How to Market Major Events

Here’s a guide for Destination Marketing Organizations (DMOs) on how to market major events. For many destinations, events draw overnight visitors, boost community pride, and can bedazzle an otherwise mundane itinerary. So how do we effectively market an event? Follow these steps, and you are sure to make an impact with your next major event.

So What Determines a Major Event?

These to-do items are intended for events that have enough draw to attract an overnight visitor. Would someone drive 2+ hours to attend the event? If the answer is, “Yes” then we’re talking about a major event. If you are wondering if you should apply these tactics to Craft Night at the Library…STOP. Go back. Think about your life, and return to this list when you have something BIG.

1. Create an awesome landing page for the event.

Effective landing pages are incredibly important for enhancing visibility and legitimacy. Have you ever googled an intriguing event, only to find a scary webpage with comic sans, broken links, and pixelated photos? It totally kills your enthusiasm, doesn’t it? That’s why landing pages are so valuable. They can help an event look professional and welcoming!

Here’s what you need to think about when looking at your main landing page for an event.

  • Include the date, time, and location at the tip-top of the page. This is the most important information, and people may revisit your site over and over to reconfirm this information.
  • Create an exciting description. Explain what it FEELS like to be at the event. Paint a picture with words. Not knowing what to expect is a huge barrier for people. Take that blockage out of the equation, and tell us what your event is all about.
  • Include beautiful imagery by collecting content from Instagram, and/or hire a photographer to capture imagery that can be used in future promotion. This is definitely worth the investment.
  • Renew this page every year by simply updating information year after year. This will help with SEO. Even if you don’t have the new dates, remove the old dates, and replace with “TBD”.
  • Add related content to the page, such as blogs, videos, testimonials, etc.
  • Follow other landing page best practices.
  • Looking for inspiration? Check out Visit Oakland’s landing page for Art Month!
2. Write these blogs to promote your event.

Many tourism marketers use their blog to promote events. Sadly, most go about this the wrong way by making content that expires within a week. If you want to promote events on your blog, focus on major events that return every year. This way, you can recycle content for years to come by simply updating dates and small details.

Here’s a checklist of blogs that you could write for event. (Let’s use The Color Run as an example event to help explain these concepts!)

  • “The Color Run 2019 Date Announcement”
    • 12-6 months before the event
    • As soon as you get the info about the date of the event, tell your followers! This does not have to be a huge, drawn out blog, but could include the date, time, location, short description, new features for this year’s event, a link to your hotels page, and a photo gallery!
  • “Photo Highlights from The Color Run”
    • 3 months before the event
    • This is a really easy blog to create! Simply gather UGC from previous years, and compile them in a photo blog. People love looking at photos, and it helps them get the feel for an event. A blog like this will help generate buzz and excitement around your event.
  • “The Ultimate Checklist for The Color Run”
    • 2 months before the event
    • This blog tells attendees about all the cool things that happen at the event. For example, this blog would include things like – Don’t miss the National Anthem at the starting point, make sure you go through all the color zones, join the dance party at the finish line, take a before and after selfie, etc. Tell people exactly what they can and should experience at your event.
  • “Important Information About The Color Run”
    • 1 month before the event
    • This has ALL the valuable information such as date, time, schedule, parking, admission prices, link to buy tickets, official hashtags, visitor guide request forms, hotel information, etc.
  • “What to Do After The Color Run”
    • 3 days before the event
    • This blog should be pretty easy to write. Make sure your event attendees spread the love to local businesses by spending time and money! Include places to grab a bite to eat after the race, awesome parks to check out, local museums, stores, and more.

Don’t forget…All of these blogs should be linked to the main event landing page!

3. Run a paid campaign.

Everyone knows organic reach is pretty much dead, so a little ol’ Facebook post won’t help much. If you want to generate serious awareness for an event, a paid campaign is best.

Here are some ideas for paid campaigns:

  • Sweepstakes: Run a giveaway that includes tickets to a major event, an overnight stay, and gift cards for things to do in the area. This will generate tons of interest in the event, and will also help you build an audience of email entries and Facebook Pixel audiences. Even if someone doesn’t win the sweepstakes, they may be so intrigued that they decide to book a trip anyway!
  • Traffic Ads to  the Landing Page: This is a pretty simple yet effective idea. If you want people to see your event landing page, it’s best to pay for that kind of attention. Make sure to target people outside of your area to draw in visitors, and target specific interests that relate to the event!
  • Video Ads: Everything is video. These ads perform really well, and it let’s your audience experience an event before it happens. This can also be accomplished with photos, but video takes it to the next level. Just make sure to drive clicks to the main landing page with these video ads!

If this sounds like a lot of heavy lifting, let us know. TwoSix Digital continually runs successful campaigns for events and other attractions within a destination. We would love to help you promote your next major event!

4. Complete these organic* social and digital best practices.

Paid efforts will ensure reach, but you can still do some things organically to draw attention to the event.

Here’s a list of organic marketing opportunities for events:

  • Add the Facebook event to your page: We don’t recommend DMOs get in the business of creating Facebook Events in place of their partners, but simply adding a pre-made Facebook Event to your Page is almost too easy! Essentially The Color Run could create it’s own Facebook event, and you could simply add it to your page to increase visibility. Check out this image to see how you can do this.
  • Instagram Stories: Featuring a major event is a great place to start (or continue) creating Instagram Story content. If you are not able to leverage original content, find UGC as the event is taking place and feature it in your Story. Also encourage event attendees to use designated hashtags in their Instagram posts and Stories to help you find content, and enhance the event’s digital footprint!
  • Twitter Moments: This is a great way to cover an event as its happening! Monitor Twitter to add event attendee’s tweets to your Twitter Moment. Don’t forget to include your previous tweets with links to your blogs and landing pages!
  • Google Posts: Okay, everyone take a deep breath. Google Posts could be a gamechanger for destination marketers. According to Google Representatives, event information performs very well with Google Posts. If you are not familiar with this new tool, check out this page with more information.

*Organic means “free” as in there is no cost to create these promotions. Digital Marketers like to avoid the word “free” when referring to organic opportunities because it does not account for the cost of time to create such content!

Now get out there, and market the heck out of an event!

We hope we gave you some ideas to take your annual events to the next level! If you apply these tactics to an event in your area, it would definitely move the needle for your destination and the event.

For ongoing inspiration for tourism marketing, follow TwoSix Digital on Facebook and Twitter!