The International Live Events Association reimagines its awards program and exceeds expectations

Association Solutions

The International Live Events Association reimagines its awards program and exceeds expectations

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The International Live Events Association (ILEA) has a rich history of recognizing excellence within the live events industry through its Esprit Awards program, which celebrates the most outstanding live events each year. Starting with the 2022 program, ILEA’s Board of Governors desired to expand the reach of the Esprit Awards.

The awards program had traditionally been managed by a group of dedicated volunteers who were members of ILEA, a global community of creative event professionals who produce and manage live events around the world. ILEA leadership recognized that to grow the awards program, the organization needed to attract a wider pool of applicants, streamline the submission process and revamp the award categories to be more representative of the current landscape of the live events industry.

“Updating the awards program allowed for the inclusion of a wider range of event styles, cultural influences and innovative approaches from different regions, making the Esprit Awards more globally relevant,” says Armando Seledon, CSEP, CTA, who is an ILEA board member and associate director of member engagement at Visit San Antonio. “Revitalizing this program was also a community need. When we have live events like the Esprit Awards, we can connect and convene to share ideas, catch up with global colleagues and see what everyone is doing from all areas of the event world. This organization is a collection of the greatest event minds, so having them in one room, celebrating everyone’s accomplishments, is something that cannot be left behind.”

ILEA, already engaged in a full-service association management partnership with MCI USA, decided to tap into MCI USA’s strategic expertise to collaborate on updating the Esprit Awards program. MCI USA worked closely with ILEA’s leadership to develop and execute a comprehensive strategy, which included identifying target groups to submit applications such as destination management companies, convention and visitors’ bureaus, cities and universities; implementing paid marketing and email campaigns; and reshaping the program’s value proposition. MCI USA also took on the day-to-day management of the program, which included submission management, judging coordination and overseeing the production of the live awards ceremony. 

“MCI USA provided a great level of guidance with the run of show and marketing efforts for the program,” Seledon says. “Being the best of the best in events, they [made] our revitalization come to life.”

As a result, awards submissions tripled from 2022 to 2023, increasing by nearly 225%. Additionally, ILEA exceeded its initial revenue goal for the awards program by more than 200%. There was also increased engagement outside of the ILEA membership; the decision to let nonmembers apply led to nearly 60 submissions from this target audience, helping to strengthen the influence and standing of the awards in the industry.

The partnership between ILEA and MCI USA in revamping the Esprit Awards program demonstrates the value of strategic thinking and expert implementation. By identifying the program’s strengths and weaknesses, targeting diverse applicant groups, streamlining operations and adopting an engaging marketing approach, the program not only thrived but also set records for engagement and revenue generation.