Experiential marketing post-covid: A question that is keeping experiential marketers up at night is what form events and experiential marketing will have once the world returns to normal. Michael Goldstein, VP and Head of Sponsorships North America, Mastercard and Michael Tasevski, VP, Global Sponsorship at Scotiabank provide their points of view. KPIs to measure virtual events success and more….
How will experiential marketing evolve in a post Covid world? Will events be virtual, hybrid or in-person? The answer to this question has very wide implications. Not only is the answer highly relevant to the US $325 billion a year event industry, but also to the media industry as live sports events ratings dropped by as much as 50% during the pandemic (e.g. a decline of 49% in NBA finals and 61% in NHL finals) as the absence or scarcity of fans in the stands may have dulled the excitement around watching events. (Sports betting operator DraftKings, who is a big sports ad spender, had to shift budgets out of TV as live sports has lost some of its allure).
What do experiential brand marketers belonging to Portada’s knowledge-sharing system think about the mix of live and in-person events in a post-covid world?
“My thinking is as follows – you will definitely see more of a mix as the world returns to normal of virtual vs. in-person events relative to how things worked prior to Covid,” Michael Goldstein, VP and Head of sponsorships North America, at Mastercard tells Portada.
“Beforehand it was almost all in-person but we have learned that virtual events really do bring something to the table and consumers and customers like them. In-person events will still be there and be a big focus, but it will be more of a mix between the two in my POV,” Goldstein adds.
Another experiential brand marketer in the Portada network says that “Everybody is clamoring to go back to in-person, but virtual events will maintain an important role after the pandemic. Overall, we think the whole balance between sports events, consumer interactions and brands will change substantially and will be more based on digital communication than before COVID. For now, lots of brands don’t want to overstep. No one wants to be the first one out there to be doing something unsafe. e.g. build a big stadium.”
Experiential Marketing Post-Covid: Opportunities in VR and AR….
Mike Tasevski, who manages global sponsorships at Scotiabank, seems to agree: “We dont see affinity, engagement and passion towards sports and soccer changing, it will always be there. What we do see is a continued shift in how people consume sports and soccer and how properties and brands interact with their fans. We need to continue to create new innovative ways to provide experiences and see opportunities in virtual and augmented reality.”
Tasevski, whose main responsibilities at Scotiabank include experiential marketing, adds that he uses “loyalty programs targeted on customer offers and growing benefits along with technology like virtual reality and augmented reality. When we look at virtual and augmented there is an opportunity from a revenue stream where you can purchase products branded products and so forth.”
Virtual Events are Here to Stay
For most experiential brand marketers consulted by Portada virtual events are here to stay. Virtual event attendees seem to agree: according to a just released survey by Eventbrite called 2020 “Inside Look Report” which analyzes more than one million global virtual experiences, “for the foreseeable future, virtual events are highly likely to remain both necessary and popular. Across the board, half of the respondents in the survey said they plan to attend both virtual and in-person events when it is safe to gather again.” Nearly one in five men (19%) went as far as to say that online events and social platforms have allowed them to forge social connections better than they would have made in real life.
“Perhaps the silver lining of this pandemic is that online events have the power to globally engage communities in new ways, helping creators bring people together from small town America to far reaching corners of the world,” says Julia Hartz, co-founder and CEO of Eventbrite. “That’s something to celebrate as we continue to work toward the safe return of in-person events,” she adds.
Experiential Marketing Post-Covid: KPIs to Measure Virtual Event Success
A key question regarding post-covid experiential marketing is how key performance indicators related to engagement, awareness and conversion should be measured at virtual events (vs. in-person events). Of course, as Juhi Purswani Content Developer at Event Management Company Hubilo notes: “Unless the audience feels engaged, your virtual conference is a big FAIL.”
The overall approach to virtual event KPIs, according to event marketing experts in the Portada network, is to look at it across the full funnel from awareness down to trial. While awareness is always a primary metric and objective, savvy experiential marketers are equally interested in measuring the consideration and conversation aspects of the program or promotion.
Additionally, whereas awareness at in-person events was once measured by attendance figures, now it’s a matter of how long you are keeping them engaged and what actions the consumer is willing to take based on this experience.
The measurement of conversion (e.g. product sales online and in-store) has also shifted with the preponderance of virtual events. Metrics are no longer about the consumer on-site or at the event, but rather the actions they are taking during or, in many more cases, before the experience.