Are large Mass Participation Events missing an Affiliate Marketing trick? (Part 1)

Never before in our lifetimes has the mass participation event industry been put on a global lockdown.   From iconic events such as South by South West, through to Ironman, the scourge that is Covid-19 and the associated social distancing that goes along with it, has put us all on notice and in most countries locked safely within our homes.

For large scale event companies this literally has been an atomic moment.   For many it will see the end of their events, many of which have been running for a decade or more!

Cancelled Events


So, what went wrong?


Yes, it was hard to predict that a moment like this could have ever occurred.   That these mass scale events would be handcuffed from doing the one thing they do the best – create moments that matter.  But it HAS HAPPENED and we all are aware it may not be the last time.


Have event owners and directors been missing a trick all along?


Having attended thousands of events both as an attendee/ spectator and also participated in events as both an athlete and with businesses, there is really one model of event directors and that is the stock standard, pay to play.   This may be a booth (of various sizes), inclusion in digital communications and on the website.

The truth is that all of the current methods of event participation by a business has not really evolved.   It is still suck in the past, at its core using the ‘traditional advertising’ play-book to make money.  But with one virus, the preverbal rug has been pulled from events and for the most part, every aspect of the event is now worth very little for an advertiser.  

Event Sponsorship

So, the question has to be asked; has the mass participation events industry missed a trick with Affiliate Marketing?  

Change is always hard, and creativity is not common.  But, it has been clear for several years that the trends in digital marketing have been evolving at an unprecedented pace.   Event directors for the large part have been sleeping at the wheel, leaning on large databases of athletes and attendees, without diversifying into NEW monetisation opportunities.

Let’s play out and example.

Ironman is one of the Worlds most iconic event series and brands.  Heck, people get the M-Dot tattooed even after completing one race!   What other brand can boast such extreme loyalty after one experience? 

Event Loyalty

Needless to say, Ironman is sitting on one of the largest and most engaged databases in the world.   And here are some facts:

–  These people TRAVEL a lot

–  When they travel they need insurance, accommodation, car rental

–  They are consuming a LOT OF PRODUCTS!   I mean a lot.   There is even a well-known phenomenon when someone signs up for an Ironman event, that they start buying all sorts of things on the justification the ‘event deserves it’

So how can all of the above be MONITIZED, for a huge brand and event like Ironman?  Well to an Affiliate Marketer the answer is so obvious.  

–  There are plenty of TRAVEL focused Affiliate Marketing programs.  Key ones include ExpediaTravelokaSkyScanner.   Ironman could be monetizing a high majority of flights booked simply by sending an auto email to a participant of an event after they register.  Let’s call this ‘pre-marketing’. Ironman know when you need to be at the event, where you are coming from (because you give your address as part of registration).  So connecting you to deals becomes easy!



–   ACCOMMODATION and RENTAL.   It is fair that many events have a ‘race hotel’ in place, however the bigger opportunity is not just in getting sponsorship dollars from the hotel, rather making money on the bookings both in the short, mid and long term.   Same goes for car hire.   The participants of Ironman travel, all the time.  

–  Finally, PRODUCT.   YES, Ironman athlete consume!   They consume bikes and wetsuits, they consume shoes and nutrition.  They consume training programs and testing and rehab.   In fact, building up to one Ironman event (from someone starting from scratch) the spend may be in excess of $20,000 on the low side.   It is more likely a many year endeavour and $50,000+ dropped on things before the gun ever starts.   There are huge companies such as Amazon who have perfect Affiliate Programs for events to tap into for this or simply supporting more local partners such as Nuzest for protein!



But there is more.

As part of the SPONSORSHIP PACKAGE events around the world could be encouraging their sponsors to:

–   Start an affiliate program – by suggesting some platforms

–   Get integrated and sign up as part of the event

The money made, could be used to off-set future sponsorships, upgrade sponsorship entitlements and create an evergreen revenue source for events

That’s right!   If events had developed strong affiliate programs, rather than fearing for the survival of their event right now, they could have been ADDING VALUE to all of the sponsors who had supported them in the past.  Providing educational talks via zoom, linked to clear calls to action via Affiliate Programs

Imagine how much more sustainable the entire events market could be if this multichannel approach was adopted on mass!   Events could have cash coming in weekly (just like any good Affiliate Marketer) and this cash would enable them to spend more, year on year making the actual event experience better, and also investing back into internal resources that keep driving VALUE to all of their partners.

Time is changing.  Marketing is moving

Will events die, or will they take the step into the digital opportunities at hand?


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