Imagine piling into your pickup and watching a Garth Brooks concert on the big screen. Thanks to Encore Drive-In Nights, music fans can “drive-in and rock out,” even while social distancing. Since June, they’ve been hosting livestream concerts at 300+ drive-in theaters–from the Starlite 14 (Richmond, WI) to the Prairie Dog Drive-In (Saskatchewan). Encore reflects the ingenuity and resilience of today’s event creators, who are growing their brand, adding Instagram followers and Facebook fans, as they remake the entertainment landscape.

In addition to the Brooks concert, Encore hosted events with Kane Brown, Blake Shelton (featuring Gwen Stefani) and Metallica: 1100 shows at 330 venues in two countries in five months. To market at this scale, Encore Live teamed up with the trailblazers at Grayscale Marketing. “There was no blueprint,” says CEO Tim Gray. “Nothing like thathad ever been done. And especially during a global pandemic.”

But the power of connection and the value of live events prevails. The drive-in shows garnered 17 billion digital media views and over 280 million broadcast views. They had over 900,000 attendees, says Gray, “making Encore by far the largest promoters of 2020 on the globe. When they announced Garth Brooks, it broke Ticketmaster. I believe that has only ever happened twice in Ticketmaster's history.”

To create a brand with reach, Gray knew Instagram growth would be critical for capturing fans’ attention. He turned to ToneDen by Eventbrite’s Instagram Growth Playbook. “The more people we get to follow the brand’s social pages, the better opportunity we have to effectively train that audience to consistently engage with our post. More engagement, more awareness, more tickets sold," Gray says. “When you have a great event to market, excellent content, smart copy, and clear calls to action you can win big. For us it really boils down to growth = impressions = awareness = engagement = traffic = sales.”

"More engagement, more awareness, more tickets sold."

Bringing Surgical Precision to Social Marketing 

Gray is an entertainment industry veteran, who brings a highly-targeted approach to event marketing. For the Encore Drive-In Nights, “We needed to break down all 330 theater markets, separate out which ones we're going to focus on DMAs, which ones we needed to  on radius, and really understand the market demographics more than just generalities. We needed to understand buying patterns, socioeconomics, income, household sizes, and cross reference that with population, capacity, more to build a strategy that could work for one event that just happened to be taking place in two countries at 330 theaters simultaneously. It was a major undertaking and required both the Grayscale and Encore teams to work smart, get creative, and be malleable. We all needed to get hyper specific: Instead of shooting buck shot, we used a laser pointer. We needed to be surgical.”

Since their beginning five years ago, Grayscale Marketing has believed in the power of an active, engaged online fanbase. “We really leaned into the data of digital marketing and layered that with human nature and consumer psychology to ensure we are helping our clients grow not only their margin and attendance year after year but their brand awareness and fanbase."

For Gray, digital growth is a staple for brands of all stripes. “We pushed digital marketing, not just for artists, but for venues, whether it was a smokey old bar all the way up to an amphitheater or performing arts center. That was our focus, and it still is our focus: to leverage data to get butts in seats. We work with promoters to bring in the best talent, make sure those attendees have an incredible experience while they're there, and work to get them back show after show to really build customer loyalty. Our focus has always been, at the end of the day, to make a dramatic impact to our clients bottom line.” And as he worked with Encore to create a larger social media presence for its drive-in series, Gray saw an opportunity for incredible growth. 

“Utterly Dependent on Fan Growth”

For Encore Drive-In Nights, Gray knew that a key to the success of Encore’s Drive-In Nights would be growing on Instagram. “What we see,” Gray says, “is that the more people that follow a page and actually engage with the page through comments, likes and shares, regardless of platform, that we're slightly bypassing the algorithm. The more people that engage with the page, the higher percentage of people that are going to see our posts, the more people that see our organic posts the better opportunity we have to build a relationship, and actually focus on the social part of social media. Two-way communication.”

To get eyes on those organic posts, Gray used ToneDen by Eventbrite’s Instagram Growth Playbook. With targeted Instagram Stories Ads, the playbook helps event creators attract fans to their profile page, amplifying engagement as a result. 

Gray spent $300 on an Instagram Growth Playbook for Encore Drive-In Nights. This campaign, which started in August, netted Encore Drive-In Nights more than 3,000 new Instagram followers—at just $.09 per follower.

Instagram Growth Playbook – Campaign Insights

But thousands of new Instagram followers were only part of the success. Encore’s Instagram impressions increased 408%, their website clicks increased 2,227%, their profile views increased 188%, and their total ad engagement on Instagram alone grew 609.5%. Between July and September, Grayscale helped Encore grow their Facebook fans 1,865% fans and saw net fan growth and engagement across their Facebook page climb 3,418%

“We really leaned into the data of digital marketing and layered that with human nature and consumer psychology...helping our clients grow not only their margin and attendance year after year but their brand awareness and fanbase."

A New Experience (and Must-Have Marketing)

For Gray, events like Encore Drive-In Nights represent a turning point in live entertainment. “It's a new experience that Encore is providing to music fans, a way that they can feel safe. We follow CDC guidelines, prepare for vaccines, implement safety checks, and stay focused on the safety of our attendees across the nation. Maintaining that level of safety while providing an incredible experience, will allow us to sustain these types of events for a very long time.”

Gray believes the enthusiasm for these events is not limited to the drive-in format, and ToneDen by Eventbrite is critical for any event creator. “ToneDen helps me to A/B test in real time, not only saving me time, but actually saving the client dollars,” says Gray. And as event creators, venues, and promoters expand their conception of live events, the Instagram Growth Playbook will be key. “With the results and level of fans growth we’ve received thus far we're bound by nothing except our own creativity, which is incredibly exciting moving into 2021.”

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