Many shows are experiencing a big drop off in media/sponsorships and other spending on "branding." Here are some ideas to overcome this situation:
One suggestion is to play up educational opportunities which give sponsors quality exposure plus bring in more attendees. For example: sponsor on-floor learning areas that feature case studies on the use of the vendor's product/service—but are given by users (not the vendor's sales VP).
Another suggestion is to push level sponsorships (platinum, gold, silver) since these are easier to sell. But be sure you offer enough value and visibility for these sponsors such as blanket exposure on all printed material, on-site signage, etc.; a thank you at the Keynote; a private reception for the top 100 buyers; and so forth. Don't allow too many sponsors at the top levels or you will dilute the value.
Be flexible if someone wants to switch dollars from booth to sponsorship (or vice versa). Try to keep the maximum dollars on the books, but be sure you give them maximum value.
Finally, offer inexpensive sponsorships that can be easily charged to a credit card such as a flyer in the tote bag, enhanced listing in the Directory, sponsor of the weekly pre-show e-mail, etc.