A Word from Your Sponsor: Lending support to industry shows has lasting benefits

Cinemas Features

Through the years, the major cinema shows have changed their names and locations; they’ve grown larger and more elaborate, attracting new participants, introducing new ideas, encouraging new thinking—and helping to unveil and advance the power of digital technology in an industry refreshing, reshaping and realigning itself for the future.

All of that has made the shows more vital than ever to those who are serious about succeeding and growing in this business. Four principal shows—CinemaCon, CineEurope, ShowEast, and CineAsia—anchor the year; at each, sponsors help provide reasons for attendance. Below, four industry leaders talk about what they do at the shows—and why.

Bob Raposo (Head of Cinema, Sony Electronics): We use trade shows for several purposes. We use them to get meetings with key customers and prospective customers around the world—so they’re gathering places for us. We also use them as a tool to gain industry knowledge—to find out what else is going on in the industry. And we use them as vehicles to demonstrate our latest products, our latest innovations.

Jelle Deconinck (Communications Director, Cinionic): The shows allow us to communicate and demonstrate the passion we have for cinema; they allow everyone to see the quality of the big picture we’re delivering. Those are the moments when we can show what we’ve promised and meet with the customers and other partners who help drive our vision.

Tony Adamson (Senior Vice President, Strategic Planning, GDC Technology):And there’s not a better place to find so many customers. We’ll have hundreds of formal meetings at CinemaCon. And then, there is always the “hallway meeting”; we’ve found it’s a good idea to walk the hallways when we can—because we often run into somebody who wants to get together for coffee or a drink, and that sometimes turns into a beneficial conversation.

Steve Ochs (Senior Vice President, Brand & Content Development, NCM):We want to be where the exhibitors are—to continue the conversations that are fundamental to success in our industry. It’s the right place for us to integrate our big ideas into what’s going on—and in a way that adds seamless entertainment and value to those in the audience.

RaposoOur goal is to create impact. The sponsorships packages we choose are those that align with what we need to accomplish, where we need to create impact as a company today. If we need to communicate a big message that has importance for the whole industry, we look at something that provides the opportunity to deliver a presentation to all attendees at the convention.

Deconinck: The size, scope, scale and purpose of the show determine what we do and how. But, it’s important for us to bring a comprehensive story to exhibitors, to explain to them that, with all the changes happening in the cinema landscape, we can guide them to make good choices for the future. And this year, Barco launched a new brand, Cinionic, so it was important to introduce that brand—and to get our message across that we are taking this major step because we believe it’s needed at this moment in time.

Raposo: I think your sponsorships have to be responsible to your brand, wherever it fits in its brand cycle today. We’re very particular. We want to make sure our sponsorship enables us to get the right message to the right audience where they’ll listen to the message. We prefer a sponsorship that gives us an opportunity to speak.

Deconinck: We are often part of panel discussions where we share our observations about what is happening today—and our vision of what we see happening in the future—so exhibitors can see how to react to those trends we believe are coming.

Raposo: A panel discussion is a good opportunity to collaborate with peers and competitors on a specific message to a very targeted audience that’s interested in that subject matter. But I think that sometimes panels lack a moderator who will challenge people on the panel, someone who can take the panel in directions that are relevant to the panelists, the audience and the industry today.

Adamson: We prefer to sponsor an event that offers a speaking opportunity. At CinemaCon, we’ve been the co-sponsor of the Amazon Studios luncheon for the last three years. It’s a great opportunity for [GDC founder, chairman and CEO] Dr. Chong to speak to the audience because we know it’s going to be a well-attended event. We often consider sponsoring food functions, especially at the four major shows. 

Raposo: There are three reasons to sponsor a meal. You can do it to build a relationship with whoever is running the particular event. Secondly, you can sponsor the meal to give you access to people you might not otherwise have access to. Or, the third reason is that it gives you an opportunity to speak, to convey your message to a specific—and sometimes very large—group.

Ochs: But we just don’t buy sponsorship packages off the shelf. We may buy elements of packages, but we try to craft each of our participations or integrations in coordination with the organizers who run each of the conventions. One of the things we like to do is to really integrate into the events, to find creative ways for NCM’s products to be part of the larger show events and add value for the attendees.

Deconinck: It’s always important to consider who is visiting the show and what partnerships make sense. For us, we don’t just consider the short term, we also look at the long term, to see where the possibilities are and what are the interests of those attending the show.

Adamson: Developing a show strategy starts with understanding the market, understanding your products and how they meet the needs of customers in a particular area, and then aligning your strategy—and your budget—for each show with those understandings.

