We’ve all come to expect a massive marketing push around big sporting events like this month’s Beijing Olympics. If endorsement ads or product tie-ins don’t get you, the endless articles about athletes, venues, and Olympic history will. And why not? Olympic competition and glory — and all those captivated eyeballs — is magic elixir for advertisers. Late last year, ZenithOptimedia predicted global Internet ad sales to increase its total share of the market to 9.4 percent in 2008 (up from 8.1 percent), in part buoyed by “a so-called ‘quadrennial’ kick year, in which major events like the Olympics, Euro 2008 soccer tournament, and U.S. presidential elections coincide.”
Whether you’re trying to piggyback on the hype of an existing event or market one on its own, the Web ought to be a part of this effort. A while back, ClickZ columnist Heidi Cohen examined online event marketing that still includes important best practices for today.
Advertising events online can cut a wide swath. If an event is local, the ad campaign should be confined using geo-targeted or localized advertising. Events like industry conferences may try to reach a more national but niche target audience. Web events or contests, which can be events unto themselves, have no geographical restrictions.
Cohen also spoke of important online event considerations.
Let me add to and update her solid list, particularly with respect to online advertising:
- Pre-planning. Aside from defining the strategy and your particular target audience, try to precisely pinpoint appropriate marketing lead time for the campaign objective. If the campaign’s objective is to raise awareness, you may need to begin advertising months in advance. But if you’re trying to drive ticket sales, registrations or attendance, two to three weeks run time in advance of the event generates the greatest response. Dominic Schmitt, general manager of Tennis.com, also cautions endorsers, “Be careful about tying your entire message for the event to a particular athlete, in case s/he gets knocked out early in the competition.”
- Media mix. Site ads should be part of the mix, but we’ve found ads in e-mail newsletters, particularly those with event calendars, especially effective. For regionalized events, so too are ads on local television Web sites — which we’ve found to be more effective than local newspaper or radio sites. Don’t forget new advertising options in social media either.
- Mid-campaign optimization. Still a necessary component of event marketing, off-line advertising of events using media like direct mail, billboards, transit ads, and magazine ads comes with commitment baggage — once that ad goes out, it’s pretty much unalterable. Online ads, on the other hand, give advertisers all kinds of flexibility both creatively and time line-wise. They also offer real-time reporting and data that very few of the traditional ad options can offer. With event advertising, however, don’t just rely on the data to alter your campaign. One of the Olympics ads on NYTimes.com was updated the day before the event’s commencement to reflect “starting tomorrow” language.
- Extend the event experience and integrate it into your marketing calendar.While Cohen addressed this, a new rich media advertising solution from Spongecell takes this concept to a whole new level. Spongecell ads allow users to bookmark and act upon event engagements such as “add to calendar,” “invite friends,” “add to Facebook,” “set a reminder,” and more from the ad.
Data collected from the Spongecell interactions is stored in its Web interface for advertisers to precisely see who’s responding and how.
When it comes to online event advertising, Courtenay Roy, Web sales specialist for BaltimoreSun.com, helped to compile this list of common pitfalls to avoid:
- Avoid targeting too precisely. Even if a site can target by household income, for example, many users opt not to provide it. And as a result, this may significantly reduce advertiser exposure to an audience, particular for large public events, that fits this segment.
- Less is more. Do not overwhelm the message with too much information. Include the name, date of event, and the ever-important call-to-action. The rest of the information should be on the event site.
- If possible, include a compelling offer to get the user to act. Awareness campaigns, although good to inform the public, are not as successful as campaigns with incentives and a sense of urgency.
- For ticket sales, link directly to a purchasing page. Buyers who are ready and clicking, just want to buy.
With more event marketing either taking place directly on or being transferred to the Web, be sure to know your online advertising options and follow these best practices to make yours a success.