How to create an Event Marketing strategy with Gianluca Diegoli.

Check out the first episode of EvenTalks dedicated to event marketing.


What was the driving force behind Redbull's choice to freefall into space? We talk about it in this episode with Gianluca Diegoli, a marketing expert, who takes us behind the scenes of brands' and companies' strategies to activate their communities and beyond.

Stefano Brigli Bongi: Hello and welcome to this very first episode of EvenTalks, the podcast in which we will let you discover what lies behind the world of events and especially why they are so important today. I am Stephen, born an engineer, raised, consultant and immersed in the world of events for several years, specifically for having founded Kampaay. A platform that deals with simplifying and digitizing all that is the organization of events, specifically corporate. 

Today, in this very first episode, we will talk about a somewhat strategic topic,event marketing, citing a very well-known brand, RedBull, and how it has been able to use event marketing to get to be the brand it is today. We will discuss this with a very special guest, a marketing expert, digital marketing consultant, lecturer at IULM, but also a writer, let's say a resourceful person. With us today Gianluca Diegoli. Welcome Gianluca.

Gianluca Diegoli: Thank you, thank you to everyone, even those who listen and watch us.

Stefano Brigli Bongi: So Gianluca, the first thing I wanted to ask you is for a moment to introduce yourself, to tell us about yourself.

Gianluca Diegoli: Well, I pick up on your, your thread,I was born an accountant and raised a Bocconian, so maybe it wasn't a big, well. But let's say I've been working in marketing now for 25 years. I've gone through a little bit of all the phases, so of digital, online, offline, omnichannel and all the various possible and imaginable fashions of this world. And I have also so found my own balance between skepticism and enthusiasm, let's say.

Why does Red Bull choose events for its marketing strategy? [03:08]

Stephen Brigli Bongi: Well, well. So for those of you who are following us, who happen to not know you, even though almost everybody knows you online now. Let's say for me personally, even for those who don't know my background, because it's one of the few that I didn't mention introducing myself, it's for me personally an honor to have you here. I have been involved until really recently, but still to this day, in marketing in Kampaay specifically, so it's definitely a very, very important thing for me to have you here, that you decided to participate in our very first installment. 

So to break the ice I just wanted to start by talking about the example I mentioned at the beginning, which is Red Bull, because Red Bull Events. Let's say that RedBull has been able to useevent marketing a lot, not just event marketing, but any kind of publicity gimmick that could be disguised even in event mode and also reused, starting with something from let's say hyperspace, to cite the example.

For those unfamiliar, let's say RedBull organized a launch from the stratosphere with Felix Baumgarten. It was called Stratos, it was an epic event a few years ago, it was attended by as many as 8 million people who were enthralled. The brand certainly took a lot more traction, a lot more interaction at the digital level, and people know about the event but they don't know what was behind this event in particular their event marketing strategy that we will mention during this episode.

So I wanted to start by talking about why do you think a company like RedBull has used and uses event marketing to promote their brand?

Gianluca Diegoli: Well, then certainly all brands and all products that are part of that area, let's say of socializing right? Spirits, drinks, food, all these things need to socialize their customers a little bit. No, it's not a coincidence that many Wine&Spirits brands as they say in the jargon continuously organize or sponsor big events no?

Because they are akin to let's say their core business so the event in their case is bringing people together and bringing people together is also let's say a "Job to Be Done" of the more or less alcoholic drinks.

I mean so, in that sense there, there are obviously events.

Then behind the word events, and this is something that maybe we will explore, there are so many different things no? The event of someone going into space. it's one person doing an amazing thing and 8 million people watching it, however there are also events like, I don't know, the concert where there is one person doing something amazing, there is a brand maybe but there are people interacting with each other.

But then there is the event with ten managers, ten people but there is absolutely a need for them to talk and interact with each other and the brand. There are very small numbers where the value however contributed is huge right? 

So in my opinion, talking about event marketing precisely we need to understand all its various possible facets . Obviously RedBull is a huge brand, a mass market brand, it needs numbers, it needs awareness, it needs to be top of mind. What could be better than organizing something that 8 million people watch? As they said every every brand needs to become a Media Company and they have taken that commandment literally.

Stephen Brigli Bongi: Yes on this issue, just the concept of what is an event, let's say that we in Kampaay struggle so much with this thing here. Because the moment you talk to companies and you start talking to people who maybe organize some of the things you mentioned, to them that means event. But actually theevent is very broad, but not only in companies, everywhere no?.

The event can be any kind of occasion where people come together with a specific purpose. Now we're talking about marketing, but there can be so many other purposes outside of that. So actually you were right to point out something very very true. An event, a very ordinary business lunch in the office to create cohesion among people, who maybe see each other very little because they are either not in the office or because they are dislocated.

