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Three Best Practices for Using Event Marketing To Reach Customers in Local Markets

By Leila Rayburn, Senior Content Manager, 4/13/2016
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National brands often have a clear marketing vision at 50,000 feet, but difficulty connecting at the point of sale. One great way to "localize" a brand is to team-up with a credible local partner or hold an event for your target market.

“Traditionally, event marketing offered very high touch and high community building opportunities because, unlike a TV ad that you watch for 30 seconds with a limited attention span, you’re at an event for a while, often several hours, where the brand can control the entire experience,” says Howard Givner, Executive Director of the Event Leadership Institute.

That helps explain why Pepsi is the title sponsor of a new event in Florida. Anyone who wanders on to Panama City Beach in April will see Pepsi’s brand front and center. The Pepsi SpringJam is a three-day country music, from April 7 to April 9, that will feature performances by an all-star line up of nationally known groups.

Among the many other co-sponsors of SpringJam are Miller Lite, Two Men and a Truck, Sherwin Williams and Dominos.

All of these brands understand that to engage customers they have to connect with them in real time. Once that happens, they can continue to engage via social media, and other channels.

Three tried-and-true avenues for localizing national brands are event marketing, collaborating with local chambers of commerce and working with distributors or franchisees.

1. Events

From concerts to sporting events, there are a multitude of opportunities to connect. Of course, the epitome of event marketing is to capture the “naming rights” for a local event or entertainment venue, such as Pepsi’s sponsorship of the upcoming concert in Florida.

 “Events tend to be local in nature, and often require an understanding of nuances in the local markets,” says Givner. “The most successful event marketing campaigns work with agencies or partners that have experience putting ‘boots on the ground’ in the given cities, and know how best to design and execute on the local level.”

But Givner warns that one of the biggest mistakes national brands make when marketing on the local level is ignoring local idiosyncrasies.  A car company, for instance, needs to know what the sales priorities are for its local dealerships. The national brand may be intent on rolling out new hybrid vehicles, while the dealer’s number one priority is moving more used cars off its lot. Local car dealers often have a certain degree of celebrity status in their markets. So, a successful event would leverage the dealer’s know-how and connections to help create a win-win for everyone.

Demographics also make a difference. In one local market, it might make sense to sponsor a golf tournament. But in another community, maybe a basketball tournament or food festival makes more sense. This is when it’s important to let the local leadership give feedback on what types of sponsorships will deliver the most return in that market. 

 An open communication line from corporate to regional locations creates an important feedback loop to share and copy successes in other locations.

2. Chambers of Commerce

Just about every city in America has a chamber of commerce. These local business organizations are constantly looking for companies to sponsor everything from “Taste of My Town” events to local arts and crafts festivals.

“Chambers of Commerce, like Convention & Visitors Bureaus, have a mandate to promote their destinations in order to drive business to their local constituents,” says Givner. “For example, if a chamber or bureau has members who are printers and bus companies, simply saying that you’re going to need recommendations for printers and bus companies is all you need. They’ll jump on that because they’re very responsive to driving business opportunities to their member organizations.”

Event sponsorship in partnership with a local chamber not only helps local businesses, it also lends a degree of added credibility for the national brand. Even a well-known brand can boost its authenticity by partnering with the Main Street Chamber of Commerce since these organizations are seen inherently as a trusted group for organizing local community gatherings

Take the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce’s 28th Annual Golf Classic sponsored by FirstBank.  FirstBank has 120 locations in Colorado, Arizona, and California and one of their tenets is a commitment to customers and community.  CEO, John Ikard even said “FirstBank invests heavily at the local level because we recognize that nonprofit organizations are integral to the social fabric of Colorado.” 

It’s clear from their mission statement that partnering with the local Chamber of Commerce is a great fit in their marketing strategy. 

3. Local Affiliates and Franchisees

Teaming-up with local affiliates or franchisees is another way to establish traction in local markets.

Big brands often put together a road show event to introduce new products to customers, partners and the media.  The most successful events on the local level include partners and information that are relevant to those markets.

When GE Capital launched a 20-city US tour to connect with local communities around their roles in the economy, they partnered with media company Slate.  With Slate as the distribution platform and GE Capital using targeted data, when the roadshow bus rolled through various cities like Detroit, Cleveland, and Pittsburg, the presentations were customized to each market bringing a higher value to attendees.  The event was a great success leading to the addition of more cites. 

When involving local partners, it’s also important to create a win-win strategy for all.

Givner recalls when a national restaurant franchise thought it would be a great idea to include a free offer as part of a national promotion. But that idea did not resonate with all of the locally owned franchisees who had to make good on the offer.

Just remember that the national branding objectives need to be in synch with the local partner’s needs. “Make sure the parent company’s branding goals align with the local partners goals,” says Givner. “The affiliate is probably a separate business entity, so you’ve got to be sensitive to what’s going on locally.”