An Exhaustive Guide to Event Marketing with Shipping Containers


Event Marketing is how we got our start. It’s been our bread and butter for over 10 years and now we want to share our knowledge with the world! Today is the starting point for this piece, but it is intended to be exhaustive. So, if there are questions you have about event marketing with shipping containers (outside of the specifics of your event), please email our Marketing Manager, Elaine Petitgout ( She has committed to updating this article with ongoing questions and new information. So, without further ado… Here are the high-level topics we’ll be covering in this piece. Feel free to click around and jump to the topics that are most interesting to you!  


What does Event Marketing Achieve?
How Timelines Affect Events
Tracking ROI in Event Marketing
Where to Activate a Marketing Event
How Shipping Containers Make Events Better for Producers
Designing Shipping Container Event Spaces
Shipping Container Coding and Permits for Events
Three Methods for Building with Containers
Shipping Container Wall Materials
Finishes and Branding Options
Shipping Container Event Space Delivery and Activation
Unloading a Shipping Container Activation



What does Event Marketing Achieve?

If digital marketing and media buying are the pillars of your promotional strategy, events may seem counterintuitive. They’re expensive, they’re slow, there’s minimal room for error, and it’s difficult to draw lines between your efforts and top-line revenue.  

Digital marketing makes it easy to identify, segment, and deliver messages to the right people at the right time. With the advent of digital streaming, virtually any event or activity can be viewed from the comfort of someone’s living room.  But nothing can replace the magnetism of participation.  

 Event Marketing Shipping Containers

Budweiser Made in America Tour

Participation is how memories take hold and where your audience may develop an authentic connection with your brand. The question for brands is, “How do they get their audience off the couch and into the experience to become participants? Here’s a list of objectives/ best uses for event marketing:  

  • Sampling 
  • Product Launches 
  • Grass-Roots Campaigns 
  • Hospitality & VIP Experiences 
  • Connecting with niche audiences  
  • Trade Shows 
  • Collecting Leads 
  • Engaging fans (of a team, topic, idea) 
  • Rebranding
  • Brand Development 
  • Allow your market to touch and feel your products 
  • Generate Online Sales (but this should not be your primary goal, or it will show) 

How Timelines Affect Events

 To start, we look at event marketing from a timeline perspective. Each has its own requirements and challenges.  

One-time events happen just as they sound, one time. They’re more cost effective, as you only need to deploy the programming and lease the venue for 36 hours or less. Once the event is over, it’s over. This can have big implications on how you choose a venue and footprint. If you are only hosting the event once, you may want to lease structures rather than purchase them. The budget you can save on lease vs ownership could be put towards a higher-trafficked venue.  

Long-Term Events are events that last between three days and six months. They’re usually used to launch a new product, brand, or highlight a specific location. These types of events are also activated once. However, they stay for much longer periods of time, which means you may be subject to short-term land leases and special permitting. The time cutoff ranges from place to place, but generally, you’ll need special permitting for events lasting longer than 90 days.  

Tours mean you’ll be activating a mobile structure (like a tent or shipping container) in different locations, on different dates, across your markets. The events are usually unified by a larger campaign and can range from simple pop-up tents to enormous, iconic experiences. Tours are usually the most complicated form of event because they require the activation (set-up) and strike (tear down) of an event for 2 to 20 times. They call for strategic planning to save costs on shipping, travel, labor, and permitting. The good news is: if you stick with one team, they’ll get better at activation and strike as they practice.  

Tracking ROI in Event Marketing

 In the past, ROI was based on impressions or the number of people passing through an experience. Sometimes, secondary questions or surveys might be included to allow the brand to capture data on their markets’ shopping habits or brand preferences. The weaknesses of this approach are that the number of impressions doesn’t indicate the quality of the experience. It’s quite possible that an event has plenty of people seeing it but didn’t interact with the brand or product in a meaningful way. And surveys can feel like brand ambassadors are targeting customers to extract data from them. How you collect these metrics could be a brand detractor for customers 

But still, we must give the C-Suite something to show for their investment. So how do we collect information from someone, without making it feel like we might steal their identity later? The key is exchanging value for value.  

