Has Event Marketing Peaked?

Auburn Hills, MI — Event marketing has retrenched over the past year after racking up substantial gains in 2004, according to a study released in September.

"Event marketing continues to play an important role in the corporate setting, but has seen minor setbacks in growth patterns from prior years," concludes EventView 2006.

EventView is an annual survey of corporate marketers worldwide that is commissioned by the George P. Johnson Company, an event marketing firm headquartered here, and the Meeting Professionals International Foundation.

Companies are devoting just one-quarter of their marketing budgets to events, a slight decrease from last year, according to the study. The decrease in event budgets as an overall percentage of marketing budgets contrasts sharply with last year's 35 percent increase over 2004.

Event marketing has also taken a step backward in the typical company's marketing mix, the study found. Fourteen percent of respondents characterized event marketing as a lead marketing tactic, the same as last year. But 34 percent said that event marketing is a vital component of their marketing plans, a 13 percent decrease from 2005. In addition, 13 percent of respondents said that event marketing is usually an afterthought, a 44 percent increase over last year.

On a positive note, more than five times as many marketers expect event marketing budgets to increase rather than decrease, 37 percent versus 7 percent. Last year a slightly higher 40 percent expected increases. The majority, 53 percent, expect budgets to remain the same.

The study advised that "none of these indicators should be taken as a sign of a downward trend within the event marketing industry. In fact, these are clear signs of an industry that is stabilizing and showing signs of maturation. As opposed to being discouraged by these findings, event marketing professionals should consider these early signs as a call to action to innovate and create opportunities for greater return on investment."

Event marketing continues to win approval from marketers as the marketing vehicle that delivers the greatest ROI. Nearly one-quarter of marketers rank event marketing as number one in ROI, as opposed to 18 percent who give the nod to web marketing, according to the study.

Among the top reasons given for event marketing's high rating: It provides the greatest opportunity for direct, in-person contact (58 percent), and it provides the best opportunity to reach a targeted audience (45 percent).

Trade shows account for the lion's share of external marketing events, at 59 percent, followed by conferences and seminars, at 35 percent, and road shows and mobile marketing, at 20 percent.

The study also found that the percentage of companies measuring ROI for events jumped to 71 percent this year, up from 60 percent last year.

Three-quarters of the marketers who expect an increase in their event budgets measure event ROI, suggesting that measuring ROI helps win budget increases.

"The fact that those who measure ROI see their budgets increase has been true for the last three years," said David Rich, George P. Johnson's vice president of strategic marketing worldwide. "But what's different this year is how much that percentage has shot up. That applies more pressure on those who don't measure."

For the EventView 2006 study, nearly 900 marketers from North America, Europe, and Asia-Pacific were interviewed by telephone in May and June. They represented a variety of industries, including automotive, high technology, financial services, and healthcare.