When it comes to event marketing, it’s always been not just who and what that matters, but where — and since the pandemic, the destination plays an even larger role in attracting an audience. Here’s how to make the most of where your event is being held, according to three DMO leaders.
Lean Into Bleisure
“We’ve been encouraging business travelers to come early and stay late for years,” said Rose Horcher, vice president of client services at Choose Chicago, by highlighting the city’s “world-class restaurant scene, architecture, and cultural spaces, including over 200 live theaters.” Since the pandemic, more than one in three people traveling for business consider taking extra time to explore their destination, according to the Global Business Travel Association.
Think Creatively about Partnerships
An additional talking point to include in marketing the destination is its sports teams. Not only can this prompt sports fans to catch a game while they’re in town for an event but open other possibilities. Choose Chicago built a partnership between the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) and Chicago Cubs to raise money for cancer research in 2016. “The Chicago Cubs created a sponsorship just for the Conquer Cancer foundation, where Conquer Cancer foundation videos were shown at games throughout the year,” Horcher said. As a result, ASCO was able to surpass its fundraising goals — helped, no doubt, by the Cubs winning the World Series that year.
Bring the Culture in
Promoting a destination is about more than just encouraging attendees to enjoy the city when they aren’t in sessions — it’s also about the prospect of bringing its flavor into an event with local speakers, entertainment, food trucks, and other experiences. The Nashville Convention & Visitors Corp. works with event organizers “to bring the authentic Nashville to their meetings,” said Deana Ivey, the organization’s president. When groups meet in the country music capital of the world, they can draw upon local artists or bands for entertainment as well as songwriters for team-building activities. Attendees can be “throwing out words and the songwriters are putting it together,” Ivey said. “At the end, they write a song together about their convention or organization.”
DMOs are a useful resource for finding women- and minority-owned businesses as suppliers and content providers, which also showcases the destination’s rich culture and history. Choose Chicago helps connect clients to advocacy organizations and women/minority-owned businesses. Its Connecting to Chicago (C2C) program works with the Chicago nonprofit America’s Urban Campus to introduce the city’s 200,000-plus higher-ed students to events held in the city, and by inviting them to job fairs held during those events. The C2C program also can help facilitate finding local industry expert speakers. Lastly, destinations that embrace diversity make for more inclusive events. When groups “come to Pittsburgh,” said VisitPITTSBURGH’s chief sales officer, Andrew Ortale, “they’re going to see their own communities reflected in the destination. And they’re going to feel more welcome, because it is just naturally who we are.”
Know Your Group
To grow attendance, Ortale stressed the importance of tailoring marketing around experiences that will entice a specific audience, as opposed to just providing a generic list of restaurants or broad cultural activities.
“Tell us more about your audience,” Ortale said. For instance, if “they’re really into craft beverages, sports, and things like that, when we start suggesting things to do, instead of saying ‘Here’s our blanket list of museums,’” Ortale suggests recommending other options that are more geared to reconnecting with friends. “What if we gave them a list of microbreweries downtown? What if we created an interactive pub crawl they could download? What if we worked with those restaurants to welcome them?”
Sveta Pyntikova is agency sales and marketing manager of mdg, a marketing and public relations agency specializing in audience acquisition for live and online events.
RELATED: Read a Fortune article on the rise of bleisure travel.