Last Updated: November 18, 2020

Have you ever been tempted by a credit card company giving away free blankets or t-shirts at a football game in exchange for a credit card application? Have you been approached by a skimpily-dressed young woman offering samples of fruity alcohol at a local bar? Have you been lucky enough to find yourself suddenly surrounded by a flash mob put on by the local theater company in a crowded mall? Each of these unique experiences offers a glimpse at what twenty-first century event marketing can be.

Event marketing strategies leave a lasting, brand-focused impression of fun by grabbing the attention of a group of people who are gathered together. If executed successfully, event marketing will provide each of them with an experience that will resonate in their minds.

Event marketing is entering a guerrilla era where the physical and the virtual cross paths, offering new options for marketing professionals who create buzz over a service or product. Consider one of McDonalds’ most popular event marketing campaigns – McDonalds Monopoly. According to the company, the promotion increases the chain’s revenue upwards of 5% month-over-month, even though consumers have been participating since 1987. While the game pieces themselves have always represented a chance at winning a variety of prizes, recent years have unveiled a new dimension to the game – interactive Monopoly, where consumers can win even more prizes by registering their game pieces online.

What is event marketing?

Event marketing is a promotional strategy that involves face-to-face contact between companies and their customers at special events like concerts, fairs, and sporting events. Brands use event marketing entertainment (like shows, contests, or parties) to reach consumers through direct hand-to-hand sampling or interactive displays. The practice works because it engages consumers while they’re in a willing, participatory position. (See also Field Marketing)

The Power of Event Marketing

According to a 2012 study by the Event Marketing Institute:

  • 58% of event marketing participants purchased the marketed product after the event
  • 86% of these consumers became regular customers

A successful event marketing campaign provides value to attendees beyond information about a product or service. A discount, free sample, charity alignment, or fun event will make customers feel like they are receiving a benefit and not just attending a live-action commercial.

In contrast to traditional advertising, which blasts millions of consumers with the same general television, radio or billboard message, event marketing targets specific individuals or groups at gathering spots, in hopes of making quality individual impressions.

The key to pulling off an effective event marketing campaign is to identify the target audience correctly and create an experience that remains in participants’ memories. By finding an opportunity to interact with the right demographic of people – both current customers and prospective buyers – a brand can build favorable impressions and long-lasting relationships. The best, most creative events create interactions that not only reflect positively on the brand at the time, but generate a buzz long after the event is over. (See also Buzz Marketing)

Who implements event marketing?

As long as a business is able to track and identify their target audience, they can find a way to appeal directly to them. For example, if a company sells sporting products, they can market at a sporting event. If they sell technology products, they can offer demonstrations of the latest and greatest technologies at a convention event. (See also Product Marketing)

In fact, any company that provides a product can give out samples, as long as it isn’t illegal. Even companies whose products aren’t able to be handed out as samples (like pharmaceutical companies or doctors’ offices) can provide interactive experiences to consumers. For example, a company that manufactures a medication for high blood pressure could set up a machine that takes blood pressure readings next to a booth supplying literature on their drug.

Event marketing shouldn’t take the place of traditional or community marketing, but should be a supplemental tactic to both. If a brand’s national commercials feature a well-known mascot, for example, that mascot could make an appearance at an event and pose for photos with attendees. (See also Community Marketing)

The Thanksgiving Day Parade

Since 1924, Macy’s department store has been hosting a New York City Thanksgiving Day parade that is still synonymous with the start of the holiday season. Allegedly started by first-generation immigrant employees who wanted to enjoy the American holidays in a European fashion, this famous event marketing campaign has helped to make Macy’s a New York City staple. Additionally, many other companies now participate in the event, with branded mascot balloons joining the annual parade.

How is an event marketing plan developed?

Event marketing is unique because each event must be approached differently – in this respect, a marketing team doesn’t necessarily need an overarching “plan” for their various events. Instead, it is important to base each individual event marketing tactic upon the brand’s overall marketing plan and how it fits into the personality of the event. By approaching each event as a separate chance to make an impression, a brand can tailor their efforts to best impact each audience.

Maximize your Event Marketing Budget

  1. Host competitions or contests
  2. Sponsor and/or participate in meet-ups or user groups
  3. Host an unaffiliated pre-party or after-party for an industry event
  4. Host a party or networking event during a competitor conference
  5. Volunteer as an industry speaker

Still, teams must consider three aspects when developing an event marketing plan. First, the company should consider the personality that their brand is trying to convey. A brand like Coca-Cola, who has historically tried to place their product as a harbinger of global peace, happiness, and simple pleasure, made an excellent choice by installing vending machines that dispensed “happiness” along with soft drinks.