Gianluca Diegoli: Then very trivial, very trivial is attention: it's only ten people, it's all very trivial but it has to be perfect if three big clients of yours come from Hong Kong, who have been around the world for a week no? It's only three people, but of course their wrists are shaking anyway no? 

Stephen Brigli Bongi: Absolutely, indeed, however it's probably a little more trivial than launching a person from space isn't it?

Gianluca Diegoli: Ahah, definitely.

Why is it important to do marketing in the B2B sector, and why events? [07:57]

Stephen Brigli Bongi: The Gannt is a little bit more complicated, slightly more complex. Look, I'd like to backtrack just a little bit. Why do you think it's important to do marketing today instead, even for B2B companies? Let's say it's something you hear a lot about today and a topic that is touched on a lot, everyone has their own opinion. I wanted to hear yours as a cross-sectional expert.

Gianluca Diegoli: And also very often immersed in a really B2B world, which is very often not talked about very much, but also a great user of events.

Sometimes we say a little bit traditionally, without maybe a strategic plan behind it or maybe without having an idea of what we want to get out of this event. But there is a little bit, on an epidermic level, the feeling that we have to do something, we have to meet our customers basically.

And what is changing at the marketing level, especially in B2B, is the relationship and the collaboration between sales force, which should be changing, and marketing force. No, where very often marketing, which was then the one that had to organize the face-to-face event, in the last five minutes had to do...

Stephen Brigli Bongi: And also do his work in the meantime.

Gianluca Diegoli: That's right, and also do its work, but that was being suspended normally, so marketing doesn't work for two months because there is the trade show. This is the great truth of B2B. Now you start collaborating or you have to start collaborating.

So marketing starts with warming up acquisition leads, confirming attendance, all the way to maybe matching companies and even all the automation that is there after an event.

Things that very often in a scripted way are forgotten. No, it's a great classic: we met a lot of people at the events, the trade show or the event, but we had to put CRM yes, now we do it and then who knows.

But why is it that sometimes marketing is not trained or not strong enough or there is not enough coordination with the sales force? This is a big, big missed opportunity.

Stephen Brigli Bongi: Does it happen often? No? Like now we do everything, we fit everything in, because the event went so well and we're going to reap a lot of rewards. Months later: the vacuum. Yeah, but so what?

Gianluca Diegoli: Right, so what?

Stephen Brigli Bongi: This huge investment, and then what? 

Defining the goal of an event [10:30]

Gianluca Diegoli: Then someone comes along and says, "We haven't sold," right? Or there is sometimes uncertainty about the target, right? This is in my opinion very important instead.

I mean, because there is always someone who will then complain if the goal is not well specified, right? Few people came, ah we didn't sell, ah the reviews or feedback wasn't there. But what was the goal?

I mean was it selling, was it interest, people? Clearly, if the feedback is nothing, anyway something went wrong, but we have to evaluate first, right? I in my experience, even in the company, there is often one of these misunderstandings, where something was done and the marketing director would say, "Well, we brought these people," sales director, "We didn't sell anything."

Okay but we have to decide that first. And since making brands and making sales are not the same thing, at least in theory, but also in practice, and making them simultaneous is very difficult, almost impossible, we should probably also figure out a little bit earlier what we expected and how to measure it.

What is the value of event marketing to a brand? [12:15]  

Stefano Brigli Bongi: Absolutely, but indeed just talking about the objective theme of a brand, according to you, events, then specifically you mentioned some types of events for B2B, however also taking it in a broad sense, also talking about how Red Bull is doing it.

What is the value for which an event really plays into brand enhancement? And then also what are those things that, when you are doing an event to do brand enhancement, you absolutely cannot miss?

Gianluca Diegoli: Look, I have this feeling that has also been accelerated by the Covid post, is that there is a great polarization in people's expectations. So either it's something that's really worthwhile or otherwise I just sit at home and watch the webinar or even record it first and watch it whenever I want.

And there is incredible polarization. The event, which is neither meat nor fish, in my opinion has to disappear or it will tend to disappear. And here I also come to your question: why? 

Because if I want to do mass then I probably organize an online webinar. Digital scales, digital scales by definition, however it doesn't go as deep as an event does. Very often a physical event, especially if I want to bring people together and so this instead is quality work.

So they also have to be placed in my opinion at different levels and different times in the famous infamous acquisition funnel . Having said that, I am always a little bit terrified that in business we measure what is easy to measure and ignore, what is difficult to measure, which is not the same as saying it is important or it is not important.

