7 Challenges of Marketing Live Events, Advertising's High-Wire Act

To break through, you have to bring your A-game

I've always loved the power of live entertainment. I've even built my entire career around promoting live events and experiences. In fact, I've only taken one sick day my entire career. There's no doubt I love what I do. And I know that you love live experiences, too (or at least that's what the research tells me). 

Research says people are happier when they spend money on experiences rather than material items. Another study shows people think of their experiential purchases as more reflective of who they are as people than the material objects they buy. 

Whether it's going to the big game, taking vacations with family, or even exploring local parks with friends—the things we do are usually the things that elevate our happiness.

The power of live experiences is at the core of why I'm thrilled that the Clio Awards announced a new category for Clio Entertainment this year: Live Entertainment. Now there's a prestigious new opportunity to reward the creative minds who inspire people to experience incredible brands in real life. 

All the amazing experiences we all cherish, share on social, make scrapbooks out of, and embed in our memories forever have a new place to be recognized. As the jury chair for the Live Entertainment category, I look forward to recognizing the marketers who shine a light on the cultural experiences that help define who we all are today. 

As anyone in the business will tell you, selling "live" is not an easy task. The live events business is hard. These are the hurdles people in this business overcome each day: 

Live events are the antithesis of today's culture. 

They can't be #filtered. There are no do-overs. Live is live is live. So, every experience must be memorable, authentic and feel personable for every consumer.

The cost for the consumer goes far beyond the ticket price. 

It's no small task to get people off their couches and out to a live experience. The cost of a Netflix binge is nothing compared to an investment in theater tickets. The struggle is real here. 

"Feelings" are tricky. 

Selling live events is also selling feelings, and not all feelings are for everyone. Selling an experience is less about the latest features and practical benefits, and more about the impact the experience could have on your soul. It's an emotional transaction as much as a financial one. 

Overpromising carries a sizable cost. 

Advertising messages must reflect the experience itself. Marketers need to inspire action but do so without overpromising. If you overpromise and underdeliver, you'll be closed in no time (we all remember Fyre Festival). This is why word of mouth impacts live events differently than other products; the audience's reaction is everything for the continued success of any live event. 

You can't hide from reality. 

Live-event producers see the consumption of their work (and the consumers' response) right in front of their eyes. They are told firsthand how pretty (or ugly) their baby is. If I advertised Oreos, I most likely wouldn't watch consumers eat them to see their instant reaction (although I know they are pretty damn tasty). With live events, producers watch happiness, or disappointment, unfold right in front of them.

The bar is high. 

When I think of live experiences like Broadway shows or amazing cultural experiences, the bar for the advertising team is set very high. Creative teams need to effectively weave stories that are as smart as the show or experience itself. In the entertainment industry, you are often collaborating with EGOTs who are masters at storytelling. No pressure. 

Oh yeah, the budgets are tight. 

For most live events, the market cap is limited because there are only so many seats you can monetize. What makes entertainment special (by keeping it intimate) is what makes entertainment tough to sell (because of tight budgets). 

If you want to break through the fragmented media landscape, you'd better bring your A-game. Selling "live" is not easy. But the ones who show up every day to make it look easy? Those are dedicated and creative minds worth celebrating. 

I have great admiration for the folks behind the scenes who work hard to get people off the couch and into theaters, stadiums, arenas and more. I look forward to celebrating this year's winners at the Clio Entertainment gala in November. Will you be there?

Damian Bazadona
Damian Bazadona is president and founder of Situation Group, a global collective of marketing, advertising and technology companies committed to helping brands build passionate communities across a range of industries worldwide.

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