This is a guest post by Alistair Turner, Founder and Director of EIGHT, a specialist PR & marketing agency for the event industry. He is also the current President of the UK Chapter of the International Live Events Association.
I’ve been fortunate enough to have attended a lot of events this summer; more than I’ve been able to do for a long time. I’ve been to exhibitions, brand activations, association meetings, networking events, outdoor events, sporting events, festivals and everything in between.
The one thing that stands out to me, now more than ever, and that was a universal factor in every one of these events, is the massive role brands and businesses played.
At ILEA UK Chapter, we talk a lot about brands as the future of the events industry. We know, and continually remind ourselves, that no event happens without the financing of businesses and brands.
They fund events directly or through sponsorship; they support ticket sales, create revenue through food and beverage agreements; they create exhibition spaces, sponsor features, finance stands; they add their own marketing clout and expertise, and build awareness and distribution.
A partnership made in heaven
Run or Dye is a beautiful event that takes place across the country. It’s a 5K run, where every 1k a different coloured dye (powder) is thrown in front of the runners.
It’s brought to life with glow sticks, colourful merchandise, it raises money for charities and allows non-runners, experienced athletes, young children and older folk to run the course with no competition. Afterwards there is a main stage with a big party, powdered dye is fired out of cannons and everyone gets covered in colour. It’s a brilliant, visual event.
This year I saw Clinique activate their first ever sponsorship of one of the Run or Dye races in Penshurst, Kent and it was astounding to see what they bought to the party.
It was a partnership made in heaven. Clinique are raising money for Great Ormond Street with a campaign called ‘Kiss it Better’ and wanted to use the race as both a fundraiser and a chance to spread the word.
Through the partnership, Clinique was able to bring reach and awareness through on-pack and in-store promotions, and heart to the event.
They involved Victoria Pendleton, Olympian, to start the race and compete in it. But they also bought the richness of their own brand to create a new look and feel to the event. This is a brand with its own unique style and class, and it was reflected in new branding and brand collateral across the course, as well as a lovely VIP zone and an area where competitors could try their products and post selfies.
For me, this partnership not only underlined that brands help events happen financially, but also they add a gloss to them as well.
More than the sum of their parts
Outdoor events specifically are expensive to put on, they can be vast, and because of that size, it’s difficult to create a designed experience in every corner of the event.
Brand participation allows this to happen. A partnership between the right brand and the right event can be so mutually beneficial that the power to both parties is vastly more than the predicted ROI. Often it’s a case of 1+1=10!
I spoke to the organisers behind Run or Dye, and on top of all the other benefits provided by partnering with a brand like Clinique, there was a sense that they had also doubled their team and the quality of it, which in its own right is a massive contribution.
Brands use events to give new and existing customers a face-to-face experience, to allow them to touch their brand, and then to ignite it over social networks and channels.
Events create content for advertising campaigns, they create in-store activity, on-pack promotion, and PR for brands. As this happens, the alignment between both parties spreads the word and creates more good will and feelings of affinity towards brand, event and consumer.
Kevin Jackson of The Experience is the Marketing, and Past President of ILEA UK, talks about how brand marketing is now about ’…what brands do for people, not just what they say to people’.
When a great brand sponsors an event, they are doing something for every one of their customers that attend that experience. This is powerful and underlines what a rich partnership an event and a brand can have.
How we can generate even more value for (and from) brands
To really engage brands and businesses, we need to learn their language, and understand what affects them every day.
As an industry, we often find ourselves looking to inward, self-analysing or congratulating ourselves, instead of focusing on where we sit within the marketing mix; or where businesses think we fit.
I passionately believe that a new conversation is happening at the moment, between brands and #eventprofs, that is changing the way this industry is perceived.
At its forefront are forward thinking brand marketers, Sales & Marketing Directors, and also some of the outstanding agencies that are evolving and growing within our industry.
Insights that will drive better engagement still
I’m delighted to say that these are all represented within the ILEA UK membership, and that this conversation is happening within our events and our community. Our mantra this year is to encourage this dialogue and for members to #followtheconversation.
From these conversations, it is emerging that the main areas where we event planners can better engage brands is as follows:
- Understand our place within the marketing mix, now, previously and where it could be. Understand our clients’ perception and use of events and experience in their marketing. How do we engage with traditional advertising, PR and social media, how could this change for the future?
- Underline our understanding of audience and back it up with data. Find as much detail of both statistical and emotional data from the audience. Not just their age profiles, but what they watch, listen to, drink and where they shop. This is vital information to support alignment.
- Extol the value of creativity. Be an advocate for great creative thinking, follow already established creative platforms, but also pitch new creative ideas and platforms. These don’t have to be about an event per se either, they can be an entire brand campaign, bought to life by experience, but bringing in other marketing mediums.
- Understand the markets clients are operating in, take pains to do this intelligently and thoroughly, reads market reports etc. “Creativity is Intelligence having fun …”
- Collaborate with other agencies and marketing mediums to gain better understanding of their worlds; understand how experience can work symbiotically with these other mediums.
- Sell the true value of experience, its emotional involvement, its impressiveness, its ability to physically touch consumers and not just talk to them. Understand what it is brands get from their engagements with great events.
- Go to events, not just yours, all of them. Find great examples of brands and events working in partnership, let them be your inspiration …
The event industry has grown in the last few years from £39.1bn to £42.5bn. I am convinced that this growth is spurred by the opportunity our industry represents to brands, and the understanding a select few have of the value we bring.
I am also convinced that there is more to come, and that brands will continue to invest in events, sponsorship of events and host their own if we in the industry continue to speak their language and help them to open doors into our worlds.
When they do, they meet passionate, creative and intelligent people that can build them new worlds, and then walk them through it.