If you’re using event marketing you understand that there is value in a person attending an event and triggering their enthusiastic participation, but even more value in the holy grail, their contact information. If contact information is the highest tier of collateral to exchange in an event marketing environment, let’s treat it as such! Let’s ask ourselves how we can make someone want to give us their contact information, not how can we make them give it to us. This is an event, not a hostage situation.   

A great example of data collection done well is the Electrolux Kitchen experience. They offered a touch screen display showing a model kitchen and their collection of appliances. Attendees could drag-and-drop the appliances on the monitor to build their dream kitchen. To have the virtual rendering sent to their inbox, they provided an email address. In that email, there are links to learn more about Electrolux, the specific appliances they chose, dimensions, and the general MSRP. 

Event Marketing with Shipping Containers

Electrolux Kitchen Tour

This tactic worked well because it captured data at the event without asking customers for anything. Instead, the rhetoric shifted from “give me your email address,” to “how can I send this to you so you can see it later?” Marketing executives could see which appliances were most attractive to the attendees, their color preferences, the most popular features, most accessed sizes, and could identify sales driven from the event-specific link.  


Now that we’ve discussed how you should position your event to collect ROI indicators, let’s look at some of the metrics you might consider.  


Impressions are the number of people that see, walk through, or attend your event. To help identify events that can show great impression ROI, we put together formula to determine how many people should be attending your event to realize ROI. We’ll discuss that later in this article. Impression count is a great metric to show adjacent to one of the other metrics below. Potential impressions can give you a great idea if a place should be activated, but we need to see how your event converted people (or respond to a call to action) to determine the quality and return on the event.  

Leads collected 

While this is the most alluring metric, it is also the most challenging to collect. Collecting leads is best used at tradeshows or some other businesstobusiness related event. Theoretically, before a lead is collected, you want a person or workflow to qualify it. In order to do that, you probably need to have a one-on-one conversation with that person to determine if their needs and budget fit within the scope of your brand. If you’ve reasonably determined that this person could become a customer, you collect their name, company, email, and qualifying information (location, budget, resources, timeframe, etc). Many tradeshows will have RFID devices, scanning technology, or apps to help you record and organize that data. Ideally, you would want to contact this person after the event to take an order or close a sale. That’s rare, but it’s the goal.  

Hashtags used 

Hashtags are great because they’re cheap to make, easy to monitor, and they can help you unify your tour under a single campaign and across multiple platforms. Twitter and Instagram are most popular for hashtag use, but they serve the same functions on LinkedIn, Facebook and Pinterest. The best and easiest way to motivate hashtag use is to incorporate it into your environment, provide a visually interesting or exclusive photo opportunity, and/ or incentivize attendees to share the hashtag through prizes, contests, or on-premise giveaways. The challenge with hashtags is that they don’t provide an indication if that person has or will become a customer. So, they aren’t great for brands looking to measure bottom of the funnel activity. 

Hits on website 

There are a couple of ways to approach collecting and analyzing this metric. In the end, you’ll probably need to use both.  

First, as part of developing the overall campaign, you would develop an event-centric landing page. The layout, design, and content should complement the in-person experience, and offer opportunities to convert at different levels of the marketing funnel. This means you wouldn’t want your only call to action to be a purchase. Offer eBooks, access to more events in the area, or exclusive content. Make the landing page URL short and easy to remember, then print it on signage, collateral, or even brand ambassador t-shirts. Anything to get the URL and call to action in front of event attendees. Because the URL is exclusive to this event, you can assume that the people who go directly to this link (Direct Acquisition in Google Analytics) are people that visited your site and were inspired to answer your call to action. This is a much stronger indicator than hashtags or impressions because it asks the customer to perform an action of their own accord after the event is over. If they remember and still do it or are compelled to do it right on the spot, you’ve probably created a warm lead.  

