How to Legally Use Major Events to Market Your Business

Peter Roesler, President - Web Marketing Pros

By Peter Roesler

President, Web Marketing Pros

event-marketingIn a world filled with large brands and major events that dominate the headlines, it’s hard for small businesses to do things that get the attention of their target audience. For some businesses, the solution may not be to try to make a bigger wave, but rather to ride the wave created by other major events that have captured the attention of consumers. Major sporting events like World Cup or the NBA Finals are good examples. This may seem to be a simple tactic but there are some things that business owners keep in mind when implementing it. Here are four things business owners should do when marketing their businesses during major events.

  1. Make Sure Event Relates to Business
    Business owners have to resist the temptation to hijack events that don’t pertain to their business. There are several reasons for this consideration. First, the marketing only makes sense if there is some basic connection between the events and the company. For example, a restaurant that is advertising specials for World Cup should at least have the matches playing on the TV. Second, consumers can become upset if they feel a business is marketing with an inappropriate events. To illustrate, a business producing unhealthy foods should not market themselves with an event for childhood obesity. The backlash would outweigh any potential gains. A final thing to consider is that when businesses try to do specials with every event, customers become so used to the premium pricing that they will never buy things at full price. Business owners need to choose the events they market with carefully and to try not become too dependent on discounts to get sales.

  1. Ensure Business Follows Legal Guidelines for Event
    It’s just as important to prevent legal backlash as it is to prevent public backlash. The organizers of major events often have very specific rules about how their event can be mentioned in advertising and marketing. The most widely known example of this among business owners is the Super Bowl. The NFL tightly regulates the use of the term Super Bowl in ads, plus several related words letter of the use of synonyms for the game (e.g. the Big Game). Part of this it because they want to get money from advertisers who want to be the official sponsor. But they also have a vested interest in ensuring that whatever marketing is produced meet the needs of the events. Neither the Olympic Committee nor FIFA want to see their event or logo used in advertising for gentlemen’s clubs or condoms. Their marketing guidelines give them a legal recourse if they feel their trademarks are being used inappropriately. In reality, there are a lot of violations of these rules and many others go unnoticed by event organizers. However, business owners should be wary of taking the risk. The larger the business the more likely they are to be noticed. And though the most likely consequences would  be a cease and desist letter, the potential for much graver and more expensive repercussions exists.

  1. Create Appropriate Marketing Images
    Piggybacking on the popularity of a pre-existing good way to get noticed but there are a lot of other businesses were trying to do the same things. Marketers need to make sure that their promotional materials are engaging enough to be noticed in a sea of similar ads. As was mentioned in a previous article, images are what drive shares and engagement on social media networks. Even without using official logos or event names, it is possible for marketers to create marketing materials that promote event-related specials without running afoul of the event guidelines. For example, if a business is unable to use the name of a sporting event, a stock picture of a filled stadium with cheering crowds is enough imagery to get people in the right state of mind to take advantage of the event-related special. Also, since parody is protected from copyright suits, business owners can create names that are similar to the event. A business can’t say March Madness in an ad without permission, but they could have Motor Madness, March Mayhem, etc.

  1. Use Paid Advertising to Promote Event-Related Specials
    Similar to the last point, business owners should be ready to use their advertising budgets to promote the event-related special. With so many this is trying to attract consumers by invoking the popular event, its unlikely that content without paid promotion would be readily seen. There are a lot of ways that marketers can promote their events on social media. Used paid advertising to promote events on Google+, Facebook, and LinkedIn. Marketers can also use promoted content on Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, and, if they signed up for the trial, Pinterest.

In the end, though business owners and marketers may be trying to ride the wave created by popular events, there is still a lot of work to be done for event-related specials to work. It’s important to give thought to things such as the choice of event, the legal guidelines for marketing, and more. None of this should dissuade business owners from using major events to market their companies. It’s worth the effort because tapping into the public excitement surrounding major events gives marketers a boost when it comes to interest in their specials.


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