What a More Competitive Events Space Could Mean for Associations

As more consumer brands offer their own events, associations must consider how they can stand out in an increasingly competitive market. Your event strategy now could make or break your future success.

What do CBS, SoulCycle, and Sephora have in common?

If you guessed that all three brands announced this month that they would be moving into the events space, you’d be correct.

First was beauty brand Sephora, which on June 4 said it would host its first-ever conventionSEPHORiA: House of Beauty—later this year in Los Angeles. In a press release, the company said it would be “a first-of-its-kind, highly immersive two-day beauty event fusing high-touch physical and digital experiences unlike anything seen before.”

CBS followed suit about a week later with the formation of CBS Experiences (CBSX), an experiential events division focused on expanding the reach of CBS programming and properties through live, entertaining, and interactive encounters. “By extending and elevating CBS properties, we have the ability to unlock incremental value, while also enabling consumers and marketers to engage with their favorite entertainment, news, and sports brands in a new immersive dimension,” said CBS Senior EVP and Chief Administrative Officer Tony Ambrosio.

And just this week fitness brand SoulCycle said it would be launching a media division. According to The Hollywood Reporter, it will focus on creating programming and experiences using a variety of media, including music, video, audio, and experiential events.​ “SoulCycle has always been about delivering the most inspirational and joyful experience possible to our community,” said CEO Melanie Whelan. The media division “will allow us to serve our riders in new and unique ways, as well as deliver meaningful and transformative experiences around the globe that complement our studio experience …”

While moving into the events space is good news for these brands and their revenue streams, as well as for their customers and fans, there could be some repercussions for association events that those of you reading this post may not exactly label as “good news.”

First, it’s more competition in an already competitive events landscape. Second, it’s coming from three very large and well-known brands (on top of countless other consumer brands that have already successfully entered the events space). And while they may not have traditional dues-paying members (although a case could be made with SoulCycle), they do have diehard fans and customers, as well as much bigger budgets and more sponsorship dollars than many associations could ever imagine.

So, how do association events not only compete but also stand out in such a crowded environment?

In the past, associations have often relied on their name, reputation, and position as “voice of the industry” to convince members to register for their events. And don’t get me wrong, it’s worked.

But as time goes on, this strategy is likely to become less successful, and associations will increasingly have to figure out how to beat these for-profit competitors at their own game.

Much of that strategy will rely on an investment in technology, staff, and other resources. Because, truth be told, if your attendees aren’t receiving the immersive, high-tech, and personalized event experiences from your association that they are getting elsewhere, they probably won’t be your attendees or members for much longer.

How do you see increased competition from for-profit companies and brands affecting your association’s events in the future? Please share in the comments.

Can you compete with a live event organized by SoulCycle? (via the SoulCycle website)

Samantha Whitehorne

By Samantha Whitehorne

Samantha Whitehorne is editor-in-chief of Associations Now. MORE

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