They are often things that are hard to measure, but that are important. However, because they are hard to measure, well, we don't measure them here. Very often the event is important because it leaves you with, let's say, a much more consistent, much more lasting memory than things that are more scalable: banners, videos, et cetera, even though those make a lot more numbers. So marketing is always a bit of a mix of data and art, science and art.

Stephen Brigli Bongi: In my opinion there is also a theme, then I would also like to hear your opinion, more about online and offline, which is the fact that the event, being an object anyway, a content that is completely offline, you tend to de-prioritize in terms of measurement. Because you tend to say, "It's hard for me to measure its true impact," unless I can do that through having tracked a quantity of leads generated.

So, I don't know if you also believe it's this reason or there are excuses behind this thing here, because I see it very often, also because then the event makes reputation, makes brand.

And as we know, actually measuring what kind of impact an activity has on your brand is not super easy.

But in my opinion there is also a let's say offline-online component, especially for in-person events. Then online events is already easier, maybe that's why you go mass as you were saying.

Stop reasoning by quarters [16:12].

Gianluca Diegoli: But there are, I've been doing marketing direction for a lot of years, so clearly there's always this duality, right? I mean, I do something more toward the lower end of the funnel, so I do a promotion, but in the meantime I collect as well, we do an event that maybe let's say I sow seeds and then I reap.

It also depends a lot on the business goals . You have to be very careful to work only for quarters, I mean in these years they've seen it right? Because you run the risk of reaping everything and sowing nothing.

Having said that something would need to be measured, I think there is still a lot that can be done to move forward even on measuring things that are more intangible like physical events. For example, as I now measure on online events, I measure how many people then signed up for the trial, however, it is not impossible to track physical events.

I mean, it's that very often it's difficult, even more difficult however we also come from a world where nothing was traced. Bye bye bye, greetings and kisses. What has been seen has been seen and hopefully these will come back sooner or later. You can move from even a progressive approach, let's say, toward this kind of measuring.

The other thing is that the physical event in a structure like Italian companies, where marketing is very under-staffed compared to the average as I said before, even on B2B. involves very often that you think, "Ah okay, but I can't do it," because I have a lot of activities and so maybe I also think it would have a good return on investment, but physically I can't do it and so there is a little bit of this thing, right? And then also marketing departments sometimes are human and so they also reason about workloads.

Stephen Brigli Bongi: Well then, the two things you said are, in my opinion, very important, they were also very important for us in Kampaay during this time here.

The very first thing I totally agree with is the theme of no longer being able to reason by quarters and the quarter reasoning, let's say, that is focusing on the short term, especially for a B2B brand or at any rate for a company that works in B2B, is something that now for marketing you really struggle to invest in the right way.

And if you have that kind of vision actually it's something really complicated and so I totally agree with that. Let's say the time horizon of at least 6 months, a year are increasingly useful horizons to really build for the future.

Gianluca Diegoli: But yes, there is also, sorry to interrupt you, but there is an analysis done by A quite competent institute, Australian, it said that, let's take for example the B2B market only 10%, maybe 5%, anyway 5% to 10% of your possible targets and then of your prospects are ready to buy.

Right now, if we are just doing short-term performance marketing, we are bombarding these people with something that they are not, that they are not ready to do and we are not even taking them forward in our sales cycle and so we are really doing it all wrong, right?

Stefano Brigli Bongi: Absolutely. And that comes back to me so much, especially tying it then to the events theme, because let's say that actually it's one of those levers that you tend to kind of put on the back burner because of all the issues that we were saying before.

And one of the issues that we fortunately can solve, which is that of capacity because Kampaay was born for that reality, so, at least in part, those who are listening to us and are suffering a little bit from the management of events, well we know a little bit about that. 

Gianluca Diegoli: And this is really very important.

Stephen Brigli Bongi: It does come back to me though, that is, the philosophy is totally aligned, the reason for investing in certain things is missing, because the same budget for companies has been reduced especially for these activities here.

Then if you have to invest more intelligently and instead of continuing to invest on the short term, you have to try to actually understand the impacts of investing on the long term, without being too afraid to do so.

Culture is not created during meetings, but between meetings [20:37]

Gianluca Diegoli I think this then pandemic there was a big reset, they stopped doing events that were done a little bit by tradition. The 50th agent rally, by now everybody couldn't take it anymore though, maybe you do other things instead that make sense within a defined and measurable marketing plan and so it was a big reset.

As I was telling you before, it's also a great polarization, so the things that we can do online we do online, however, the events that we need instead to meet each other, for the unspoken, to deepen relationships, these are all things that we've missed over the years, many people, myself included, missed the 'meeting that doesn't just happen in front of slides or when you're talking, but it happens at the edges of events, right? 

