After sponsoring the Rock ‘n’ Roll 10k on Saturday, there are a few lessons we learned that can probably be extended to most event sponsorships. First of all, it’s always good to get out and interact face to face with potential users. There is only so much you can do online, and it’s much easier to explain a site as complicated as Stack Exchange in person.
Secondly, having something interesting to make people curious about what you do is the best way to start a conversation. For us, Bubbles the Stack Exchange Mascot always makes people curious. Although there were a few runners who came in costume, we were the only event sponsors that brought a mascot. Even at events like Comic Con where everybody dresses up, Bubbles still stands out.
But you don’t have to do something as ridiculous as get a giant mascot costume made in order to make people want to talk to you. Since this event was a 10k race, we also brought nutrition bars, water bottles, and even a massage therapist. All of those things were a big hit, and our booth was extremely popular even when Bubbles was on her break. So a third important lesson is know your audience and what will appeal to them.
Another important thing to consider is that you don’t necessarily have to sponsor an event in order to go and talk to potential users. We didn’t sponsor Comic Con, but we were still able to talk to a lot of people about our SciFi and Gaming sites, primarily because we had things they wanted (e.g. pictures with Bubbles and Star Wars stickers). It may have been a little weird for Bubbles to show up to a 10k that we weren’t sponsoring, but we still could have given out nutrition bars and water bottles and made the runners happy for a fraction of the cost.
What you’re able to do will obviously depend on the event, but the most important thing is to be friendly and not sound like you’re giving a sales pitch. If you go to events where people will be interested in what you do, it should be easy to have a real conversation.