Talking Event Marketing with Joey Gibbons, Founder of Gibbons Hospitality Group


We spend a lot of time dishing out advice about what we consider to be the best event marketing techniques. But this time, we figured we’d let somebody else do the talking.

Joey Gibbons is the President of Gibbons Hospitality Group in Whistler, BC, and currently owns five bars in Whistler, a brewery in Vancouver, and is in the process of launching a festival and travel company. He has been in the events industry practically all his life.

He started by working his way up at The Longhorn in Whistler, a bar which belonged to his Dad, and managing a bar at Bishop’s University in Quebec, where he studied business and economics.

From 2001 to 2013 Joey bought five bars around Canada (with Garfinkel’s in Whistler being his latest acquisition), and began investing more and more of his time and energy in Whistler.

Joey has always been concerned with helping Whistler’s businesses thrive and keeping tourists coming back to the town, which only has 10,000 permanent residents. This is why he started the Whistler Village Beer Festival in 2013. With the help of his bars’ suppliers, it’s been a huge success, and they’ve doubled their numbers every year the festival has run so far, and were even able to bring the festival to Kelowna this year.

With a track record like this, we invited Joey to talk about some of his top event marketing tips for anybody in the industry.


Q: Thanks so much for your time Joey. Could you start by taking us through some of your advice for anyone working in event marketing or the events industry?

Yeah, sure. I think the number one thing to consider in this business is that you will only ever be as successful as the team you have around you because there are so many moving parts. Your team is everything.

Secondly, I think you need to be willing to work really hard, especially when you’re young. Rockefeller has a good quote; “it’s 1 percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration.” When you’re young and you’re starting out you really have to work every single day, but when you love it, it actually doesn’t seem like work. So, if you’re finding yourself bummed out because you’re working 12 hour days, then I don’t think you’re in the right business.

The people that I have noticed that are very succesful at ANYTHING, not just in the events industry, they’ll work 18 hours a day, 7 days a week, but never really feel like they’re working. That’s where I feel like I am blessed. On Saturday nights, everyone else would head out and spend money at the bars while I’d head out to work, and we’d all come home having shared the same awesome experience, but I’d get to come home with money in my pocket.

Another piece of advice I’d give is this: a lot of people starting out seem to let the stardom get to their head, and I find that those people don’t end up being in the industry for very long. You’ve got to remain humble and remember who the star of the show is and what the event is about.

For example, at our beer festival, we really try to celebrate beer and the people who are behind the beer. When the different representatives from the different breweries come to Whistler, we try to make them feel like a million bucks, because if we can make them feel special, then they’ll show up and give our guests more of an experience. So we host special parties/events for those representatives to make them feel like they’re not just on some roadshow as a slave to the guests.

And finally, my last piece of advice is this; I have never had a drink in any of my businesses or events.

Q: You mentioned the importance of your team: That is something we consider really important ourselves, and something we have touched on in previous articles. Could you talk a little bit about how you manage your team and try to get the most out of them?

I am still trying to figure that out (laughs). I personally really believe in meritocracy. You’ve really got to create channels for the best people to perform through, and when you find those people, you really need to reward and support them, and give them the tools that they need in order to perform.

In our organization, we strongly believe that we need to have a team of A players.  There are all types of players out there: B players are those that aspire to become A players with the right coaching,  while C players are those that don’t align with the values of our organization but could be A players in somebody else’s organization.

In our business, culture is such a big thing, and we need people who align with our operating system and the rules we have, and who share our vision and values. Personally, I think that is important for every business.

Once you find those people, I believe that you need to invest time and energy into coaching them, rather than managing them. I think managers tend to work more like referees; a referee isn’t driven by the outcome of a game, he is just there to manage it. A coach, however, NEEDS an outcome, and he needs his team to bring about a specific result. Therefore, I think people need to get coached, not managed. This is something I learned from one of my all-time favorite books, The Coach by AL Williams, and something I am really focused on right now.

Q: Lets move on and talk a little bit about event marketing. From working with a variety of clients, we obviously see a lot of different approaches/theories on how to promote an event. Could you elaborate on how your company tackles event marketing?

Sure. Personally, I think of event marketing like this; it’s all about creating an invitation for somebody and giving them reasons to show up to an event, and I think you need to be flexible when you do that.

When we put on an event, we always try to ask ourselves “what job are we trying to do for our guests?” We do that by looking at our demographic for that specific event and asking ourselves “why would they want to hire us for the afternoon or evening and come along to enjoy this event?”

