Endurance Sportswire Executive Interview Series – Michael Bleau, CEO of EventHub
January 29, 2024
Sponsorship dollars are crucial for race organizations, offering vital funding and enhancing the event experience. Exhibitors play a key role in both bolstering financial support and enriching participant experiences through their offerings. Our latest interview is with Michael Bleau, the CEO of EventHub, a leading race expo software platform.
Could you provide an overview of EventHub and the story behind its inception?
EventHub is the leading race expo and finish line festival software platform in the endurance industry. We offer race organizers a tool-suite for streamlining exhibitors and sponsors, build interactive maps of their expos and finish line festivals, and generate booth and sponsorship sales leads for organizers via our marketplace.
The Co-founders of EventHub, myself and Jamie Nassar, were inspired for the idea of the platform from our own work in the field producing experiential tours that participated in a large number of endurance races, festivals, and other consumer events. We realized the events industry was missing a solution to more easily match brands with event activation space opportunities, and that there was also no specialized software for managing the large amount of exhibitor paperwork, logistics, and communication required to produce an expo.
So, we founded EventHub to help create management efficiencies, match organizers with new partners, and also to provide organizers with to-scale interactive maps that are both editable by organizers, and easily navigable by attendees to drive expo engagement.
In what ways do sponsorships in endurance sports differ from those in other industries?
Endurance exhibitors tend to be a bit more technology savvy and data-oriented than their counterparts across festivals and festivals, although that gap is narrowing, and the events industry is seeing a larger amount of crossover between consumer event types every year as brands seek to gain exposure to their target audiences in new ways. Endurance events also tend to feature favorable demographics for the largest number of wellness and healthy lifestyle brands, who frequently engage in competitive field marketing programs.
What are the advantages of sharing a sponsorship platform across various industries?
There is a huge advantage from a sponsorship generation standpoint to sharing a sponsorship platform across various types of consumer events, such as between endurance, music, food and beverage, and fairs. We’ve seen a large amount of endurance organizers benefit from being found on the marketplace by a sponsor that initially came onto the platform to register for another event in the same region, and became aware of said race’s expo sponsorship opportunities by discovering them on the marketplace. Similarly, we’ve seen a large number of endurance-focused brands come onto the platform to partner for a particular endurance event, and then add partnerships for several other endurance events once they were exposed to them.
Considering the vast number of events in the U.S. and the constraints on marketing budgets, how can smaller events effectively compete with larger, more established races?
Smaller races can effectively compete in three areas: 1. Impactful marketing materials that are easily discoverable online, 2. Through highlighting a favorable exhibitor-to-attendee ratio, and 3. By supporting exhibitors during load-in and having key touch points with them during the show to foster a strong relationship.
- Impactful marketing: You would be surprised at how difficult it is to get into the exhibitor application funnel for some of the biggest race expos. There is also a lack of video and imagery showing successful brand activations and high foot traffic at previous shows. Whereas larger events can often book out from their name and brand strength, smaller races can display their strong exhibitor experience through close-up images of previous years’ exhibitors in action with busy booths, and with wide hero shots showing their peak crowds within the expo.
- Exhibitor-to-attendee ratio: While a 40,000 attendee race may have 120+ exhibitors, frequently 10,000 and under races have expos with less than 60 exhibitors. When you do the math, that’s a 50% better attendee-to-exhibitor ratio on the smaller race meaning each exhibitor may receive twice the individual attention per attendee on average. And, smaller expo and finish line booths are often a value compared to the cost at larger expos.
- Strong support and relations: Many smaller expos offer load-in support via volunteer assistance easing the challenge of load-in, which is very helpful for smaller teams or regional businesses most common at these races. The larger races often don’t have the bandwidth to offer this type of white glove support. Likewise, expo managers with smaller exhibitor counts often have more time to spend with each exhibitor on site, helping them feel valued and increasing the chance of their exhibitor returning.
Could you share some examples of successful collaborations your company has facilitated (highlighting both large-scale and smaller events)?
While we’re not at liberty to share specific partnership details from customer events, in terms of generating additional business I’m happy to report that the population of registered buyers on our platform grew by more than 50% in 2023 to more than 70,000. We also processed nearly $30 Million in partnership deals from more than 28,000 orders. We saw several organizers knock it out of the park and generate tens of thousands of dollars in new business from marketplace-sourced exhibitors.
What key sponsorship best practices would you recommend based on your experience in the industry?
Some best practices we’ve seen from expos that consistently overperform include:
- Clearly list booth and sponsorship opportunities and make easily discoverable online
- Open exhibitor registration as early as possible after the previous year expo and incentivize returning exhibitors to reinvest
- Market exhibitors to attendees via mobile-friendly, interactive expo maps and exhibitor directors to drive foot traffic to booths and maximize engagement
- Streamline processes for collecting and approving critical paperwork like agreements, COIs, food permits, and other permitting
- Clearly communicate exhibitor space assignments, load in times and access points, and onsite contact info to avoid bottlenecking during setup
What are some common aspects of sponsorship that events often overlook, that your platform specifically addresses?
Using the expo map as a sales tool is a major element of expo sales that frequently gets overlooked by events before using our platform and mapping technology. The visual of seeing limited available space, and especially seeing scarce inventory of premium expo space, is a huge demand and urgency driver for selling space to exhibitors. It both entices them to submit applications on the front end and pushes them to get payments and paperwork in after initial submission to secure their desired space.
Our platform lets them submit their preferred booth spaces while seeing limited remaining inventory from the map and color codes premium versus standard space to pop it and help sell those first. Additionally, since our maps are to scale to the half-foot, we’ve had numerous expo managers tell us they were able to sell several additional booths by quickly adjusting their floor plan to accommodate the additional spaces.
You can reach Michael Bleau at LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/