Second, after the event, you should look at your web analytics to see if there are major deltas in that week’s website users and your average number of users. Again, we recommend looking at your direct acquisitions in google analytics, as these are most likely to have been a result of the event. The reasoning is that someone who found you via a query, referral, or email would most likely have arrived there anyway. Someone who directly accessed your website via the URL bar would already have your brand in mind and be looking for you specifically.  

Programming participation 

Clif Bar Experience

Clif at the Boston Marathon

If you’re doing the event right, you’ll have something for attendees to do. Programming can range from photo opportunities to celebrity appearances, games, samples, demonstrations and more. This is a great opportunity to convert. Something like: Play our game! You’ll look hilarious and we’ll take a picture. We can print it here, or we can email the digital copy to you. Now we have their phone number (or email, Instagram handle, product preference). Count how many data records per time period and include long-term metrics like, “How soon after the event does this phone number register for your loyalty card?”  


We would only recommend you use sales as a metric in very special circumstances. Theoretically, events should be treated as a top of the funnel tactic unless you have a captive audience or an exclusive/ limited product. That said, it speaks wonders for the experience you provide, the quality of the product, and the market demand if you can sell product at your event. Nothing can beat that kind of direct feedback. 

Density/ Queue 

In the strangest but most fortunate of circumstances, you might find that you have so much interest in your event, you can’t attend to everyone. Or more likely, you’re interested in measuring the ebb and flow of your line, to improve the experience. In this case, you can take quick counts at time intervals of the number of people in line. Tracking the queues density can also give you an idea of your booth’s popularity when compared to other exhibitors.  

Discount Codes and Special Offers 

We’ve seen a lot of brands succeed with this plan. Discount codes are essentially a coupon to be redeemed in an online purchase. At checkout, the attendee enters the code and the discount or special offer is applied. This is another kind of direct feedback that can give you great insight into market preferences. The drawback is that the business forfeits that discount or budget for the special offer. 

Where to Activate a Marketing Event

Event Marketing with Shipping Containers

Typically, event marketers will focus on the east and west coast. They have the largest number of people, dense cities, and its much more cost effective to travel up and down the coast than across the country. We recommend taking a different approach. Of course, budgets will determine where you can go (and when, if you’re using a tour). However, we recommend taking a deeper look at not just the city, but the site you’ll be activating. The three most important features of these sites are accessibility, opportunity, and density.  

Accessibility as a concept is two-fold. First, it suggests that people can get to and stay in the space, without unreasonable obstacles or physical barriers. For event marketing, it’s best practice to choose a location where people may physically approach you. That intimate space is how you develop connections and create one-on-one experiences. Second, the concept suggests that the space will feel more communal or accessible from an emotional perspective. Unless your target markets respond to exclusivity, you should consider how the location might attract or repel people. Is the street safe? Is it well lit? Is it in an intimidating part of town (whatever that means to you)? When you’re tied to a larger event, this task becomes easier. The larger event’s producers may have even picked out the best locations ahead of time.  

Opportunity is founded in probability. How many of the people that you want to reach will already be at that location (regardless of your event)? This is most important for non-ticketed events, as you’ll have very little indication of what markets to expect. With a little research on your end, this should be an intuitive answer. Music lovers go to concerts, sports fans tailgate, tourists go to Time Square. Choose locations that are powerful enough to develop memories and where you can find lots of the right people.  

Density refers to how many people will be in the space. You want to choose a location that is already a draw for people. While some brands have the customer base to hold a stand-alone event, it’s much more efficient to piggy-back off a larger event that would interest your customers. If you’re on the fence and looking at density with ROI in mind, we suggest using this formula: 

(Expensed Cost of Large Assets + Variable Event Costs)/ .1 = Total number of event attendees 

So, what does that mean? 

