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Putting on an event? Here’s how to show your CEO it was worth the investment


By Hannah Bowler, Senior reporter

April 30, 2024 | 6 min read

Brands are upping their budgets on event marketing, but with more money comes more pressure to prove the activation was worth the spend. We ask experiential experts for their top tips on measuring an IRL event.

Garnier hands out products at a festival

How to measure a marketing event / Pexels

Event marketing was the standout category in the IPA’s last quarterly Bellwether report, showing nine consecutive quarters of ‘considerable’ growth. The pop-up is having a major comeback, gigs and festivals are increasingly being funded by brand sponsorship and immersive experiences are all the rage.

Why are brands spending on events?

  1. Online marketing has become incredibly crowded and competitive, making it hard to cut through.

  2. Young people are looking for offline experiences.

  3. Marketers can collect direct feedback from customers and have face-to-face interactions.

  4. DTC brands are looking for ways to get products into hands.

  5. Influencer marketing has made event marketing easier (and cheaper) to share.

Unlike digital marketing, events are trickier for proving a return on investment. How to measure the success of an event will all depend on the objective of the campaign, varying massively between a brand awareness stunt to a lead generation or even hard sales mission. Experts give their advice.

Tom Gray, chief strategy officer, Imagination: “At a high level, the value and measurability of events is twofold: the deep engagement that you have with people who attend in person and the broad reach that you achieve from people talking about the event as a newsworthy/buzzworthy moment in time. You should measure both.

“Research shows a correlation between time spent with brand and favourability. By creating a standard metric of engaged minutes, marketers can compare time spent with brand across any marketing activity, from a few seconds in the case of OOH to minutes and even hours in the case of experiential. Additional qualitative measures, such as surveys and Net Promoter Scores, can be used to validate the impact among attendees.

“There is significant additional value in designing experiences to be newsworthy and shareable, creating a multiplier effect on social and traditional media, measurable through social listening and media monitoring.”

Joanna Barnett, strategy director, Truant: “It’s important to define what we mean by a ‘successful’ piece of experiential marketing. Some would argue it’s one that grows the brand, makes sales, creates brand love... A successful brand activation is one that achieves the objectives and KPIs that are set prior, whatever they may be. Setting objectives is the crucial first step in measuring the effectiveness of any brand activation.

“You should use the usual brand tracking studies and surveys, but pay attention to the timeframe to measure the impact of one specific activation. Your activation will likely target a more specific group or demographic from your overall audience, so it might be that you can compare changes in your desired metrics between that specific demographic and a slightly broader audience.”

“Harder metrics are easier to measure because you can collect tangible data such as the number of people your activation engages, how long you engage them for and how many sales/sign-ups/app downloads etc are made there and then. This can – and definitely should – be measured as part of the activation. Exactly what you measure and whether the activation is deemed a success will depend on the objectives and KPIs set at the start and whether it achieves them.”

Valentina Culatti, director of creative strategy and production EMEA, Snap: “Event success hinges on clear goal-setting and a robust attribution model to measure ROI. Before launching an event, it’s crucial to define what success looks like, whether it’s revenue generation or other metrics like brand awareness or attendee engagement, and teams must align on their goals and choose relevant KPIs to track their progress effectively.

“It’s also important for events to encompass pre-event promotions, engaging content, and effective post-event follow-ups so that you have access to as much measurement data as possible. Once success has been measured against the agreed KPIs, sharing results with leadership, emphasizing both quantitative outcomes and qualitative insights, completes the narrative of an event’s success, aiding in future strategic planning and proving the value of events.”

Helen Brain, communications strategy director, Iris: “Measuring the impact of brand experiential in social communities and conversation means first understanding what the brand presence looked like in those spaces before any activation takes place. Immersing in communities, listening to conversation and understanding key nodes of influence well before we activate enable us to monitor and measure not just increases in brand mentions, for instance, but also shifts in brand appeal, perception and take-out among different parts of the community.

“Connecting this back to commercials can be challenging, but ensuring key growth audiences are identified at the start of the process, means we can monitor uplift in business outcomes from that particular source.”

5 key takeaways

  1. Define what we mean by a ‘successful’ piece of experiential marketing.

  2. Use mechanisms like registrations, invitations or even ticketing to track interest and engagement before the event.

  3. Track press coverage and social conversations.

  4. If using brand trackers, be clear about the timeframe and exclude other campaigns.

  5. Do additional qualitative measures, such as surveys.

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