Hybrid Hour: Exhibitor Perspective

Thule Adapts Exhibiting Strategy During Pandemic

By Danica Tormohlen, Host of Hybrid Hour

Find out how Thule, a major exhibiting company in the sporting goods and outdoor sector, adapted its marketing strategy during the pandemic, when it’s planning for a return to IRL and what it wants from virtual events going forward.


  • Mike Callaghan, Director of Marketing - Americas at Thule Group, one of the leading outdoor gear companies in the world.
  • Phil Gorski, Managing Director, Ova-Nee Productions, a media company that produces interactive virtual tours.

The back story:

Mike and Phil worked together to produce a interactive virtual showcase for the SEMA360 show last November. (Here’s the link: https://bit.ly/3xoOlQ9) “We were one of only two vendors out of over 600 for SEMA that had this style of virtual booth build-out,” said Callaghan.

Getting new buyers to interact:

“One of goals was allowing the buyer to able to see how our products fit onto different types of vehicles — from a big, lifted Sprinter van down to a stock Subaru Forester,” said Callaghan. “It wasn’t about order-writing. It was more about interacting and engaging with new and potential retailers.”

Virtual experience:

“There's a visceral feeling that you're in the space,” Gorski said. “You have complete control. It's not a video clip where you're sitting back and viewing it. You're the director. You look at what you want to see — and the angle that you want to see it from. We have analytics on this so we can see who's in there and what they clicked.”

Key metric:

“The most impressive thing is the average time in the tour was 13 minutes and two seconds,” Gorski said. “That's a long time to walk through a virtual tour.” Callaghan added: “You can see where they're clicking and navigating. It's great to see what products people are interested in and clicking on and seeing where people are coming from. It's cool to have that visibility on the backend.”

Digital in the mix.

Where did digital fall into the overall event marketing mix before the pandemic? “It didn't,” Callaghan said. “It wasn't a thought at all. It was all about the in-person experience. You had to be there to see it. The photos and videos afterwards were nice. We always relied on that to send out after the show, but there wasn't a digital element there at all.”

Corporate travel outlook.

“We expect our travel budgets to be at least 50% to 60% decreased for the next three years,” Callaghan said. “That's how we've been budgeting. A lot of the travel that's getting cut out is the sales meetings.” Thule still has a corporate travel ban in place, but the company announced last week that employees with both vaccinations can travel if it's an absolute need

Advice for show organizers on virtual.

“Having some type of standards for a booth because every show we did was so different,” Callaghan said. Gorski added: “Keep it real simple and think if I was experiencing this in person where would I want to go and how can I find what I’m looking for easily.”

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Danica Tormohlen is an Award-Winning Journalist, Content Strategist and Omnichannel Media Pro. For trade show industry news and analysis, follow her on Twitter @DanicaTormohlen.