Imagine you bought a mobile event space like a food truck or pop-up container. These are large purchases that you (hopefully) plan to use a few times. Just like you pay your home off in installments, you must also account for the costs of the space over the life of its use. So, if you’ve spent $100,00.00 on an event space, and you intend to take it to 20 events over the next 3 years, you would use $5,000 in the “expensed cost of large assets” space, not the full $100,000 dollars. 

But wait! The event space isn’t the only cost going into this activation! Include all other costs for this single activation per day in “variable event costs.” These costs could include activators, takeaways, technology packages, and any other expenses incurred with the planning and execution of the event. Although it varies, for the purposes of explaining the formula, let’s assume that you’ve spent an additional $20,000 to make this the best event ever! 

Before we get to the fun math, let’s make sure we understand the value of .1. The standard CPM (cost per thousand impressions) online is approximately $100. So, $0 .10 represents the cost for a single impression online. Please keep in mind, these are comparable values, not the rule. You may find that your CPM is much lower or much higher based on the industry and channel you’re using. You may also believe that brand awareness and affinity is more valuable than an online impression. Alternatively, you might be more interested in KPI’s lower in the marketing funnel, like conversions or leads. Please feel free to adjust the number to best fit your business.  

($5,000 + $20,000) / .1 = 250,000 

Under these circumstances, the brand should attend events with at least 250,000 attendees across the duration of the event. Meaning, you should not expect 250,000 per day. If the event is a week, you should multiply the daily attendees by 7. 


How Shipping Containers Make Events Better for Producers


They Elevate Experiences 

Event Marketing with Shipping Containers

In a sea of boring tents, be a shipping container!  

They’re Transformers 

Fold down walls, removable doors, retractable awnings, moving displays– The list goes on  

They’re Customizable 

Container Event Marketing

They’re Off Your Books Faster 

By utilizing Boxman Studios’ product, our clients have the opportunity to receive tax benefits. Based on IRS Publication 946, container structures are categorized as a 7-year tax life property. Specifically, the code states, “Any property that does not have a class life and has not been designated by law as being in any other class.” This means that modular units are not called out in the IRS Publication 946. Therefore, it defaults to a 7-year property, which allows you to depreciate the units over a 7-year tax life. Commercial, traditional stick-built construction in IRS Publication 4562 is classified as nonresidential real property, which has a depreciation period of 39 years. 

*Boxman Studios is not providing tax advice and all clients are to confirm tax life with your tax professional and representative.

They’re Mobile 

Shipping Container Events

They’re Stackable  

Event Marketing Shipping Containers

They’re Ready to Go 

Event Marketing Containers

Boxman Studios has inventory ready to go at a moment’s notice. You may have to be flexible with your concept, but we have something that will work for you.  

 They’re Leasable  

Designing Shipping Container Event Spaces

 At Boxman Studios, our design department stands in three pillars; conceptual, architectural and engineering.  

A marketing event doesn’t start when attendees cross the threshold into the environment. It happens from across the concert, or game, or trade show floor when people gravitate to the coolest structure with the best programming.  

In the first phase of the design process, broadly outline the function and form of the containers. This process can follow two paths. You may have an idea or concept already outlined or you may have some general idea but want someone to help you flesh out the details.  

If you already have a concept outlined, designers review your reference documents and analyze how well shipping containers will fit into the concept. Sometimes it’s an easy translation. Sometimes they’ll need to alter the initial designs to accommodate shipping containers’ limitations, your budget, or permitting requirements.  

events shipping containers

District Detroit 

When ‘The District Detroit’ came to us to help with the unveiling of their plans to revitalize the area’s downtown district there were some challenges with their initial concept. They envisioned a large amphitheater with shipping containers stacked five high and woven together in a circular formation. But this look could only be achieved with considerable engineering and a complex installation. To achieve the look that they were requesting, with their budget in mind, our team reworked the design to stack containers next to each other in a circular pattern. The design stayed true to their concept and they were able to fit what they needed into their existing budget.  

