Event-Themed Emails & Real-Time Marketing: The Best & Worst

The Super Bowl…the Oscars…the Olympics…the Grammys… all popular cultural events

The Super Bowl…the Oscars…the Olympics…the Grammys… all popular cultural events that get a lot of attention. What do these events mean for your business? Should you mention them at all?

It depends on how you do it. There’s a right and a wrong way to do everything in marketing, and this is no exception.

The best way to take your marketing to the next level is by using email and social media together to cover what’s happening. We’ll share examples of emails that successfully stand out, ones that miss the mark and what the deal is with real-time social media coverage.

Be a Winner by Planning Ahead

Some of these popular events can spark some cool content ideas. It lets you take a break from the traditional newsletter or sales pitch, and focus on something exciting and timely. Being the fun, cool company can help your brand image, so when people are ready to get back to business, YOUR business may be the one they turn to.

Doing something different can also be more fun for you. If you’ve been feeling uninspired, these events can help bring some life back into your work.

Here’s an example of what Universal Music did with their email after the Olympics:

Highlighting music used in the Closing Ceremony was perfect for their audience.

Here’s a different example from Habitually Chic after the 2013 Oscars:

Habitually Chic knows their audience loves fashion, and this is a fun way to highlight a recent event for their subscribers.

Make Sure Your Ideas Will Work

There’s a problem when it comes to using these events in your content: it’s overdone. Tons of companies do it. You can only stand out if:

  • You can relate it to your business without looking “desperate.” If you’re just name-dropping, that’s not actually relating the event to your business.
  • Your audience is actually interested in the event. You can use surveys and social media to figure out what events your audience are most excited about.

Here are examples of companies that dropped the ball…

Terrain sent out an email with the subject line “A Sale of Olympic Proportions,” and the email that followed looked like this:

No fun Olympic theme, no other mention of the Olympics, just a summer sale. Is this bad? No. But how often do you see this the word “Olympics” in your inbox during the Games? With so many companies doing this, people don’t respond to simple name-dropping.

You also have companies like Beauty Encounter that successfully incorporate an event into their marketing… but incorrectly. Here’s the 2013 Beauty Encounter Oscar email:

Great idea, right? Except the “Oscar Celebrity Scents Sale” features Katy Perry, Lady Gaga and Beyonce; a group that’s better suited for the Grammys sale. Even changing this sale to something like the “Red Carpet-Ready Scents Sale” would have been more on track.

So, you’ve got your emails set up for the days leading up to the event. Should you stop there? You could. Or…

Social Media During Events: Real-Time Marketing

If you’re up for a challenge, the up-and-coming trend is to use social media to respond to popular events in real time. Think of how Oreos handled the blackout at the Super Bowl. It was pretty genius:

Real-time marketing isn’t for everyone though. Sarah Hofstetter, president of 360i, talks about it in this article and says: “Investing in preparation for real-time response requires significant investment and preparation, so carefully choose moments that align with your brand and community. If the event doesn’t warrant the investment, think about how you can create event-specific content in advance so you can still be timely without the inherent risks and costs of being ‘real time.'”

Sarah notes that ‘real time’ really means real time. After Marco Rubio’s famous sip of water during the Republican rebuttal to the President’s State of the Union address, Poland Spring responded… 14 hours after it happened. They were mocked a bit.

You can also check out Convince & Convert’s Jay Baer’s article “17 (mostly failed) Brand Tweets From the Oscars.” For example, Stella Artolis tweeted a few images like this:

While they were timely, it’s not clever or especially shareable. Jay points out that it doesn’t really do anything for their brand.

Have You Tried Leveraging These Types of Events?

Do you plan out content for popular events? Have you tried real time marketing? Let us know in the comments.


  1. Mark Louis

    3/21/2013 11:31 am

    Great post first of all! Very nice examples cited. I would agree to this thing that initial planning is very necessary for making theme based email and the content should not be centred around your business, it looks boring and old, rather one can relate his/her business with some sport or fashion etc. so as to make it eye catching.

  2. keith

    3/21/2013 1:51 pm

    Yes, as an office supply retailer we offer contests with many of the “themes” mentioned in this article, such as picking the Best Picture for the recent Oscars. It’s a great way to connect with customers.

  3. Neena

    3/21/2013 3:09 pm

    This is great food for thought. You bring us a point of view about factors that are not blatantly obvious, yet make a big difference.

    I am just starting out with my newsletter, so I will be thinking along these lines when I send out future emails.


  4. Jason Lee

    3/21/2013 5:42 pm

    Very interesting collection, I enjoyed thinking about the different strategies.

  5. Corine

    3/21/2013 8:30 pm

    Hello, we are a health care practice with approximately 40% of care provided virtually.

    Your examples are great but how would you apply them to a unique office like ours?

    Corine T
    Office media relations

  6. Kagai

    3/22/2013 12:09 am

    Preparation in advance is not only good for the brand, but much more cost effective in the long run.

  7. Crystal Gouldey

    3/22/2013 7:19 am

    Corine – For sporting events, you could cover health tips for athletes. For celebrity event, maybe tips for healthy skin or taking care of your body so it’s “ready for the red carpet” type of thing.

    Remember that you don’t have to incorporate these events into your marketing plan. My point was that if you do, make sure you do it effectively.

  8. David Smith

    3/27/2013 7:01 pm

    Event themed email marketing is next level online marketing strategy and people are always looking for new ideas and as a marketer, we have to fulfill the people expectation that should lead the business (means sales :-)). Great post and nice example!