How To Look Beyond Illusions & Avoid Investing in Event Frauds
By now, most marketers have watched the Fyre Festival documentary on Netflix or Hulu (if you haven’t, RUSH to do so). When the Netflix tale shared that Coachella sponsors contacted Fyre producers to explore sponsorship of the new, shiny “looking” Fest, I realized that world-class corporate marketers were duped as well as millennials.
Having worked in experiential marketing throughout my career spanning Live Nation, VIBE, ESSENCE Festival and Asheville Yoga Festival, I am viscerally aware of the amount of work that goes into event planning and securing sponsors.
Sponsors choose events as a medium to reach their audience. In lieu of a traditional or digital media ad buy, brands opt for event sponsorships and invest media dollars here instead of radio, tv, social or print. Offline events have a finite amount of physical space, and require logistics to accommodate bodies. The incremental reach delivered via social media amplification from live events has made event spends more cost efficient. But, due to the production elements, events are still the most expensive platform marketers can employ to reach a consumer one-to-one.
Marketers have products to hawk with a consistent advertising goal to reach their target audience in an impactful way that will engage them and drive their business goals, e.g. drive sales from new customers, drive brand awareness or maintain market share through rewarding existing customers.
As Fyre Festival Consultant Marc Weinstein said, selling out a first-time event is epic. Fyre did so through effective use of visually stunning, highly emotional imagery and power of influencers. Due to the epic failure of Fyre Festival, event creators will have to work even harder than before to secure the trust of customers and sponsors to invest their dollars.
Here are the top 5things marketers must do when analyzing events to sponsor:
1. Do a site visit yourself.
Sponsors, site visits are not optional. You have to view the venue(s) and footprint of your activation, ideally 60 days pre-event. If details are too loose or sketchy, dig into the details to ensure your investment is on solid ground. If details are too loose 60 days prior, this is a strong indication that the producers don’t have their ducks in a row and it may be a scramble and become more chaotic to deliver your promised deliverables leading up to the event.
2. Be cautious with first-time events.
Usually year one of an event irons out the kinks. Often, producers have a great idea and think someone should want to sponsor it, so they look to brands to underwrite their dreams. Sponsors, continue to scrutinize producers’ records and backgrounds. Do extensive reference checks and ask any question needed to determine if the producers can deliver against their sales deck. If it appears the producers don’t have the experience or resources to deliver, halt. Your sponsorship dollars won’t work effectively in reaching your target audience, and you could use this money better elsewhere.
3. Influencers — Beyond the #s, how can they drive your goals?
Oh my gosh! Those little orange tiles/squares Fyre Fest used, coupled with incredibly stunning and visually arresting model images were to die for. The squares piqued curiosity and the girl imagery represented the fun, carefree, skinny and gorgeous lives most crave.
But, (insert record scratch) what exactly are the influencers doing at the event? How will they help drive YOUR brand goals? If you’re interested in the event because of the influencer component, negotiate that the influencers will include your brand in their post, or they will repost one of your posts. Also, do the diligence researching influencer feeds to see the engagement rates of their sponsor posts. The influencer follower count is a factor, but the engagement is what will drive your goals.
Do the featured influencers make so many sponsored posts that their followers are immune to them, or are they both selective enough and authentic enough that followers like and share those posts as much as the unsponsored posts?
4. Craft a legal contract binding them to deliverables in your sales pitch.
A sales deck is just that. A sales deck. Often times, what the seller is selling is not fully vetted through the sponsorship management team (I know from having done this for years at Live Nation). If you’re buying 20,000 attendees, 10 Tweets reaching 2MM, 5 Facebook Posts reaching 1MM, and a 20’x20’ brand activation space, get this all in writing and ensure you set in place a monitoring system to ensure this is delivered.
5. Always have your own people on the ground.
I’ve seen it both ways. Some sponsors pay a rights fee to a property and use their own activation teams, and some pay the property a rights fee to sponsor inclusive of activation expenses and labor (a model I personally managed at Live Nation for ING with Juntos en Concierto/Marc Anthony Tours 2006 & 2007). Having your own staff on the ground best ensures your interests are protected. It seems like a no-brainer, but eh.
Choose wisely. Avoid the frauds. In my experience, most events are not intentionally and maliciously fooling their sponsors and attendee prospects. Rather they get excited in the momentum of events, and don’t dot all i’s and cross all t’s.
So just proceed with caution. And good luck.
Olivia F. Scott, Marketing Strategist/Consultant/Adjunct @ NYU-SCPS(www.omergealliances.com)