If you’re relying on our team to help you develop the concept, one of the first things we do is review the locations you plan to activate. Whether it’s in a park, at a convention center, or a traveling unit, look for the physical limitations and lawful restrictions put into place for a given area. Immovable objects like trees or fire hydrants and height restrictions put limitations on what can be built for your event.  With this basic understanding, designers will use brand guidelines, napkin sketches, best practices, and eye for innovation to develop the initial design models.  

Before finalizing a design, send the work for review and sign-off by a third-party structural engineer. Before it’s built, these third-party inspections ensure that the structure is safe, sound, everything will work, and it will be permitted at your venue. That doesn’t mean that your exact concept will pass these inspections. So, working with a designer who understands how shipping container event spaces should be built is essential to your success.  

Shipping Container Coding and Permits for Events

 Every municipality has its own set of codes for temporary structures. The last thing you want is to build and deliver a great concept only to learn that you aren’t legally allowed to activate it. That’s why it’s important to get involved in the permitting process early on. That goes double for fast-moving projects.  

There are lots of ways to approach the permitting process. Some companies send their event structures to venues without engaging in this process and keep their fingers crossed that it will work out. Sometimes it’s fine. However, it’s much more likely that the venue will turn you away without the proper structural documentation 

Boxman Studios approaches temporary events (meaning under 10 days) by obtaining North Carolina engineered stamp drawings and using those documents for permitting. If the municipality has special requirements outside the scope of an NC stamp, we work with them to ensure that the structure’s design is in line with their requirements. Permitting boards are more accepting of shipping containers as temporary structures if they have proof that the containers are structurally sound and meet applicable codes. Here are some of the documents they may request:  


Wet Engineered Stamped Drawings mean that the plans have been signed or stamped by the engineer and not electronically signed and printed. This shows that the drawings have been evaluated by a licensed engineer.  

Life Safety Plans detail critical building features as they relate to applicable codes. While municipalities have different requirements, these plans typically include information on the fire alarm, emergency exit strategies, occupant loads, power and fuel shutoff locations. 

Quality assurance specifications. Permitting committees may require that you share information on the specifications of your structure. Examples include how the materials are welded together and if the welders are trained and certified in the practice.  

How we Build Shipping Container Event Spaces

 Three Methods for Building with Containers 

Marketing event containers


Repurposed shipping containers are the original form of container architecture. With this method, fabricators use the existing structural elements of a used shipping container to build the frame of a concession stand, marketing event, coffee shop, showroom, or pop up shop. By cutting holes in the shipping container, fabricators can create doors, windows, awnings, or in some cases remove an entire wall, where two containers may be joined to make a much larger space. However, for every cut that’s made, the container loses some of its structural integrity. The waved corrugate is specially engineered to support the weight of the container and anything it may hold. When you remove sections of the material, it weakens. So, you must add more steel to the container and frame the openings to maintain structural integrity.  


Marketing Event Container

 Purpose built 

Most of our customers come to us because they love that containers are a sustainable building material and because they love the shipping container look. However, shipping containers aren’t always the right answer for your event. Maybe you need a footprint outside of shipping containers’ ISO standards or maybe the municipality your activating in won’t permit shipping containers. Purpose-building structures (which means we build it in our facility from the ground up) allows us to get around these common issues. In this methodology, we reuse pieces of containers, like the corrugated and castings, to build a container structure. Purpose building means you can customize the dimensions of your event space, control the exterior finishes (smooth vs corrugate), and play with visually interesting elements like a single-pitched roof.  


Event Marketing Shipping Containers


In cases where your event calls for a large footprint with multiple structures, you may find value in mixing both purpose-built and repurposed containers to construct your space. This is what Facebook did at the 2016 RNC 


Shipping Container Wall Materials

Containers for Event Marketing


For repurposed structures, the corrugate comes already attached. This means, if you’re looking for the authentic shipping container look, using a repurposed structure might be the most cost-effective. It can be much more difficult and time-consuming to weld corrugate onto a purpose-built chassis, making it more expensive than utilizing smooth panels.  


