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7 Problems With Using Sponsored Content to Promote Events

March 23rd, 2023 | 5 min. read

By Claire Charlton

7 Problems With Using Sponsored Content to Promote Events

If you're hosting an event, you want to spread the word and boost interest and registrations — pronto. What better way than some top-quality content marketing? Especially if you've partnered with a reputable media partner who knows your target audience.

Sponsored content articles can be a great opportunity. But unless you've got lots of time and great topics that aren't only about your event, it likely won't meet your goals.

We speak from experience. Zoe Marketing & Communications has two sister media companies, Metro Parent and Chicago Parent, that run sponsored content in metro Detroit and Chicagoland. In our 15+ years of working with spon con, we've seen minimal returns for events.

So... why doesn't it work? In this blog, we'll walk you through seven core reasons:

  1. It's not the same as old-school advertorials

  2. It's tricky coming up with sustainable, educational content

  3. It doesn't have longevity and dings your "legacy"

  4. It's awkward positioning yourself as an expert

  5. It's not going to get you a lot of registrations quickly

  6. It's a slow burn for SEO

  7. It's an investment that likely won't pay off

By the end, you'll feel more confident about why sponsored content articles with a media partner likely won't net results.

1. It's not the same as old-school advertorials

Many people look at sponsored content as an evolution of advertorials. Those are articles that look a lot like regular editorial articles. However, they're clearly labeled as advertising.

Their sole goal is to promote a product, service or event. Traditionally, this is a way to get around the uncertainty of so-called "earned media." That's when a publication decides to write a story about you after you've successfully pitched them. Advertorials are "buying" your way in.

They have a place, but they're not what sponsored content is about.

How sponsored content is different

Conversely, sponsored content articles with a media partner are:

  • A series of articles, about 600-1,000 words each, rolled out over at least 4-12 months

  • An opportunity to educate, inform and build trust with future customers

  • A chance to establish yourself as an expert in your field

You're not overtly "selling yourself." You're getting yourself in a position where, when people do make a decision, they're more likely to trust and choose you.

Those goals can conflict with selling as many tickets as possible to your one-weekend festival or limited-run stage show.

2. It's tricky coming up with sustainable, educational content

What questions are your potential attendees asking — what do they REALLY care about — that you can educate them about? That's the heart and soul of sponsored content articles.

This is a tough thing to navigate with events.

Granted, there are always exceptions, such as if you're:

  • Trying to build a community around your event brand

  • Running a big event with a long "run" time (weeks or months)

  • Hosting a major event/conference with informative content from years past to share

That said, this takes mindful planning. You'll want to start curating topics many months in advance. And you need to do it in tandem with other tactics, like digital ads and emails.

For example, let's take a Cirque du Soliel tour. They could do a series of articles focused on, say:

  • The physics behind trapeze acts

  • Learning to do a handstand

  • How to ride a unicycle in five steps

That could hook folks in, and they may be more excited about buying tickets — now and for future tours.

However, if you're trying to fill the seats for a one-weekend show, you're better off using other advertising methods with a stronger call to action.

3. It doesn't have longevity and dings your 'legacy'

By their very nature, events are fleeting. That means the content you write about it is, too.

If you only focus on event specifics, remember: That story may "live" on your media partner's website for quite a while, even after the event ends.

This is an issue even if your event is annual. In the future, people may click on the article, looking for new details. What they'll stumble on, instead, is "moldy" info.

What do you usually do in these cases? If we had to guess, you'd be annoyed and click away.

This can make your organization look bad, even if the content isn't on your website. It's your good name on the line.

Also, you'll need to maintain your spon-con relationship with your media partner to ensure they'll update it for you each year. If not, there's a good chance they won't.

By contrast, general informational content still engages and intrigues people. Again, it's just a trickier call with events.

4. It's awkward positioning yourself as an expert

A key goal of sponsored content is establishing yourself as an expert in your "arena." You might be thinking: "But I AM an expert in my event." That's true!

But what questions are people asking about your event or brand beyond the immediate facts? Such as:

  • Cost

  • Times

  • Specific attractions

  • Age-appropriateness

  • Location and directions

And would any of these stories feel "evergreen" or stand the test of time after your event is over?

By their very nature, events are about — well, the event.

There are few opportunities to educate people on deeper issues they care about, which is the heart of spon con.

5. It's not going to get you a lot of registrations quickly

Let's be honest: Attendance is the end game for events. Speed tends to be of the essence.

Sponsored content takes a while to "percolate." It's designed to gather steam over the long haul. That's not going to cut it when your focus is on getting as many people as possible to attend a workshop that's two months away, for instance.

You'll be disappointed if you want a direct connection between your spon con and ticket sales — especially in short order.

6. It's a slow burn for SEO

SEO, or search engine optimization, is how people find you on the web. Sponsored content is designed with SEO in mind. When people search for keywords related to your business, the idea is that your articles will pop up for them, ideally on page one of the results.

The problem with content SEO is it takes a while — sometimes 3-6 months or more. SEO is unpaid and relies on Google going through its time-consuming process to discover you.

So if you're trying to run spon con only a month or two before an event, your SEO payoff will be minimal.

7. It's an investment that likely won't pay off

Last but not least, sponsored content is an investment. Depending on your goals and the company you use, spon con costs can range from hundreds to $1,500+ per article.

Think about the cost and consider your marketing budget for your event. Break it down to marketing dollars spent per attendee and determine your break-even point.

If it makes sense to spend thousands of dollars on sponsored content for several months prior — and you're hoping to gain customers so loyal to your event that they will return year after year — sponsored content might make great sense.

But spending marketing money on a one-off piece of content isn't the most effective way to get people through your doors or gates.

Next steps to promoting your event successfully

Sponsored content articles with media partners can be powerful. But there are many hurdles when it comes to promoting events.

In this article, we covered several shortfalls, such as creating engaging content over time, quickly netting many registrations — and, of course, the price tag compared to your goals.

Looking for better ways to market your events? Talk to us here at Zoe Marketing & Communications. We can connect you with digital solutions that'll drive your registrations.

Still getting your bearings or trying to find better solutions yourself? Discover better options for sponsored content for a variety of goals.

Claire Charlton

An enthusiastic storyteller, Claire Charlton focuses on delivering top client service as a content editor for Zoe Marketing & Communications. In her 20+ years of experience, she has written extensively and is keen on new tech and podcast hosting.