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MPI study predicts bigger role for event marketing

Across all marketing disciplines, event marketing ranks second only to direct marketing in perceived return on investment (ROI), according to a survey released last week of more than 700 marketing executives across the United States, Europe and Asia Pacific. The findings are part of the second-annual Global Event Trends study, made possible by The George P. Johnson Co. and The MPI Foundation.

The final report--a compendium of three regional reports conducted in 2003 and comparative data collected in 2001-2002--documents the evolution of event marketing relative to its changing role, levels of investments and perceived effectiveness compared to other marketing mix elements. Those surveyed include senior marketing executives from vertical industries including automotive, technology, health care, financial services, consumer, manufacturing and associations.

Marketing respondents are optimistic regarding event marketing budgets, with 35 percent indicating anticipated increases and 54 percent indicating no change to the prior year's budget. The largest event marketing budget increases will come from companies that diligently measure events and accurately assess ROI.

In terms of perceived ROI, executives report that event marketing (23 percent) is second only to direct marketing (27 percent), ranking higher than advertising (21 percent) and sales promotions (20 percent) on average across all surveyed geographies. European respondents, in particular, perceived higher ROI for one-to-one marketing efforts such as direct marketing and event marketing over mass marketing tactics such as advertising and sales promotions.

Trade shows are seen as the preferred event marketing tactic, providing the best ROI for marketers, ranking just above conferences and seminars. The largest percentage of event budgets is also allocated to trade shows and sponsorships, ranking ahead of conferences and seminars.

Internal events are also gaining greater prominence in the event arena, with marketers giving internal meetings as high of a priority as external events in perceived future importance. However, the companies surveyed are holding half the number of internal as compared with external events, on average.

Responses to the online survey support many of the 2003 Global Event Trends Study findings: 27 percent of respondents expect their event marketing budget to increase in the first quarter of 2004, while 60 percent forecast no significant change in their budgets. The top three factors expected to affect event marketing budgets in the same time frame include budget decreases; ability to prove ROI; and the economy. All respondents reported using some type of measurement in the interest of capturing ROI.

"It's encouraging that more and more marketing executives are realizing there really is no substitute for doing business face-to-face via events," said David A. DuBois, CMP, CAE, executive vice president for the MPI Foundation. "Data from Meeting Professionals International (MPI) reveals projected growth in the global meeting and event industry in 2004. Meetings and events mirror the general health of business; as the global economy strengthens this year, so will the use of events as a strategic business tool for all organizations."

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