Many people experience the impact of mobile advertising for the first time at sporting events, conventions, or trade shows. Unlike some of the other dedicated ad truck business models, using Spark trucks for short term events is a proven model with hundreds of available case studies that prove its effectiveness and value to clients. 

While advertising agencies can be reluctant to include mobile advertising in their long term media plans for their best clients, they are often comfortable recommending mobile media for a variety of short term event-base scenarios. If you’re considering purchasing one or more trucks you should be prepared when prospective clients ask for information about using the trucks for event marketing.

Our definition of event doesn’t limit the discussion to football games or conventions. An event can also be a political rally, a one-day retail sale, or a concert to name a few. For our purposes, we define an event as 1) date-specific, 2) deadline-critical, and 3) requires the promotional vehicle for very short period of time, often a single day but usually no more than a week.

This is mobile advertising at its most basic and easily understood use. A client can rent ad space on a truck by the day. Very often, the client controls 100% of the ad space on the vehicle, and gets to request specific driving routes or parked locations near their desired audience. Half a dozen credible national companies operate fleets of 10’ x 22’ mobile billboard trucks in this manner. They’ll send them anywhere to promote anything. Our focus is on vehicles that can display many different advertisements for one or more clients, but it’s helpful to understand how other types of advertising vehicles are successful with the event focused model.

The daily advertising rates for mobile billboards range from $500 – $1500 per day. That rate is typical for a truck with a single ad on two sides and includes 8-10 hours of service, driven or parked. Production costs can add $1200 – $1500 to the total. A discount is usually offered for a weekly buy, as is common for large trade shows. At an average rate of $750 per day, events present an attractive revenue opportunity for a truck owner.

One of the great benefits of the event focused model is very low operating overhead. In fact, the event model has one of the lowest operating costs of any mobile advertising business model. Beyond the monthly truck payments and insurance on the vehicles, there are virtually no other cost of operation until an advertiser books the truck for a specific event (because it’s parked until it’s needed for an event). Unlike the shared-use model, in which a business owner bears an ongoing cost of drivers, fuel, and maintenance almost every day, you can build a business around the event model very affordably. 

Single client or shared-use?

Two previous articles in this series discussed the merits of dedicating an advertising truck to a single client, or sharing ad space among many advertisers. Events offer the same options, but for a much shorter period of time. If your business becomes known for event-based advertising, in time you’ll get calls from agencies who want to design a custom program for a client. That’s a good thing, but it won’t happen until you build credibility. 

Fill in the calendar

While you’re building visibility and credibility, you’ll need to create business opportunities without help from agencies. Most cities publish a calendar of events for you to build advertising programs around. Your city may have annual festivals that span entire weekends. Put those on your ad calendar, along with any holiday parades. Add all of the area sports franchise home dates, all college football games, and mark the political campaign season on your ad calendar. The circus and the county fair usually come around each year, not to mention the boat show and the auto show.

Without venturing very far from home, you can build an event calendar that covers most of the year. The goal of the event-focused mobile advertising company is to fill up the advertising event calendar with paying advertisers as far in advance as possible.

Event strategy guide

Each event has an organizing committee and is planned up to a full year or more in advance. Most of those committees use their event as a means to raise money for their organization, public or private. Consider partnering with the event organizers and offer mobile advertising space to them as an official form of event promotion. You’ll gain the credibility of becoming officially associated with the event, which carries a completely different level of clout than other mobile advertising firms, who position themselves as guerilla or ambush marketers. They feed off the success of the event, while you can be instrumental to the success of the event. Big difference.

Grand openings

Building awareness for a new store opening is a classic event-based mobile advertising buy. When you see ground breaking for a new retail store or car dealership, contact the company listed and offer a short term program. They probably have a budget set aside for grand opening promotional expenses, and you’ll want to get in the door before the newspaper and radio sales reps lock down the budget. Dedicating all the ad space on your truck will let the client present multiple messages and give them some control over where you operate. After the grand opening, prepare a case report with photographs to verify the effectiveness of the media buy and you’ll be in a better position to earn a longer term contract with the new merchant.


If there is a convention center within a half day’s drive, become a member of their Convention and Visitor’s Bureau association. You’ll gain preferred access to their list of upcoming trade shows, conventions, corporate events, and civic events on the calendar. Association members often have access to the names of the convention organizers long before an event appears on the public calendar. All of the center’s events should go on your advertising calendar. 

Many Spark truck owners make the mistake of focusing their sales effort during conventions exclusively on local restaurants or so-called “adult” clubs that are seeking to attract conventioneers. A better strategy is to market to the convention or trade show’s exhibiting companies. Remember, it’s better to become instrumental to the event’s success than to simply feed off of the success of the event. 

The sole reason companies rent exhibit space at trade shows is to advertise their products or services to a highly targeted audience of trade show attendees. It’s a multi-billion dollar business. A single ad in the trade show directory often costs $2500 and exhibitors spend lavishly to attract attendees to their booth spaces. Ads on the convention shuttle busses are often sold by the association that hosts the trade show and those mobile ads can cost $30,000 for a four day convention. Compare that to the $750 per day rate charged by the mobile billboard companies that are not in partnership with the show organizers and you can easily see why it makes sense to become a preferred supplier to the trade show.

Put a program together that offers shared space on your truck and operate the same routes as the hotel to convention center shuttle busses. Map a route through any local nightlife or entertainment district where conventioneers gather after hours and you’ll have a very attractive advertising program to offer to the trade show exhibitors. It would not be unreasonable to build a rate card that offered shared space on your truck for a price that is similar to the cost of an ad in the show directory.

Political campaigns

Make your trucks available to political candidates for their campaigns and rallies. Get paid 100% cash in advance of the political event — no exceptions. Try partnering with one of the local political parties. This could open the door to working with multiple candidates instead of just one particular candidate.

Conservative organizations such as Right To Life groups, and liberal organizations such as have purchased mobile advertising designed to tilt support to their chosen candidates or positions in many cities.


Football games offer a chance to drive ads in front of a large pedestrian audience, and many venues have a full day or more of tailgating activities. Every fan in attendance represents a specific target market for selected advertisers. Everything considered, it’s a natural fit for mobile advertising. From a programming perspective, sporting events offer multiple revenue opportunities. Unless you’re talking about the SuperBowl™, most sports take place over a season, giving you four to six months of repeating events to package up and sell to advertisers as a bundle. Build a relationship with the team’s marketing department and you may be able to offer your mobile advertising space to the team’s corporate sponsors as an official media provider to the team. It you’re not successful becoming the official mobile advertising partner of the team, find out the names of the teams corporate sponsors and sell advertising to their competitors.

Last minute opportunities

A number of companies specialize in liquidation sales and operate “going out of business” sales around the country for furniture stores and other retailers. While technically not a special event media buy, our truck owners have done good business with these liquidators over the years. Like other events, the going out of business sales tend to be very date-specific, and usually don’t run the campaign for more than six weeks. Be flexible and offer to change the ad every day as the store “counts down” to the final day before going out of business.

Evolution of the event model

Any of the event categories listed above can be built into a stand alone business. A focus on trade show advertising can be particularly profitable if you are prepared to deal with a sales cycle that can be 9 months long. It may require an investment in telemarketing and email marketing to attract business from show exhibitors, but the rewards make sense. The same is true for sports marketing, as some of our owners have put together touring mobile advertising programs that traveled with a certain sports team or league to many locations around the USA.