I really think that event marketing is about understanding your demographic, who and where they are, and what means of communication you have in order to reach out to them to send them that invitation and make them hire you for the day/afternoon/evening.

That being the case, we’ve really tried to become nimble and stay open about the measures we use in order to reach out to people and get them to come to our event. We’re always learning, and the way we market our events really depends on the market. In some markets print seems to be our best medium of communication, in others it might be radio, in others it might be social media.

While it seems like a vague/obvious response, I really think event marketing is basically finding out how to get in touch with somebody and fulfilling a certain need/want that they have, and that really changes from market to market, and from event to event. I think that looking at event marketing in this way makes it seem a little more clear and less intimidating.

One of the biggest things I’ve found out about event marketing is that one small percentage of a crowd can influence a larger percentage of a crowd, and if you can find those influencers that come along as part of a larger group, then you’re doing well. Those are the special nuggets.

Let us move on and talk a little bit about technology. Technology plays such a huge part in the events industry, especially with the rise of mobile, apps, and social media. Could you talk a little bit about how Gibbons Group uses technology to get things done?

To be honest, we are still trying to learn a lot of this. One of the biggest things we’ve found useful is collecting data, which is so simple now with the right technology. We really focus on collecting data from our events and not abusing that data, but rather letting it guide us into the future.

To give you a recent example, we rewarded everyone who attended our previous beer festivals in Whistler and Kelowna by giving them special promos and thanking them for supporting us at our previous events. We did this by using their data from previous ticket purchases. We found that to be a great way to interact with our existing clientele, and reaching out to them, thanking them, and letting them know about our upcoming events.

Earlier you touched on something you’d learned from The Coach by AL Williams. Could you maybe take us through some other books/entrepreneurs/artists etc. that you admire or that inspire you?


Good question. I think the first two people I’d have to mention are my Mom and my Dad. Dad is a really honest and hardworking guy, and I think he taught me A LOT about work ethic, perseverance, and resilience. So I’ve got that on one side, and on the other side I’ve got my Mom who is very spiritual, and has really been my guiding light over the last few years. In any business you have to put up with a lot of things. When you work in the events industry, for example, you’re dealing with authorization, the government, licensing and all those things, and you’ve got to have resilience and be able to get through it. Sometimes it can be frustrating, and so she’s definitely been my guiding light through all of that.

I tend to do business in quite a spiritual way because of her. I am in the Young Presidents Organisation in Vancouver, and I tend to gravitate towards other leaders within different business communities who lead the same way as me, and quite often it is for a greater purpose. These are often people who are really inspired and motivated to give back to the communities they work within.

As far as books go… I always have so many books on the go. I really like anything that shines light on local talent, like Jim Pattison, and seeing what he has been able to do out of Vancouver, and I find that to be inspirational. On a grander scale, I also look up to Richard Branson and what he has been able to do with his brand, and the lifestyle he lives and the amount of happiness he seems to enjoy on a daily basis, I find that super cool.

I look up to Rockefeller and what he was able to do with vertical integration, that is really interesting to me. We have a brewery, a distillery and a bar, and are interested in a hops farm and growing hops, and I like his ideas of being fully self-dependent in a business. For example, one of our biggest goals with our events is to fill our bars so we don’t need to depend on anybody else for our success; we can create our own success, and rather than complaining about the impact others have on our business, I would rather be in control of the impact we have on our own business and learn that process all the way through. That is something Rockefeller did and was really good at, a little too good at.

Some great books which I would recommend to people include:

The Coach by AL Williams.
The DhanDho Investor by Mohnish Pabrai
The Metronome Effect by Shannon Susko
The 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership by Jim Dethmer, Diana Chapman and Kaley Warner Klemp.

Q: Great. Lets finish up with one more question: Have you made any mistakes that you are willing to admit to me here?

Oh yeah, I’ve got a billion. When I look back I have made way more wrong decisions than right decisions, but I always did stuff, and we always went for it and always tried things, and the more things I tried the better I’ve become with my decision making.

I mean, I have tried to start a shoe company, I have had a linen company, I’ve had an energy drink company… (Laughs) This winter we ran a helicopter skiing company, we started our own construction company when we were in Hamilton. We bought a building and we were more than $3 million over budget on that. But now, when I do renovations at my places, I end up saving 25% each time because I’ve done it, and I know it now. So I have zero regrets for any of the decisions I have ever made.

Q: Well Joey, it has been a pleasure talking to you, and I really appreciate your time. Thank you. 

Thank you for taking the time to speak with me.

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