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How to create sustainable, community-led events

by EN

Raccoon Events’ chief marketing officer, Jo Tyler, tells EN about their huge growth over the past two years. 

Since joining the Raccoon team 30 months’ ago, life has been a bit of a whirlwind. In 2019, the business had just moved out of the glorified shed in Mike Seaman’s garden, now we employ 30 people. We’ve been on an aggressive campaign to increase our portfolio from one to 12 products.
We’ve been bold because we had to. With a small business there often isn’t a choice. You are doing what you can to survive, but we weren’t happy with surviving, we wanted to thrive.

Venturing outdoors
Two weeks before the first lockdown we launched the National Outdoor Expo. At the time we had no idea what an impact that would have.
We wanted to create a community rather than just an event. With Covid-19 the need for this show was higher than ever, as more and more people found solace and mental health release by being outside and active.
We recognised the importance of crafting the show around the visitor experience and then commercialising it. By focusing on a great day out and being inclusive we received an incredible reaction to our campaign, resulting in over 8,000 tickets within 24 hours and smashing our pre-reg target of 25,000 tickets – with 39,238 booked.

Building the community
Lockdown gave us time to really talk to our stakeholders. We took time and we listened. When we had to postpone by a year, we offered a ‘no quibble’ refund alongside enticing new digital packages for those who stuck with us. We spoke to every client regularly. We were still there for them and regularly offered advice and online promotion.
We created a week-long digital festival called Outside & Active which we then turned into a 365 product with a plethora of practical advice and inspirational stories including documentaries and a podcast (now in it’s third series).
A group of 100+ ambassadors helped us to curate content with accessibility, diversity and inclusivity at the heart of the campaign.

Sustainability is vital
The National Outdoor Expo ran in March 2022 for the first time and was a great success. Despite its launch it already felt like a reunion as we high-fived and hugged people we had only met on Zoom. Regular ambassador socials that had only existed online, were now in person with a trendy beer in hand. The feedback and bookings for 2023 showed that our hard work has paid off – this is a sustainable event with strong foundations.
In bringing together a community who adored the outdoors, we had to protect the environment and ensure that running the event wasn’t creating greater damage.

It’s no secret that Raccoon Events is looking to lead with its approach to sustainability and encourage other organisers to work together to achieve change. Anyone who knows Mike Seaman, will have heard the phase ‘Did I tell you I spoke at COP26?’
It’s not easy, but we are working hard to measure, monitor and reduce our carbon impact. At the Outdoor show we ditched aisle carpet and we had positive feedback. The money we saved was reinvested into charitable grants to encourage more people to get outside and active and in initiatives to protect the environment. If you want to find out more then check out raccoonevents.com or get in touch.

This column appears in the May issue of Exhibition News

Read more features, opinions and analysis on the most sustainable events in the industry here

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