day. It's like, oh, that's OK. That's another issue. All right. But, you know, I just keep going through the layers and trying to find. So, you know, I don't know that this will work for every member of the of the attendees. As I said, I think it's thirty eight states. But you know what the reasons are they're keeping that the out of the other states. But I'm definitely going to give them a call and be like, what can we do.

[00:08:13.480] - Marlys Arnold

Well, and the thing is, I've seen some virtual happy hours where they don't and it's wonderful to be able to send it. But like you said, there's still I just attended one last week where they had they had a mixologist or sommelier or whatever, she was. Demonstrating a couple of different drinks. And so she walked through, like you said, she demonstrated how to muddle and different things. So she made these two drinks. Then they had a chef at one of the restaurants. They were back in the house in the kitchen filming the chef, putting everything together. And then the next day in our follow up email, they sent us the recipe for the salmon dish that he had made. So. So and there was a lot of you talked about having that interaction. There was a lot of engagement. I mean, there was a lot of comments because some people were saying, oh, I've had that dish at the restaurant or so there was because it happened to be a local group. So we're all we're all familiar with the restaurant. But but, yeah, I think there's so many ways to make it interactive and make it fun and make people feel like they're a part of the actual event and not just, you know, viewers.

[00:09:18.880] - Nicole Burkart

Yeah, yeah. I mean, the other objective that I have is kind of one of my pet peeves is everything in your in your package needs to be branded like your name has to be all over it. And I like subtle things, like I'm not one one thing that is branded well, but will have a lasting shelf life in someone's house. So, you know, package there's a nice elongated sort of shot glass that you could also use an aperitif. But it's it's frosted. It's not like, you know, oh my God, here's your logo. You know, I have sustainability package that comes in reusable produce bags that has the the logo the sponsors logo on them or preserve makes a container that's made of one hundred percent recycled plastic and they'll put their their sponsor information on it. So, you know, it's trying to to help the sponsor have a lasting impression beyond a pen or hand sanitizer or,

[00:10:22.510] - Marlys Arnold


[00:10:23.560] - Nicole Burkart

The typical things that we think of.

[00:10:25.450] - Marlys Arnold

Yes. And Rama has some really good points here. By the way, for those who don't know Rama, she's actually with Lev Promotions, which is a promotional product company. She says there are three or five states that don't allow you to ship alcohol into the custom wine companies that she works with consent, all the ones where it's not illegal. But she says, please don't ever do this on your own because none of the carriers, FedEx, UPS, none of them allow it coming in from a private party, you must have a special license. So, you know, that's another example of you got to ask the questions. You got to you've got to understand and don't try to jump in and do something just, you know, on your own without getting the advice of an expert because you can get yourself in some deep trouble.

[00:11:09.270] - Nicole Burkart

I mean, had I known Rama, hi Rama, if I had known her before, that she could have saved me like two and a half hours worth of time trying to figure out what is this? Is this an issue? Is this a problem?

[00:11:20.550] - Marlys Arnold

Well, here you go, Nicole, meet Rama. Rama, Nicole. You know, that's what we're all about in Virtual Lunch is bringing people together. So. So Monica has a question. Can you talk about how sponsors receive benefits during the virtual event, such as logo placement on the PowerPoint, verbal recognition, et cetera? So, Monica, I actually have some points on this. Basically, there's a lot of different ways that sponsors can get recognition. I mean, as Nicole said, some of the items in the kit can be branded with the sponsor's logo. You can do, you mentioned logo in the in the event, you can do branded backgrounds. You know, I personally, I do not I, I can't say I do not. I hate the virtual Zoom backgrounds because I think that's really obnoxious when somebody's shoulder disappears or half their face disappears or whatever. But, you know, if you're working with a group and they're insisting they want to provide virtual backgrounds, that can be something that can be branded with a sponsor's logo. You can also, just like in a traditional event, you can have the branded logo on the slides for the presenters. You can have sponsorship or you can have sponsored breakout rooms where the sponsor has the opportunity to either introduce or play a little like a little 30 second clip before the presenter session starts. You know, so there's a lot of different ways that you can incorporate. Nicole, what other ways have you seen as far as ...

