Sponsors eager for return to in-person

AIM Group International survey of 200 companies finds support for event sponsorship with belief in revival of live conferences and hybrid options

PHARMACEUTICAL companies are eager to sponsor in-person events once anti-Covid restrictions permit, according to a survey by a leading conference organiser.

Events run on behalf of the pharmaceutical and biopharma sectors account for a substantial portion of planner, supplier and venue income.

AIM Group, headquartered in Italy, interviewed 200 decision makers in pharma companies across all therapeutic areas to assess their opinions on hybrid or digital meetings, trends and views on sponsorship.

Results show a belief among the pharma representatives in the benefits of in-person events and the value of sponsorship with half the companies surveyed prepared to sponsor conferences in two or three months.

Though AIM largely operates in Europe, the pharmaceutical industry is a massive global operation with conference, event and sponsorship models replicated across markets.

Key findings include:
– Half of the companies surveyed are ready to sponsor in-person events next autumn, only 16% exclude it as an option, the remaining 37% prefer to decide later.
– The budget for events in 2021 will mostly be allocated to in-person or hybrid events (43%) while digital-only events were preferred by one in three companies (35%).
– Assuming participation in a hybrid event, the majority would prefer to participate in-person (52%), or both in person and online (31%), only a small fraction (17%) would choose to attend the event online only.
– As for virtual events, a short duration is preferred, 76% chose between six and 12 hours duration.
– In the case of virtual events, pharmas prefer to sponsor scientific sessions (82%) or opportunities that give visibility to the brand (82%).
– Among the activities to make virtual events more effective, sponsors prefer short e-learning videos published before or after the event (60%), followed by television format scientific sessions with a professional moderator / presenter (50%), then Q&A sessions with key opinion leaders (48%) and forms of gaming (escape room, quiz, etc.) (38%).
The full survey can be downloaded from the AIM Group website

Anti-Covid restrictions on gatherings are being gradually eased across in Europe with limits on events in Italy also due to be lifted.

Patrizia Semprebene Buongiorno

“We are at a turning point, with the reopening of in-person events from July and the planning of events for next autumn” said Patrizia Semprebene Buongiorno, vice president of AIM Group International.

“At this juncture, we considered it would be useful to ask corporate decision makers who sponsor events to understand their attitudes and desires and devise solutions and projects more in line with the expectations of the market.

“The results of the survey are very interesting and encouraging because they reveal first and foremost that companies continue to believe in the benefits of in-person events and are keen to invest in this tool going forward,” Buongiorno said.

Gaia Santoro (in main image), head of sponsorship at AIM Group International, said: “From the analysis of the responses and from the dialogue that we carried out with company representatives, we clearly noticed a strong trend to favour the return to in-person events, or at least to some sort of hybrid formats. In addition, we noted that enriching virtual aspects of meetings with new engagement tools was also considered important.

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“With this in mind, we can predict that events next autumn will involve a move towards more sophisticated event features, which we are calling ‘an augmented event’. This combines some typical advantages of the online platform – such as access anywhere, any day and time and an expansion of the audience – combined with the strengths of in-person events.”

Buongiorno added: “The new formats are also drawing inspiration from different sectors such as TV, gaming, trade fairs, etc, allowing the event organisers to identify the best solution and obtain the desired results, changing not only the format – in-person, virtual or hybrid – but also the duration and schedule planning, the interaction among participants, the communication before, during and after the event.

“We are seeing several positive signs that suggest that once the pandemic is over events will emerge from the crisis stronger and even more effective,” she said.

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