3 Effective Strategies to Fund Event Games via Sponsorship

Games Monopoly GoStart small, win big

By Andrea Driessen, Chief Boredom Buster

With all the buzz about integrating games into events, you may thinking YES! Let’s get a meeting app with a game to engage our attendees. And in the same breath: um, how do we pay for it?

Know this: when you play your cards right, your game-ful app can become a popular engagement tool; a printing-, paper- and money-saving conference program; and, indeed, even a profit center.

But to win at this game, note these five important rules to heed first.

1.     Start with the end in mind

You set yourself up for success with your game when you make thoughtful decisions based first on your audience—not on what you and/or your sponsors think is best, warns Trevor Roald, mobile technology evangelist with Vancouver, BC-based QuickMobile.

As a planning tool, Roald and his team use the Forrester-recommended POST (People, Objectives, Strategy, Technology) strategy. Originally created for marketing and biz-dev professionals, POST is now being used in mobile application development. POST ensures you put the people (not the tech) first, and build your objectives and strategies around them. What incents your attendee: Competition? Collaboration? Sustainability? The answer will inspire the game’s components.

2.     Understand your “why”

We know today’s meeting participants are savvy and easily bored. They expect high levels of interaction, learning and results in exchange for investing time in meetings. In fact, attendee expectations are quite similar to what event sponsors are craving from their investments. Marketers are growing tired of the same ol’ “platinum,” “gold” and “silver” sponsor levels, logos passively stamped on event promotions and a CEO introducing the keynoter whom her company helped fund.

Enter the chance for sponsors to align with an innovative game app, and you have the “ability to sell cool,” says Roald. Few sponsorship opportunities actually offer tangible returns and high buzz factors. In any competitive marketplace (and who isn’t in one?), companies spend in spades for brand differentiation. But given the chance to associate themselves with something new, interactive, buzz-worthy and—depending on the game, gain measurable ROI—wham! sponsors get more value.

Other reasons for a game app? Matthew Donegan-Ryan, SVP of sales and marketing for CrowdCompass in Portland, OR, believes, “The right app will turn attendees into event ambassadors, accelerate event popularity and leverage participant energy—before, during and after a meeting.”

3.     Small is beautiful

Some gaming experts agree you’re wise to start small—especially if it’s your first app + game. Most game efforts fail because planners try to do too much too soon, according to Ted Castronova, professor of telecommunications and cognitive science at Indiana University. He suggests you begin planning with pen and paper—not a computer. Don’t just start putting badges on everything. Rather, take the first, low-tech iterations of a game “for a spin” with real players, and see how gamers react.  Was it too easy? Confusing? Conceive, plan, create, jettison parts that don’t work; then re-create, test, refine. You’ll get better results and minimize risk.

You can also go more slowly just by having your game prizes sponsored. And, as in years past, the sponsor still hosts a luncheon, and has its logo on collateral. Or secure a sponsor for a specific game challenge, or a particular trade show booth: “Bring your badge to ___ booth, and win a prize.”

Want a more sophisticated sponsor-game partnership? You can secure a sponsor for your whole game rather than individual elements. Again, consider your objectives, and what aligns best with your desired results. What creates the most value for everyone?

(watch this space for 2 MORE strategies, coming soon)