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Executives know that events work for promoting their brands and driving business. A big opportunity exists, though, for organizations to get smarter about how they spend on events and making the most of the data they produce.

Holding events has become more expensive in recent years, and corporate spending has remained high regardless. Events work for generating buzz and stronger business outcomes, even if enterprise brands aren’t sure of the exact return they get on their investment.

A survey of more than 700 business executives conducted by Harvard Business Review Analytic Services for Splash’s The Event Marketing Evolution research report found that hosting and sponsoring events are major priorities for companies both large and small.

There is a major issue, however, of tracking return on investment; while 52 percent of respondents said event market drives more business than other channels, only 23 percent of those polled say they can calculate return on investment for the events they organize.

“Why the ongoing infatuation with events, which consume significant amounts of time and resources in an age increasingly dominated by digital marketing strategies?” posits the report. “Intuitively, corporate marketers and their C-suite colleagues believe that events work. Fifty-two percent of survey respondents say event marketing drives more business value than other marketing channels, while just 8 percent say it drives less.”

Here are three takeaways from the report.

Focus on Single-Day Events

The research breaks down which event types are most popular with organizations, finding that single-day events are both hosted and sponsored most frequently.

Most Popular Event Types
Hosted Sponsored
One-Day Conferences or Seminars 54% 43%
Product Training 46% 17%
Business/Channel Partner Events 45% 41%
Thought-Leadership Workshops 44% 26%
VIP meals 43% 25%
Product Launches 40% 16%
Multi-Day Conferences 40% 40%

Source: Splash/HBRAS

Least popular among those polled were music festivals, pop-up events, cultural festivals, and product sampling activations. Companies are also spending more on all the events they are involved with.

Companies Spend More

The general consensus is that events are a valuable marketing tool, even as spending on events has become a larger part of companies’ overall marketing budgets.

“Companies are spending on event marketing at a growing rate, with 54 percent boosting their event activity over the past three years, and only 17 percent cutting back,” concludes the report. “Four in 10 say they’ll spend more on hosting events in the year ahead, and 3 in 10 say they’ll spend more on sponsoring events, too.”

Percentage of Marketing Budget Spent on Events
1-5% 13%
6-20% 23%
21-50% 20%
51% or more 10%
Don’t Know 35%

Source: Splash/HBRAS
Business-to-business events, in particular, are garnering a higher share of spend than those aimed at consumers.

“Businesses that sell to other businesses spend slightly more on events than those selling to consumers, devoting 29 percent of their marketing budgets to events, on average, versus 19 percent for B2C companies,” reads the report. “Although adoption rates are lower in the B2C space, event marketing is still important in that channel.”

Tracking Troubles

It’s been clear for years that organizations and planners aren’t making the most out of the digital tools available that let them track attendee data and better control what they spend on event marketing.

Although executives consider events a solid investment, most organizations don’t do an effective job tracking how their spending correlates to positive business outcomes.

Just 23 percent of those polled for the report said they were able to track return on investment on events. Those who actually tracked metrics for events most often recorded number of attendees, number of qualified sales leads, and brand awareness.

Check out the full report below.

Download (PDF, 675KB)


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Photo credit: A photo from the Art of Imperfection Conference in Austria. Gregor Tatschl Ars Electronica / Flickr

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