Ochs: The fact that shows are getting bigger and tougher to break through the noise and clutter just speaks more to the point that we want to be an integral and seamless part of the show. So, things like our “Ask the Audience” presentation, things like our CEO giving audiences a view on what’s trending in Millennial moviegoing, things like creating a customized pre-show for use before “The State of the Industry” event at CinemaCon—those are the sorts of things that enable us to integrate NCM into the show itself.

Deconinck: At CineEurope this year, we sponsored a networking event in the evening; it was very successful because of its timing. During the day, a lot of people we want to talk to have a very busy schedule; it’s difficult to find a moment to connect with them. Organizing our event in the evening was a key opportunity for us.

AdamsonTradeshow positioning of our booth is one of the most important factors for GDC; we always want to be front and center, if that’s possible. From a booth-design perspective, we lay out our booth in zones—to best showcase our solutions available worldwide, and those developed for the specific region.

Ochs: We don’t usually have a booth on the tradeshow floor, but as we become more of a consumer-facing company with our digital products, such as Noovie Arcade, we may start to think about having more of a tradeshow presence.  

Raposo: Someone who doesn’t understand our industry may struggle with the question of why you’d spend this amount of money at a tradeshow. We evaluate the price of being there against the price of not being there. The industry we’re in is very unique. It’s a very small community and you’re either a member or you’re not. And if you want to be taken seriously as a member, you have to participate. Tradeshow investments are one “price of admission.”

Deconinck: But measuring is also important. We consider how many of our key customers attend those shows—and whom do we see? We also measure the success of our participation in the show by what we learned: what trends are happening, what is taking place in studios that will impact the business, what we have we learned from our customers and their expectations for the future. All of those are reasons why we believe we need to be a part of the show.

Ochs: I don’t know if you can really ever draw a straight line between “show participation” and “sales,” because so many of these relationships are longer-term; we really value the relationships that can be created at these events.

Adamson: It’s also a great opportunity to bring in your customers one-on-one, show them what’s new, and thank them for their business. Dr. Chong attends CinemaCon and CineAsia and I know our customers consider it a special opportunity to meet the founder of our company.

Deconinck: Shows are also a learning experience. Every day, we have early-morning briefings with our sales and marketing teams to share what we’ve learned—while it’s still fresh. And we try to make sure that everyone on our team knows what we’ve told our customers; we’re a global company and we need to speak consistently. When we return from the show, we also share our learning with our people who couldn’t attend.

Raposo: And then we begin planning for next year. But planning gets serious during the budgeting process—to be sure we’ll have the money to accomplish what we need to. For me, there are two aspects to a sponsorship: There’s writing the check and there’s activation against that check. If you don’t have the resources and the ability to activate against your sponsorship, you may be disappointed.

Ochs:You have to think holistically when you are engaging in a sponsorship.

AdamsonIt’s important to display your messaging at various touchpoints around the venue. You want your branding around every corner. Heavy exposure shows leadership in the industry; it shows that you care about the industry, that you support the industry, that you’re here to stay.

Raposo: For what we pay for any sponsorship, we allocate at least double that for our activation expenses to create impact.

Ochs: One of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever had is: Always think about how you can add value to the partnerships you’re going into. You can write a check for a sponsorship, but even better is everyone having gotten a lot out of what you did—and associating you with delivering that value.

Adamson: Even if you’re not a major sponsor, it’s a good idea to know the organizers because you may not be able to sponsor a major luncheon, but they may bring you some ideas you’ve never thought of that could really make a difference to your business.

Raposo: Talk to the show organizers and tell them: “This is where I am; this is what I want to accomplish. What do you have that could help me to accomplish this?” They’ve done this for a long time and they can help put together something that helps you reach the people you need to reach with the impact you need to have.

Deconinck: Being at shows and events is about knowing each other, it’s about listening to each other, learning from each other, sharing experiences and finding solutions that make long-term sense. Shows provide moments in time when we can meet each other, enjoy each other’s company and strengthen our relationships.

Ochs: We’re all part of the entertainment community. We’re involved as a sponsor because we believe that our ability to do things at the level we love—and with the passion we have for the movies—is going to pay off in the long run.

Adamson: Because finally, the trade show is a great opportunity for us to show customers that the innovations we provide enable them to show motion pictures under the best possible conditions—and to bring added value to their audience. We help them to deliver on the promise and the potential of digital cinema; we help them to keep their theatres viable for the future.