An Event Marketers Guide to TV Advertising

Event marketers are experts at stretching a dollar to reach a niche audience. However, Sometimes you find yourself marketing an event with mass appeal that requires you to swing for the fences. Even when you have a substantial budget for an Arena event, Amphitheater show, or music festival you likely have a hard time putting together a TV schedule that has any substantial frequency.

This guide is meant to help determine if a TV schedule makes sense for your event & how to go about getting the most out of your budget.

Should I Advertise on TV?

First and foremost, you need to determine who your target audience is. After all, our goal is to sell tickets, not just check a box on an advertising plan. If you determine that you can effectively reach your audience via TV & it makes sense for your budget then by all means, let’s proceed. Here are a few questions to ask yourself:

  • Who is my target audience?
  • Are there particular TV networks/stations they likely watch?
  • Are there particular TV shows they likely watch?
  • What time of day are they most likely to watch TV?
  • Can I insert local ads on these stations / programs during those dayparts?

How much does TV advertising cost?

Once you have determined that you can effectively reach your audience via TV you need to decide if you can afford it. The short answer is that one :30 second TV spot on a local TV network (CBS, NBC, ABC, FOX) can cost anywhere between $5 - $2,000+. The better answer is that TV advertising in general has a CPM (cost per thousand) that ranges between $15 - $55. When buying media for reach / awareness it is important to use CPM as your yardstick so that you are comparing things apples to apples. Network TV seems more expensive than Cable TV on the surface, but when you dive into your CPM they are very similar. You just blow through a LOT more impressions at 8:00pm on CBS than you do at 2:00am on ESPN.

A good first step is to approach your local sales rep & explain your target audience. It’s worth noting that these reps are used to dealing with ad agencies that are buying a particular demographic (Adults 25-54, Female 25-49, etc..). It’s a little jarring for them when working with event marketers that are interested in more psychographic targeting. Get ready for a battle. They like to play games with the numbers & make them look appealing. Keep your objective in mind. You want to reach a VERY specific audience at the right time at a reasonable CPM.

What about creative?

If you are marketing an event on tour then you are likely going to be provided with a :15 or :30 from Bill Young Productions, Tour Design, or Global Tour Creatives. Plan on spending a few hundred dollars to purchase and localize the spot.

Some event marketers are working on music festivals, one-off events, or events where you have some creative control. Local TV stations have production departments that can help you create a spot. You can also opt to work with a local video production company to create a good spot. Keep in mind that if a local TV station creates your spot they may charge you extra (or not allow you) to use it on other stations / online.

What TV stations can I advertise on?

Broadcast TV

In most markets your local network affiliates are owned by different parent organizations, so you will need to reach out to each one individually. The major networks are CBS, NBC, ABC, FOX, and CW. Your reps will be able to place ads during local news + local avails during national programming.

Cable TV

Your local Cable TV rep can give you a list of insertable networks. These are the networks that have local avails you can purchase like ESPN, MTV, Nick, etc.


Many broadcast & cable reps are now offering the option to run spots on OTT (Over-the-Top) devices such as Smart TVs, Apple TVs, Chromecast, Playstation, Amazon Fire Sticks, etc..

Many advertisers combine OTT with their video streaming plans & work directly with the providers or a digital marketing expert to place these ads for them.

When should I run TV ads?

The bulk of your tickets are going to be sold during the on-sale & the closeout period (2-weeks leading up to an event). Since TV advertising reaches so many people & costs so much as a result you should plan on only running during these two time periods. Most event marketing budgets only allow for a short burst of no more than 5 days leading up to an on-sale + about the same the week of the event.

What about dayparts?

It’s important to note that many event marketers have found success with running ads during morning news & morning shows. Assuming this makes sense for your target audience, most people are getting ready for their day while watching these programs. That means they will be more likely to take an action such as searching for the event on Ticketmaster.

Also, Viewers typically keep the program running & don’t bother fast-forwarding through commercials as they would later in the day during more intense TV viewing sessions.

Another observation that has been made is that people that are home watching primetime TV on a regular basis have a habit of being home between 8pm-10pm. Keep that in mind when trying to convince someone to spend their evening at an event.

Leverage Local News

When working with your rep to create a schedule that makes sense, you should leverage the prospective ad buy to gain additional promotion during local news. Offer them tickets, vip experiences, and meet & greet opportunities that they can utilize for on-air promotions. It’s a LOT easier to lock these in before you agree to place the ad buy with the rep. Once they have your order they likely won’t bother taking a few extra steps into the news room to fight for you.

Traffic Instructions

If you actually want your spots to run on time you need to send in detailed traffic instructions along with your spot. Make sure you send all of this at least 2 days before your spot is scheduled to run.

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