Stephen Brigli Bongi: True, I once read a quote by Simon Sinek who said , "Culture is not created during meetings, but between meetings." The moment you eliminate that in-between and try to replace it with something concrete, you are automatically eliminating culture.

Gianluca Diegoli: It's hard to create corporate culture in companies that are completely remote, unless precisely as I see doing moreover, they hold meetings that at that point are not "We have to be in the office," right? We do something, we are there for a purpose and that is really very important.

The physical event is the thermometer that measures the temperature of a community.[22:15]

Stephen Brigli Bongi: Listen I wanted to ask you going back a little bit to the concept of RedBull, they use events for everything, they do sporting events, mentoring events for kids in college, they do concerts, they launch people from space, everything.

This omnichanneling, because then to mention a topic that you also seem to be knowledgeable about, you wrote a book about it, right? And in your opinion, at RedBull, has it paid off did this strategy pay off well? And how would it pay off for a company that is now approaching trying to promote its own brand?

Gianluca Diegoli: But then I am always, let's say, I think if someone spends normally there is a reason, right?

And RedBull's results from these years certainly show that using events as content, actually as a macro content strategy, that is, you can do both RedBull TV, and the canoe event, so you work on big umbrella numbers at the top, but then you work on the local even with smaller events because you go to the paragliding ones and you also nurture a lot of different communities with these eventIs.

Because the events, because I am of a certain age, I was born with a little bit of events that existed even before digital, that is, for example, Ducatists were meeting with their motorcycles even before the Facebook group. 

Stefano Brigli Bongi : Ahah, unbelievable. 

Gianluca Diegoli: You may not think that before Facebook groups did not exist. No, and it really did. That is, even the Ducati brand was organizing meetings even before there were social to organize them.

‍Andin my opinion just the communities. A good way to tell how warm a community is is also the ability to make people move.

No, there are smartphone or couch communities. Then there are also those of people who leave the house. In this case they take their motorcycle and ride 200 kilometers to go and meet some other people. And that is a great demonstration of the strength of a community.

Let's say you also see the physical event as a thermometer that measures the actual temperature of a community.

What is omnichannel in two words? [25:00]

Stephen Brigli Bongi: Yes, that is true because you have more of a pulse. I don't know if you want to just mention, for people listening to us who maybe don't know what we're talking about, who are not marketing enthusiasts, in two words what omnichannelality is.

Gianluca Diegoli: Beyond such somewhat academic or theory-based formulas, in my opinion it is showing the same face in whatever, the same face of the company's brand, in whatever activity our customers or stakeholders are in in a let's say coordinated and consistent way.

And so today yes we don't just live online, in the Metaverse, we kind of forgot that,

We still live very much, fortunately very much in the world of atoms, and yet there is really a need to, not only do transactions, but also communication and also events in a way that works, puts together in a coordinated way all these faces of the company.

And the faces of the company in a fragmented world like this that we are living are more and more so it's a job let's say, it's a job, just it's a big job to do.

Million dollar question [26:14].

Stephen Brigli Bongi: So we got to the end I thank you so much for all the pearls you gave us and I just wanted to ask you one last question.

This is a particular question, a question let's say that can say a lot about you. So if you were to organize an event and invite three characters who may or may not be around anymore, even characters from the past, who would they be and why?

Gianluca Diegoli. Ah man, This is really a surprise question. But then I would say I would take advantage of those who could, who are sadly no longer around. I would say Kobe Bryant because I'm a big basketball fan and then I would take an economist, maybe a Mario Draghi and I would take advantage of that for a...

Stephen Brigli Bongi: Just a smattering, a speaker to give you a smattering.

Gianluca Diegoli: If I can everything eh, then a great writer, I'm going on my personal tastes, a David Foster Wallace, I would take him right away.I don't know if they would be compatible with each other maybe not, but I mean, we try.

Stefano Brigli Bongi: Well, at least people are able to engage them. I mean, you put them in three different stages, a good event.

Gianluca Diegoli: It would be nice and big.

Stefano Brigli Bongi: Well Gianluca, I thank you. Thank you very much for coming here. And last thing, if somebody wants to contact you where they can find you.

Gianluca Diegoli: So I am very fond of my newsletter, which I write every week or almost every week. You can find it Then you find me around the web, @gluca,this nickname so google it and it's found (and on Linkedin at profile Gianluca Diegoli, ed.). I would say pretty much this.

Stefano Brigli Bongi: Perfect! Thank you very much Gianluca, Thank you. From the Kampaay studios that's all, see you next episode.

About the author

Kampaay is the solution that facilitates the management and organization of corporate events, the ideal partner for those who want to bring innovation and digitization to their company.

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