The experiential marketing industry moves fast. Every passing week seems to also come with a missed opportunity to activate your brand at a buzzworthy event. New York Fashion Week has packed up their trunks and the Hadid sisters are Instagramming from a whole new continent, SXSW is literally happening right now, and award season wrapped up in a shiny, #OscarsSoWhite bow when Leo was finally recognized by the Academy - turns out all he had to do was fight a bear.
But don’t worry experiential marketers, event/festival season is on the horizon and with it comes ample opportunity to activate your brands, connect with consumers, and create meaningful engagements. Event season brings opportunity to activate and engage your brand. Check out the five best, biggest, and boldest events your brand needs to be at (and still on the 2016 calendar):
(March 17-April 4, 2016) More than an excuse to bet with your coworkers and earn a solid year of bragging rights, NCAA March Madness is a single-elimination college basketball tournament featuring 68 Division I teams. This year’s finals will be held at NRG Stadium in Houston, TX. When in doubt on which team to put your money behind, UCLA and Kentucky have the most wins in history.
One of our favorite March Madness activations: Capital One’s Final Four Fan Fest
Last year’s tournament brought basketball fans to Indianapolis, IN where Capital One hosted an event within an event (what we like to call event inception). Fan Fest featured indoor activities like a 360-degree photo booth, a Home Run Derby, soccer, football, lacrosse, and golf activities as well as NCAA coach and player meet and greets.
Our recommendations for activating at March Madness: Activate aggressively. The NCAA doesn’t allow any sponsor logos or signage inside their arenas, so the only way to get the word out is through social media and on-site promotions; People love free stuff, however too many brands lose out on valuable interaction opportunities with their free giveaways. Encourage consumers to engage before handing over the goods
(April 15-17 & April 22-24, 2016) Officially titled Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, the event features many music genres including rock, indie, hip hop, and EDM as well as art installations and sculptures in Indio, CA. Coachella has fast become just as famous for its celebrity sightings and flower child fashions as it has for it’s lineups - the 2015 festival sold 198,000 tickets and grossed $84.3 million. Groovy.
One of our favorite Coachella activations: H&M Loves Coachella
Fashion brand and official festival sponsor, H&M, launched a clothing line dedicated to the bohemian (always laid back and often crocheted) looks that have become synonymous with Coachella attendees. The line was officially kicked off at the festival’s first pop-up shop - the store offered exclusive, event-only pieces alongside the full collection. Girl band, and Taylor Swift squad members, Haim played a one-night only DJ set at the Coachella launch party.
Our recommendations for activating at Coachella: Coachella has a very niche, very exclusive, very profitable brand identity, so embrace it instead of trying to run from it; Don’t cram too many activities into one event. Instead, pick a focus - you can have more than one space if you have multiple activities you want to host throughout the event. A store/concert/salon/cocktail lounge is too much
(July 21-24, 2016) Founded in 1970 as the Golden State Comic Book Convention and held every summer in San Diego, CA, the international event is a massive gathering of pop culture and entertainment, including movie premieres, TV show launches, and products from video games, fantasy novels, anime, manga, and everything in between. With more than 130,000 attendees descending upon the scene, marketers have to bring bold activations to grab conventiongoers’ attention.
One of our favorite Comic Con activations: Conan Bingo
With the help of one very, very tall redhead at Comic-Con 2015, TBS and Pop2Life took your grandmother's bingo and revamped it into a true money-can't buy-experience - where Conan's biggest fans could play to be the true Bingo Champion with drinks, food, and let us not forget, a few games of "Balls Karaoke."
Our recommendations for activating at Comic-Con: Maintain authenticity, even with the smallest details; Partner with another brand that influences your audience by inviting them to participate in your campaign. You’ll broaden your reach and budget all at once
(October 13-16, 2016) With more than 100 individual events across NYC, the Food and Wine Festival celebrates America’s favorite pastime - eating. Second only to drinking. With intimate dinners crafted by world renowned chefs, parties all night long, cooking seminars, and wine tasting, there are endless ways creatively integrate your brand beyond slapping your logo on a cookie. Attendees can also feel good about their gluttony - 100% of the festival’s net profits benefit Food Bank for New York City and the No Kid Hungry campaign.
One of our favorite NY Food and Wine Festival activations: Blue Moon Burger Bash
Burgers and beer go together like… pizza and beer… or hot dogs and beer. One of the most coveted events of the festival, Burger Bash offered snacks served by Delta flight attendants served on plane push carts (watch your elbows) while passing out tickets to win two round-trip tickets to fly anywhere in the US, plus dozens of burgers to sample and Blue Moon-flavored cupcakes.
Our recommendations for activating at the New York Food and Wine Festival: Choose a topical (trending, but broad) theme for your campaign that ties back into the overall messaging and personality of the festival/event; Focus heavily on promotion in the weeks leading up to the event - that’s when social media impressions are the hottest
5. Art Basel
(December 1-4, 2016) Miami, FL’s largest art fair provides a platform for galleries to show and sell their work, giving them access to collectors, museum directors, and curators. This isn’t your typical wine and cheese plate gallery opening - while the art world’s elite spends their days in the white, sterile galleries, Basel nights light up South Beach with countless dinners, parties, and concerts that last well into the morning. Activations at this trendy event are only increasing with each passing year and competition is stiff for brands seeking partnership deals, according to The New York Times.
One of our favorite Art Basel activations: Vanity Fair Social Club
After successful activations at the Oscars and the Emmys, Vanity Fair brought it’s Social Club concept to the Wolfsonian-Florida International University. The club featured film screenings, panel discussions, interviews led by Vanity Fair editors, and the Sound of Luxury experience in which guests sat in a 2016 Lincoln MKX to experiences it's Revel audio system with a light show. There was also a unique lounge where bloggers and journalists could plug-in and type out because, let’s face it, they're in South Beach to “work.”
Our recommendations for activating at Art Basel: Artists go through an exhausting nine month long admission process to have their work featured at Art Basel and most don’t make it all the way. Organically align your brand with an artist - since the natural purpose of the art fair is to provide a platform for undiscovered talent, your event will be a natural draw for attendees; Art Basel offers amazing experiential opportunities because the whole event promotes the value of artistic experiences. This is the perfect platform to go crazy, do something insane, and activate without fear
Photo courtesy: Pexel