Is your experiential activity neglecting 70% of your audience?

Spectators v Participants People react to experiential marketing activity in different ways. Some are participants, some are spectators. Brands often measure ROI on participants and rightly so, but what about the people that pass by without interacting? Research suggests that these people make up to 70% of the potential audience that are exposed to experiential activities! What effect does experiential activity have on these spectators and what impact does this have on that all-important ROI?

Before we go any further it is important to define what both spectators and participants actually are.

What is a participant?

Traditionally participants are the people that experiential marketing targets. They are the ones that really get stuck in to an event and are most likely to engage with the brand. We do go on about it but this really is the holy grail.

Once participants feel an emotional connection to a brand they will develop deep-set loyalty, and statistics from the Word of Mouth Marketing Association suggest that participants will share their experience with 4-10 people on average, creating a huge uplift in emotional engagement from the experiential activity itself.

What is a spectator?

Spectators can often be overlooked. They are the ones that pass by the activity, usually acknowledging it to varying degrees without actively taking part. Spectators will take one of two actions – stay and take it in, or glance briefly and move on.

We have found that even though they don’t fully immerse themselves in the activity, spectators will talk about the event to 1-3 very relevant people, increasing uplift in a highly targeted way.

Targeting spectators – it’s all in the messaging

It is no secret that participants are the prime targets of an experiential marketing event. Ultimately any campaign’s success will be judged on ROI from the people that fully engage in the event. Footfall figures, interaction figures and other metrics combine to create this data but often the analysis of the influence spectators have, and what they can add is not as comprehensive. As a result, it can be easy to neglect the role they actually play in an experiential activity.

Messaging is the key here. We have previously discussed push and pull messages and what they mean in relation to experiential marketing. Spectators will never engage in two-way messages with your brand which means it is vital to get the push messaging right in terms of the core concepts appearing on the signage around the activity. Traditional ad messages are not direct enough for the dynamic environment in which they will sit, meaning clear, concise messages are key to make their way through to spectators. Striking the balance of the length of these messages, how many of them exist and how they sit in a hierarchy are of vital importance.

Experiential marketing is about breaking through the clutter of the 500 marketing messages a consumer sees every day. The fact that an experiential activity is happening at all gives a spectator reason to take more notice of this in comparison to the cluttered mass media channels. They will see and appreciate that your brand is adding value to people’s lives, while receiving those important amplifying push messages.

What effect do spectators have on ROI?

With 70% of people not immersing themselves in experiential activity, it is impossible to say spectators have no effect on ROI however measuring it is difficult at best. Experiential marketing agencies have their own methodologies for measuring the ROI of participants but it is vital to take spectators in to account too.

Our own research has suggested that word-of-mouth uplift from spectators works in a slightly different way to that of participants. We found that spectators tend to talk about an experiential marketing activity to 1-3 members of their community who have an active interest in the product, brand or type of brand. This results in a different word-of-mouth uplift to participants, who tell 4-10 people on average – one that is very highly targeted to very relevant people.

This extra reach heightens awareness to a targeted group of people which will ultimately reflect in the brand’s ROI.


In conclusion, while it may not be possible to fully measure the ROI that spectators bring, it is vital to take them in to consideration because they can add serious value to your marketing spend. With 70% of people not actively participating and immersing themselves in your brand, clear, concise messaging is key to breaking through the marketing clutter.

Hotcow is a multi-award winning brand engagement agency specialising in experiential marketing. Our mission is simple: to help brands understand the power of “experience-based marketing” and offer expertise in how to develop, plan and execute campaigns in the right way to get the right results, while showing that every pound spent is measurable. Visit for more information.

Leave a Reply