[00:12:52.770] - Nicole Burkart

You know, I tend towards, you know, I try to create relationships. I mean, that's you know, I want the sponsor talking to the attendees. I want the attendees talking to the attendees. But one of the things that I think is really important that a lot of sponsors overlook is having the sponsors participate in the event, like to be at the cocktail hour to

[00:13:14.910] - Marlys Arnold


[00:13:15.390] - Nicole Burkart

amongst everybody. You know, it's not just something that they should be putting on for everybody else. It's something that that they participate. They become more human, you know, have a stronger connection, like, oh, I remember that guy. He dropped his ice or his dog around the back or, you know, whatever it is. I mean, here we are. We're all in our house. Like, this is where the magic happens and everybody knows. So I think having sort of you know, the fact that having a sponsor participate is is crucial.

[00:13:48.090] - Marlys Arnold

Well, you can even have your sponsor be the emcee for the happy hour. Have them welcome, everybody. And then, you know, introduce the mixologist or whoever the special guests are going to be, that kind of thing. And that way, they're they're taking a front and center responsibility. Another conference I attended recently, they actually had sponsor breakout rooms. So like just like at a regular conference where you would go on break. And then in between sessions, there might be exhibits in the hall or whatever that you could check out. They had actual sponsor breakout rooms so they would announce, OK, we're going to take a twenty minute break or thirty minute break, whatever it was. And we've got these three sponsors. And so you can go to Joe's room or Susie's room or Dan's room or whatever, and you can choose which room you wanted to go to or you could hop from one room to another and you kind of ask them questions. They also gamified it. And so we got points. So there was points for the whole conference of all these different things that you could do and and participate in. And so one of those was, you know, you got like fifty points for each sponsor room that you hopped into during break. So, you know, there's there's so, so many different ways to. But again, it takes you you've got to think a little differently sometimes than you do at a traditional face to face event. But like I said, there's some things that really aren't that different from face to face and as far as the sponsorship opportunities. Right?

[00:15:11.760] - Nicole Burkart

Well, yeah. And there's also there's really good opportunities for for hybrid. And I don't know if, you Peter from Unwrapit.

[00:15:20.010] - Marlys Arnold


[00:15:21.400] - Nicole Burkart

Basically he does digital gifts and he does it based on location. You know, when we were talking the other day about, wow, what if, you know, through this gamification, the one ten, however many winners that you want to you want to place on it, get an actual thing mailed to them? You know, I mean, it's a good way for us to work together to make both of our services better. I absolutely believe in trying to support every single event professional out there right now. I'm doing a coffee package that I'm working with a company that used to do carts at at conferences, but they can't anymore. So to stay around, like, how do we all kind of work together and form partnerships that make us all better than ourselves? I mean, I have like, you know, I'm kind of wacky. I've got ideas going all over the place. But when I talk to somebody else and they're like, oh, you know, I was thinking this. And I was like, oh, that's such a great idea. And I think it's you know, we all get to play off of each other. And I think that's important these days.

[00:16:26.360] - Marlys Arnold

Well, and that's true. And the thing is right now, I think the more partnerships and the more cooperative activities that we do, the more we're all going to be able to come back from this. I mean, if everybody continues to try to struggle on their own, this is going to be a much harder climb out of the pit, I guess you could say. But if we're helping each other, then everybody, I mean, the old saying of, you know, a rising tide raises all ships. I mean, we're all working together to try to to get the industry going again. So I think that's really important. I do want to put up before I forget, this is a link. If you scan, just take your phone and scan the QR code there, that'll take you to my LinkedIn profile. You can just connect with me on LinkedIn and then let me know you'd like a copy of that 30 sponsorship ideas PDF and so I can get that to you. Also, if you're curious about there's a place there's a site online that you can make these free QR codes and fancy them up like I did. So if you're interested in that, you can just ask me about that as well, and I can get you that link because I don't remember it off the top of my head, but just thought I would share. So but anyway, so let's talk a little bit more about some different things that you've done, the care packages and things. I know one of the things that I've heard from some sponsors is the challenge right now is because so many people are at home. And so you have to try to get that home address. Have you found that to be challenging or is it that people get so excited when they think, oh, I'm going to get something in the mail that they freely give out their home address? What what are you finding?