Shipping Container Events

ACM (Aluminum Composite Material)  

We love to use this material because it’s highly functional, durable, and (most important) lightweight. You might use it as a smooth alternative to the corrugated siding. It can also be roll formed, routed and cut into different shapes making it a great material for signage and architectural elements.   


We only recommend using drywall for event structures under special circumstances. Because the structure will be picked up and moved, it’s very likely that the drywall would sustain some damage in travel, which is difficult to repair on an event site.  

Wood Shipping Container


One of our favorite materials to use! It adds a warmth and luxurious feel to shipping container structures.  


Finishes and Branding Options

Depending on your design, your chassis may be painted before the walls are closed in. But typically, the containers go to paint after heavy fabrication. This process can take a week to a month depending on the number of colors you use and any special detailing you might be considering. After painting, the process of attaching fixtures, outlet covers, and custom millwork begins.  The final touches are all your branding vehicles. See examples below: 


Event Marketing Containers



Vinyl Spot Graphics

Event Marketing Spot Graphics


Vinyl Full Wrap

Event Marketing Ideas



Shipping Container Event Marketing



event marketing in containers


Travel Walls 

Event Marketing Containers

Customized furniture, décor, programming 

Event Marketing Shipping Containers


Shipping Container Event Space Delivery and Activation

 To get your structure to your event location, the most popular transportation method is over the road trucking. The size of your event space has a direct impact on what kind of vehicle you’ll need to transport it 

Pickup Truck 

Using a pickup truck is the easiest and cheapest method for transporting your event container. Pickup trucks do not require the driver to have a special license like a CDL, which is a huge benefit. However, this method is only possible if you are using a single-unit, compact space and may require a custom-made trailer.  


Semi-Trucks are great for larger activations that require more containers. In this infographic, you can see how the containers might fit together on a trailer. The upside to hiring a trucker to take on your load is you may not be responsible for the entire load. Very often a logistics company will include your container in a larger load that’s headed to the same area. This means you split the costs with the other freight customers 

How many shipping containers fit on a truck

We didn’t include them here, because it’s so rare to use these methods for event activations, but you may also transport container event spaces by train and by boat. 

Unloading a Shipping Container Activation

Container Event Marketing


These industrial vehicles are used to lift and move heavy objects over short distances. You may source these in-market, but most venues will have them available for you to use. There may be a lease or union cost associated with using the venue’s equipment.  


Container Events

Self-Offloading Trailer  

This can mean different things, depending on what industry you’re in and who you’re talking to. When we talk about self-offloading trailers, it looks something like the Teaching Kitchen photo below. The trailer tips back, allowing logisticians to slowly “scoot” the structure off the back of the trailer. This can be a cost-effective option if you’ve got an open space or an exceptionally large footprint. However, this can be tricky in a cramped area.  

Shipping Container Event Marketing


Cranes are only recommended under very special circumstances. There are cases where the structure is too large or heavy for a forklift. Outside of worrying if the forklift will topple over, there are also concerns that the steel may bend and negate the structural integrity of the space. We will also recommend cranes if the site you’re activating is difficult to reach by forklift. Although this is at the end of the blog post, you want to consider how the delivery method for the structure might impact its design.


Hydraulic/ Mechanical Lifts  

The downside to the first three scenarios is that the machinery must be operated by a licensed professional. In some cases, you may want to be able to load and unload the structure yourself. For that situation, we recommend mechanical lifts, which attach to each of the containers four corners, and mechanically lift and drop the structure without needing forklifts or other heavy equipment. Although the custom trailers required for this method can be a heftier cost up front, they can save you money over the life of a tour.   


Well, there it is. Everything we think you should know about event marketing with shipping containers. To learn more about how we can help you with your next event, please fill out our contact form  or browse other content related to this topic:  

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The Basics: Experiential Marketing with Shipping Containers