Paul Poole on hybrid future for events


It’s not just yachts that are going hybrid. Yachting events from regattas to boat shows may also have to incorporate alternative and modified formats alongside each other.



Last year’s Phuket King’s Cup was postponed; Photo: Guy Nowell


A year ago, many in our industry started to wonder: what will events look like on the ‘other side’ of Covid-19? More recently, we were asked to share our thoughts on what could be expected from consumers once restrictions started to ease.


We predicted some events would continue through the Covid-19 pandemic, albeit in a slimmed-down version during such times of uncertainty. Happily, that has been the case. Yacht clubs like the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club, the Royal Varuna Yacht Club in Thailand and the Republic of Singapore Yacht Club have continued with many of their sailing programmes and races.


Of course, we must realise we are far from a ‘doors now open’ situation and will continue to see cancellations and postponements for a while longer.


For example, the 34th Phuket King’s Cup Regatta scheduled for late last year was postponed amid growing uncertainty regarding international travel and quarantine requirements during a third wave of the Covid-19 pandemic in some countries. Similarly, the 2020 and 2021 editions of many yacht shows in the region have been postponed.


However, the industry now has the benefit of learning from best practices executed over the last year and has access to popular opinion data, so we have a more informed view of what the events world will look like on the ‘other side’ and whether people will be willing to attend events as restrictions ease.


The Thailand Yacht Show in January 2020


In January and February this year, IMI International researched 100,000 people across 39 countries. It identified that, due to elevating Covid-19 cases and concerns around new variants and the number of vaccinations being administered, the global timeframe for the end to the Covid-19 pandemic is now extended by three months.


That delay is further fuelling the significant and growing pent-up demand for attending events. For example, according to the IMI International research, the interest in live sporting events has risen to 32 per cent, live concerts is at 40 per cent and outdoor events is at 54 per cent.


The report also highlights that one in seven individuals will not visit family and friends or go to a dinner party without a Covid-19 vaccination; 43 per cent will not go to a club or bar without a vaccination; and 48 per cent will not travel outside of their country without a vaccination.


People have also stated they would be more comfortable returning to outdoor, spaced events than crowded indoor experiences. It is clear that behaviours have changed and event organisers will need to consider this when planning future events. So yes, people are still hungry for event experiences.


The IMI International research also revealed that over 58 per cent of respondents attended a

virtual event in the last year, with 40 per cent of those attending a virtual entertainment event. And 58 per cent stated they would continue to attend a virtual event after live events return,

with 64 per cent of those aged under 35.


The first Beneteau Cup Hong Kong in mid-May 2021 attracted over 20 entries


Those figures suggest that sponsorship activation and engagement with attendees and an elevated online experience will see virtual events continue after the Covid-19 pandemic.


This leaves us with another question: Is the future to be virtual events? Not necessarily. In our opinion, event organisers will need to plan a blended approach. And although the postponement of the events we mentioned previously will disappoint many, I predict these events will re-emerge as highly successful hybrid events.


For some individuals, virtual events are on a par with ‘safer live’ events. Safer live events include enhanced safety protocols such as an audience of vaccinated attendees only, drive-in options where they can watch safely from their vehicle, or watching live but socially distanced in their bubbles.


Safety is the new currency and opportunity for brands and brand impact. Virtual events are perceived as more convenient, easier to access, more affordable and innovative. They are a good way for fans to support artists and musicians, and gain pleasure from experiences they couldn’t normally access.


Live events are more exciting and memorable. But for live events to be successful, communication to attendees around safety, including hand sanitiser, mask-wearing and handwashing stations, is key in building confidence that will influence their decision to attend. This, in turn, leads to more commercial sponsorship and partnership marketing opportunities.


Throughout 2020 and 2021, our priority has been working with clients, sponsors and partners, helping them make decisions that would ensure they remained strong and buoyant in such uncertain times. We believe those who have stayed active with their marketing and acted on available data, those who have made plans to address the public’s new mindset, can now emerge as better prepared to move forward.



Poole is the founder, Managing Director and Chairman of Paul Poole (South East Asia) Co., Ltd., an independent marketing consultancy based in Bangkok, Thailand. The company specialises in commercial sponsorship and partnership marketing, working with both rights holders and brands. It has packaged, sold and managed sponsorship and partnership opportunities for several of Southeast Asia’s leading yachting events. /