[00:18:08.240] - Nicole Burkart

Well, basically, I mean, I at the beginning of this, what I was really doing was employee appreciation gifts. I mean, because there were no conferences going on, sponsors weren't spending any money, you know, and those were very custom and oriented to you know, so they gave me their addresses. I basically I took off for like two months, I think, because I realized that I'm following the industry like I'm like listening to everybody else. But what they need and what I really need to do is be out in the community and be like, talk to my neighbors.

[00:18:38.870] - Nicole Burkart

What do you need? What do you miss? You know, what would you like to have? And then did all the research to try and find the best product that I had to relearn mailing. I had I mean, I put a bunch of things in a box. We sent them to one location I have never had to like individually send things to two other people. So I don't know that. And that'll be interesting if anyone here has any any feedback on how hard it is to get an address out of somebody. But I'm assuming when someone says they're sending you, I mean, when someone says they're sending me a free package, I'm like, here you go, you know?

[00:19:14.360] - Marlys Arnold

Yeah. And I guess part of it is I work from home. So for me, it's one in the same address. But but I have heard that from some some event organizers that it's a little bit harder sometimes to get people. But I think, again, if you've got that, you know, if you're dangling that carrot of, oooh, we're going to send you a goodie box or you know, and the other thing we haven't talked about, too, is unboxing. You know, I I participated in an event those who are regulars here heard me talk about it a couple of weeks ago, but I participated in an event where they they shipped us the box ahead of time and you open it. And then it's all wrapped in black tissue paper. And there's a note on top that says, no peeking. We're going to open this as an activity during the event. And it was it made it so much fun. Now, some people did admit that they had already opened it up and gone through everything. But for those of us who didn't, it was it was like Christmas. It was so fun. You open. It's like, oh, look, oh, look. You know, and and so as they walked through and some of it was during the presentations and some of it was the sponsors, as the sponsors would do their presentations, they would say, OK, pull this out, this example of ours. And it just was really fun. So, you know, I think that's another layer that can be incorporated, is creating that interactive interpersonal experience as well.

[00:20:35.300] - Nicole Burkart

Yeah. I mean, I like it when it's shared. I mean, I don't think there's like some of my packages aren't shared, like I'm coming up with a sustainability package, which basically has products that people use at home to be more sustainable, that you're not normally going to go out and try this 'n that you know what I mean? Like, it's a sample set, you know, try it out. Do you like this? Does it bother you? Like would you buy this on your own? So those things are, you know, just sort of different than I kind of lost my train of thought there. What was the question again?

[00:21:09.730] - Marlys Arnold

Well, you were saying the sustainability package wouldn't necessarily be like a,

[00:21:15.210] - Nicole Burkart


[00:21:15.480] - Marlys Arnold

interactive unboxing,

[00:21:17.920] - Nicole Burkart

unboxing thing like working with laundry together, you know, something like a cocktail package I did something, it was High Tea. And it was basically like, you know, we found this nice little like glass teapot. We got like blooming tea, which is this, you drop in and it flowers and it's got a pretty and it's unusual and it had a little biscotti and some chocolate whatever. So that when people were hanging out like it was a fundraiser and it was supposed to be a high tea, but, you know, we could bring the high tea to them so that one of the other things that this was their idea and I was like, this is brilliant, was they had everybody wear hats like, you know, if you had, like, a cool little derby hat or something and they had a little contest, like, you vote for the best hat. And I was like, oh, my God, that's so brilliant. You know? I mean, I personally would have had to make a newspaper hat because I don't have any around. Not that we have newspaper anymore.

[00:22:17.280] - Marlys Arnold

Well, it is again, there's all kinds of ways to get people interacting. Danielle says we've been hosting in virtual activations for our clients and prospective clients if they register and want to participate in the event they have provided the address, no concerns. So, yeah, I think, again, it's just a matter of making sure that people understand what kind of giving them that fomo that fear of missing out. It's like, oh, if you give us your address, you can get a kit, ya know, and then some, some groups I know are doing where maybe they're charging a little extra, you know, like one of the groups that I was in, we had to pay extra to get the kit.

