By Michael Kalman, CEO MediaCrossing
Among the industries devastated by the global pandemic, perhaps none have been as thoroughly ravaged as the live events space. In a single year, the live events industry took a more than $30 billion hit in terms of lost revenue, and the crisis isn’t over yet.
That said, although the pandemic is still raging across the country today, the approval and subsequent rollout of multiple vaccines has allowed live events marketers to begin looking forward to a day—likely in the back half of 2021—when restrictions on high-capacity gatherings will lift and people will safely return to large-scale event spaces.
With all U.S. adults eligible for the vaccine starting April 19th, there is hope that state and regional restrictions will continue to ease at a growing rate. Knowing exactly when and where those restrictions will lift is difficult to predict. However, live event marketers mustn’t let such uncertainty paralyze their efforts to position themselves properly. And while it might seem counterintuitive, now is the time for renewed hope—and redoubled efforts—for the future of live events.
In fact, the companies that will lead the inevitable revival of the live events space are the ones that are investing right now to ensure they’re top-of-mind for when consumers reopen their social calendars.
Driving Demand Amid Uncertainty
So how can marketers build demand for events with to-be-determined times and locations? The answer lies in old-school branding concepts. When live events come back, the competitive landscape will be fiercer than ever as organizations of all shapes and sizes look to make up for lost time. Those that have invested in raising awareness and consideration well in advance of having tickets to offer will be the ones that come out of the gates strongest.
Of course, for live events marketers, this pivot to upper-funnel branding and mid-funnel consideration tactics represents a significant deviation from the direct marketing tactics they’ve long relied upon for driving registrations, reservations and ticket sales. Live events marketers should be creating awareness now. Initially, click-to-reserve tactics should instead be replaced by high-level branding initiatives when targeting new prospects, and retention and remarketing efforts should pivot from driving the next sale to driving loyalty with reminders of memorable past events.
Local events organizations and businesses also have the opportunity to use their media spends to build affinity within the community, by supporting and promoting organizations that are contributing to pandemic relief locally. Likewise, those that continue to support a local workforce despite current event restrictions should consider highlighting the innovative ways they’re pivoting during the crisis, reminding their audiences that they’re eager to see them again when it’s safe to do so. Thoughtful messaging will be key to success
Even though there might not be tickets to sell today, live event companies can still use their marketing and media dollars to drive action, be it a newsletter signup or RSVP to a virtual event or activity. Keeping attendee prospects engaged even while pandemic restrictions are in place on live events will help companies break through the media clutter with their most valued audiences when they once again have dates and times to announce.
The simple fact is this: This pandemic will end. And when it does, the pent-up demand for live events among today’s physically distancing consumers is going to be overwhelming. This demand will extend far beyond major league sports and stadium-scale concerts to include more modest national, regional and local events, conferences and festivals, not to mention community theaters, music and sports venues, and food halls. The companies that position themselves now for this inevitable return to live events will be the first ones marking “sold out” on their promotions.