New Study: Event Marketing Retrenches

Companies are devoting more than one-quarter of their marketing budgets to events, a slight decrease from last year, according to an annual report on event marketing that was released yesterday.

The decrease in event budgets as an overall percentage of marketing budgets contrasts sharply with last year's 35-percent increase over 2004, according to EventView 2006, which was commissioned by the George P. Johnson Company, an event marketing firm based here, and the foundation of Meeting Professionals International, the largest association of meeting planners.

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. And 13 percent of respondents said that event marketing is usually an afterthought, a 44-percent increase over last year.

"As opposed to potentially being discouraged by these findings," the report stated, "event marketing professionals should consider these early signs as an insightful call to action to innovate and create opportunities for even greater ROI. Event marketing professionals must therefore develop either more focused traditional tactics or adopt new approaches."

On the bright side, event marketing continues by a wide margin to win plaudits from marketers as the marketing vehicle that delivers the greatest return on investment (ROI).

Nearly one-quarter of marketers consider that event marketing delivers the most 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).

The study also found that the percentage of companies measuring ROI for at least some of their events jumped significantly, 71 percent this year as compared with 60 percent last year.

Also significantly, three-quarters of the companies that expect an increase in their event marketing budgets measure event ROI in some fashion, which suggests that measuring ROI helps event marketers win budget increases.

For the EventView 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 health care.