May 31, 2012 at 02:24 PM
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Event Strategy: Build or Buy?

We like to think of consumer (or target audience) connection platforms in one of two ways – build or buy. Build is where you create a proprietary engagement property – effective in a lot of ways, but expensive and potentially challenging to get traction with. Buy is more in line with a traditional sponsorship – you’re getting access to your target audience through something they already care about, you’re getting the associative benefits from the brand equity in the property you’ve ‘bought’ and you’re able to use that equity to drive your own brand’s objectives.

We do both. We’ve built platforms when that was the most efficient way of meeting client business and brand objectives. This has included recruiting co-sponsors that live in the same brand neighbourhood as our clients’ brand. It has included media plans, digital strategies, employee engagement overlays.

But, build doesn’t always make sense.

Along with an extensive portfolio of sponsored properties, energy drink maker Red Bull often chooses the build approach. Proprietary event properties like Red Bull Crashed Ice and Red Bull Flugtag are tremendous undertakings. Mega-brand Virgin Group owns/controls Virgin Music Festival events in markets globally. The successful Virgin Music Festival events are as legendary as the not-so-successful Virgin Music Festivals.

If you’re considering build or buy for your own brand, be very sure you understand your brand objectives and be extra sure you understand your business objectives.

Red Bull Crashed Ice needs to significantly move the needle on brand health and sales volume for Red Bull to make being a property rights holder worth the effort (and maybe it is), and to make owning a property economically efficient. Virgin needs to sell a lot of flight segments, mobile phone packages and earn new radio listeners to make the complexity of owning a series of music festivals worthwhile.

There are built platforms or properties that are marketing initiatives and marketing investments. Then there are built properties that are de facto separate business units with their own P&Ls. If you go with the latter, be sure its going to drive some compelling measurable results against your core business.

Ian Malcolm is President of Desperado Marketing, a sponsorship and experiential marketing agency established in 1996 with offices in Toronto and Chicago. He blogs at and allows us to republish here when the subject fits.

photo credit #strategytag