[00:22:54.300] - Marlys Arnold

So because they wanted to cover the shipping and everything. So, you know, there's a lot of different ways to structure that. But Nicole. Well, before we wrap up, just is there anything else? I mean, please do share how people can get in touch with you. But any other thoughts that you want to share with us that we haven't talked about?

[00:23:11.700] - Nicole Burkart

You know? Well, one of my special things or one of the things that I've always believed in is I think that when a company gives back, it, ah, it is so much more meaningful and that people actually appreciate it. And it's those kinds of things that people don't forget. So it's like, you know, Seeds of Community is like, you know, not only are you giving seeds to your attendees, I also donate seeds to urban agriculture programs. You know, anyone who wants my work in the Boston area, because that's where I am. But if anybody knows of any any place anywhere, I'm like have some seeds. It's good.

[00:23:51.000] - Marlys Arnold


[00:23:51.810] - Nicole Burkart

But basically that not only helps it helps the community. It helps the attendee. The sponsor gets recognition and for doing a good thing. And I absolutely believe people should have recognition for doing a good thing. So, yeah, I think it's just think think beyond what you know, sending somebody a Post-it pad with your your brand on it is not going to be as meaningful as something that gives back or is sustainable or supports a company that is sustainable or supports people in the event industry who need support right now. So that's kind of my goal.

[00:24:29.070] - Marlys Arnold

Well, and I like what you said about not just throwing your logo on something and tossing it in the mail. It's kind of like, you know, you think about how at Christmas, you know, where are you more excited when grandma gave you socks or when somebody gave you something really cool? You know.

[00:24:46.320] - Nicole Burkart

I found a company that makes these really good socks that say things like, I'm amazing on the bottom and I think that's awesome. I think everybody should wear them every day. You know, they're going up on my website soon. I just relaunched, so go check it out. But things will be coming forward in the weeks to come. And, you know, I'm on Twitter, I'm on LinkedIn. Say hi.

[00:25:09.900] - Marlys Arnold

Yeah. And your website is?

[00:25:12.430] - Nicole Burkart

[00:25:14.430] - Marlys Arnold

OK? And Danielle said yes, they put a little teaser in their verbiage and she agrees with fomo and it's fun. Yes. There's nothing wrong with providing a little fomo because people get people it really does motivate more than what you might think.

[00:25:29.300] - Nicole Burkart

We and we need something to look forward to now because it's like, you know, I'm like, where's my next Amazon package? ... , not only that, I'm checking on my computer. I'm not even going to my porch any more. I'm like, is it here, is it here?

[00:25:41.910] - Marlys Arnold

Yeah, I know. Well, it's like I. I've got a package coming today, so I tracked it this morning. It's like, oh, it's on the truck, OK. You know, so it's true. We really we really do get excited these days about deliveries. Well, Nicole, thank you so much for being our guest today on a Virtual Lunch. And thanks to all of you who were first time attendees or first time diners, I guess we could say, today in Virtual Lunch in the cafe. So we hope to see you back. Like I said, we will be back next week and then the week after that, we will take off, but then we will resume again after that. So Tuesday, same time, same place. Thanks again, Nicole, and thanks to everybody for joining us. And we will see you at our next Virtual Lunch.

[00:26:31.180] - Marlys Arnold

You can find all the links mentioned during our interview in this episode's show notes at And if you'd like to join us for an upcoming weekly Virtual Lunch, you'll find information on that at

[00:26:57.820] - Marlys Arnold

If you enjoyed today's episode and would like more, you can subscribe to the podcast and automatically receive future episodes on your chosen device, simply search for Trade Show Insights in Apple, Spotify, Stitcher or virtually anywhere else that podcasts are found. Then click the subscribe button. Trade Show Insights is protected by the Creative Commons copyright license, you may feel free to share this recording with colleagues or embed it on your own blog as long as it's shared in its entirety and is not used for commercial purposes.

[00:27:32.600] - Marlys Arnold

To learn more, please see the link in the sideban the show notes at Well, that's it for this episode of Trade Show Insights. Be sure to check out our show Notes and archives at You can also connect with me using the social media links or the contact page on the site. I'm Marlys Arnold. Thanks for listening and be sure to join us next time for more tools to improve your exhibit results.


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