Q&A: Brandlive’s CEO Talks Event Marketing Strategies, Long-Term Goals, and the Future of Virtual Events

Sam Kolbert-Hyle is on a mission to make virtual events more like the digital content audience members consume daily on TV streaming platforms.

Q&A with Brandlive CEO on Virtual Events
Since its reimagining in 2020, Brandlive has produced more than 50,000 events, with 75,000 hours streamed to 30,000,000 viewers to date.
Photo: Courtesy of Brandlive

What if a virtual event were as binge-worthy as your favorite show on a streaming service? Brandlive CEO Sam Kolbert-Hyle began toying with the concept in 2020, when he reimagined the online platform from a shopping site (founded in 2010) to “a solution for large enterprises to create video-led experiences,” he explained to BizBash.Q&A with Brandlive CEO on Virtual EventsSam Kolbert-Hyle, Brandlive's CEO.Photo: Courtesy of Brandlive

“There’s been a revolution in how all of us consume video content in our personal lives—it’s mobile-first, edgy, and styled to stand out,” he said. “But when it comes to webinars, meetings, and virtual events, marketers are still producing content that looks decades-old—talking heads in little boxes or more of a web conferencing look from guest boardrooms.”

Cue Brandlive, which Kolbert-Hyle describes using verbiage such as “video-powered events,” “creative assets,” and “high-end sets and cameras” as opposed to “event tech.”

And it’s because the platform “exists to bridge the gap,” he said, adding that with “a mix of live and pre-recorded [content],” Brandlive “makes the event feel more like television.”

Keep reading for more insights into Brandlive’s work, plus how Kolbert-Hyle is paving the way for the future of what “virtual event” means for the industry…

What have you learned from the process of launching and building Brandlive?
Events can be stressful. People remember the great ones—the ones that make them feel something. People forget the average—the ones that look like a web conference. Our brand is the sum total of everything we do, every interaction with our team and product. In our business, having a great brand marked by smiling clients after impactful events is everything.

How have you been able to differentiate yourself in what’s become a very saturated market?
Brandlive is laser focused on delivering marketers at enterprise companies a video platform to produce and host TV-quality webinars and events at scale. Our products make it easy to create video assets and audience destinations that fully reflect your event’s identity—from URL to footer—so you’re never playing host on someone else’s platform.Q&A with Brandlive CEO on Virtual Events"When it comes to webinars, meetings, and virtual events, marketers are still producing content that looks decades-old—talking heads in little boxes or more of a web conferencing look from guest boardrooms," Kolbert-Hyle said of the current virtual events landscape. Brandlive wants to change the game.Photo: Courtesy of Brandlive

What is account-based marketing (ABM) and how do you use it to drive internal decisions?
ABM is a natural choice for any business selling an elevated product and toolkit that facilitates better long-term workflow and event outcomes. ABM allows us to tailor our messaging to specific client needs. Events aren’t a one-size-fits-all product. Our customers use our platform for a range of use cases, so we market to reflect that. Additionally, ABM is cost effective as we only target relevant accounts. It’s the beginning of our long-term customer relationships, which grow across time as they find more and more value in Brandlive.

[To put ABM to use,] we focus on commonalities between the best shows on our platform—studying duration and content types—and making sure that clients can measure event impact. It turns out that great events have a lot in common. There’s a formula to high-production-value events, and we use our data to teach that formula to customers to ensure impact.

How many events has Brandlive produced to-date?
More than 50,000 events and 75,000 hours streamed to 30,000,000 viewers.

Can you tell us about a standout event?
Picking one is pretty hard, but if I had to, I would say that it’s not just one event but a series of events that Nike hosts throughout the year. You may or may not know that Nike has a team of DEI experts that focus on telling the stories of underrepresented and marginalized populations in the sports world. Q&A with Brandlive CEO on Virtual EventsBrandlive helmed production for the Nike Be True Summit, a two-day event this past summer that focuses on meaningful conversations around the LGBTQIA2S+ community in the world of sports.Photo: Courtesy of Brandlive

One of the events in this series was the event this summer, “Nike Be True.” This event was a celebration of pride and progress that immersed the global audience for two days in meaningful conversations with 26 different speakers to inspire change and create a more accepting environment for the LGBTQIA2S+ community in the world of sports. Nike has created similar events that tell stories in the African and Black diaspora, Latinx, and Native American communities. They do all of this on our platform to deliver a completely virtual event that ensures that Nike employees and the general public can be part of the conversation.

Q&A with Brandlive CEO on Virtual Events"It will only be more imperative that brands meet their audiences where they are and communicate in a way that looks more like the content we consume in our lives everyday," Kolbert-Hyle said of the future of virtual events.Photo: Courtesy of BrandliveThe typical guest to this [Nike Be True] event would first interact with the landing page, which featured a fully branded trailer of the event, featured speakers’ bios, and a color palette that complemented the message. It was also important to make sure that access to the event was just as inclusive as the event, so Nike adopted a simple registration page that only captured name and email address.

Once on the homepage, attendees were presented with a teaser video and links to the session pages. Inside each session page was a timed agenda and highlights of each speaker speaking that day. Nike led with video and engaging graphics that kept the show going day after day. Not only were they able to have powerful conversations about topics that matter, but it did it all on a page that felt and looked like the brand.

Can we expect virtual events to be here to stay in 2023?
Absolutely, yes! Events like Nike Be True and so many others will not only continue, but I think that the marketing webinar and event use case will grow. As audiences become more distributed, continue to prefer screen-based content consumption, and as businesses cut back on travel, it will only be more imperative that brands meet their audiences where they are and communicate in a way that looks more like the content we consume in our lives everyday. Webinars and events have the added ability to capture more data about your audience than you can in a solely in-person experience. Who watched what? For how long? What did they miss? What resources did they download? Were they engaged? 

This interview has been edited and condensed.

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