Second, company must keep their target audiences in mind. In recent years, grassroots efforts by men’s heath coalitions have popularized “Movember,” a November-long moustache-growing contest to raise awareness of prostate cancer and other cancers affecting men. This initiative would never have taken hold if not for the ironic popularity of moustaches among young men, the audience who could most benefit from men’s cancer awareness. (See also Event Marketing)

Third, companies need to consider what lasting impression they wish to leave on their audience. Many people remember the 2005 Sony campaign where the company dropped – and filmed – 250,000 bouncy balls on the streets of San Francisco in order to advertise the color display their new Bravia LCD television was capable of.

Brands can impress event crowds through a variety of creative tactics, not just sheer visual appeal. For example, one tactic that brands use is to create an event within an event. The idea is to create a compelling reason for patrons to stop and explore your brand, not just another booth for them to walk past. At the Sundance film festival, Ray Ban sunglasses put on a truth-or-dare themed campaign, which was fun for participants and also translated into social media shares after the event was over.

Event marketing can also be much more subtle – many companies use QR codes on their posters and branding materials that work to integrate physical and virtual branding. These QR codes can lead users to mobile sites offering discounts and special offers on physical products. Additionally, some companies offer exclusive event benefit coupons to those who ‘like’ them on Facebook.

What types of careers work with event marketing strategies?

Marketing Managers

What do they do?

Maximize your Event Marketing Budget

  1. Host competitions or contests
  2. Sponsor and/or participate in meet-ups or user groups
  3. Host an unaffiliated pre-party or after-party for an industry event
  4. Host a party or networking event during a competitor conference
  5. Volunteer as an industry speaker

An event marketing campaign should be led by a marketing manager with a thorough understanding of the brand, allowing the manager to tailor each event to the audience while still keeping the brand’s identity and mission intact. Typically, marketing managers oversee all activities within a company’s marketing, advertising, and promotional department – not just an event marketing idea. They establish brand guidelines and growth strategies, evaluate customer needs, and then develop creative event marketing ideas based on these goals.

Education and Skills

Most marketing managers hold at least a bachelor’s degree in marketing or a related major like communication, advertising, or business. Marketing managers generally begin in entry-level marketing positions, including event marketing roles, and work their way up the career ladder.

Tour Managers

What do they do?

A tour manager is in charge of an event marketing campaign while it is on the road. Even the best-laid plans at a company’s home office can sometimes begin to fall apart when shipping requests, staffing arrangements, and inclement weather threaten to derail them. A quick-thinking tour manager is able to keep event marketing plans on track no matter what the conditions, and is responsible for the success of branding at the event.

Education and Skills

A bachelor’s degree in marketing or public relations is the best path to a career as a tour manager. While a college degree is not strictly necessary for this type of position, a marketing education can give a tour manager a leg up over the competition and can fast-track a tour manager to success.

Event Coordinator

What do they do?

An event coordinator is the behind-the-scenes insurance that a marketing event runs smoothly. He or she is responsible for getting the booth, supplies and travel set up, along with procuring any incidentals or collateral that accompanies the campaign. While an event coordinator is usually an entry level position, it is also extremely important to the success of an event, since young people in this position usually have a sense of what tactics will be most successful.

Education and Skills

An event coordinator should have a bachelor’s degree or background in marketing, advertising, or communications, since he or she will likely be responsible for talking with a variety of people involved in making the event run smoothly. A successful, passionate event coordinator can expect to move up into a higher-paid marketing role as his or her career progresses.

How can a marketing school help you succeed?

Our Recommended Schools

  1. Grand Canyon University (GCU)

    GCU's Colangelo College of Business offers leading edge degrees that address the demands of contemporary business environments.

  2. Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU)

    Explore the bond between business and consumer behavior with a degree in marketing.

A marketing degree from an accredited institution provides the ideal foundation for a career using event marketing. Because the success of a marketing event is so heavily dependent on presenting a brand to a physical audience in an exciting, interactive way, a specialized school that teaches students about breaking marketing tactics is an excellent way to build knowledge of event marketing and create new ideas.

The best way to pursue a career in event marketing is to earn a marketing degree. From there, a marketing graduate can build a career and determine whether he or she wants to be front-facing advocate for a brand, or if he or she would prefer a behind-the-scenes coordination position. Regardless, a marketing degree will provide students with the background knowledge needed to build a career in event marketing.

To learn more about how a marketing degree can help you build a successful event marketing career, request information from schools offering marketing degrees today.