At the start of the pandemic, experiential marketers around the world saw our discipline change dramatically. The whole industry was turned upside down, and even put on hiatus for a while, as we were forced to adjust our strategies and adapt to our new (virtual) reality. We’ve been creative with our solutions and innovative with our tactics, harnessing the power of technology to share experiences through video conferencing or even personalized home deliveries, helping brands, teams and leagues bring experiences directly into the consumer’s home.
While it has been a challenging time for experiential marketing, the past two years have driven exciting new technologies and brought important innovations that will only expand our capabilities as we continue to return to live events and nobody.
As the Super Bowl, CES and SXSW have already shown us this year, consumers want to come back – for a full sensory experience in person. According to a recent study, 92% of people miss attending live events, and more than 73% are looking forward to attending live events again.
The return trip to enjoy these in-person experiences is twofold. We need to create a compelling fan experience, while using our key pandemic learnings to evolve and improve our live engagements.
The bar has been raised, and only by fully immersing consumers in an experience can marketers truly bring out their fandom and passion. Simultaneously, social interaction has been shown to be essential for physical and mental health. So, as we work to develop consumer-facing programs, there are a few considerations for increasing interaction and also hitting your KPIs.
• Immersive environments and digital extensions to enhance the physical experience. It is essential to create an environment in which consumers can engage and make them feel emotions (i.e. nostalgia, excitement, wanderlust, etc.). Whether it’s contactless payments, easy online concession ordering, or in-app additions like virtual matchups with your favorite players, enhancing the live experience with digital extensions is a great innovation that will continue to thrive.
In an effort to improve the home experience for college football fans, ESPN’s College GameDay, built by Home Depot, harnessed the power of augmented reality to bring the GameDay desktop right into their living room. Using augmented reality on the web, a 3D version of the iconic GameDay broadcast lectern has been transported to fans’ homes, allowing fans to take and share a photo behind it as if they were themselves themselves on set.
• Cause-Based Initiatives/Creating Change. This one’s a Gen Z sweet spot. There’s a demand for cause-based initiatives in sports and entertainment, and that typically increases brand loyalty among younger audiences. Developing on-site programming that supports DEI initiatives, underrepresented communities, and sustainability efforts is not only the right thing to do, but it will also create immediate impact and elicit positive sentiment at live events. .
Allstate’s commitment to the local New Orleans community through its sponsorship of the Sugar Bowl is a prime example of this cause-based commitment. Allstate’s Agents, Athletes, and Celebrity Ambassadors unite each year to serve the city’s underserved communities and create a safe, clean environment for teens through local projects, including field renovations, field facilities games and even mini-football clinics. These efforts have had a lasting impact that extends far beyond the game on the pitch.
• Provide cashless access and personalized experience. Building a bespoke experience using brand assets leaves a lasting impression with fans. Tapping into their wants and needs, and offering them something that is normally unavailable to them, generates brand loyalty. The idea of personalization can be a game-changer for making that connection with consumers.
Programs like Mastercard’s “Priceless Table,” which offers consumers an exclusive high-end dining experience featuring celebrity chefs in unique locations across the country, help reinforce this sense of brand affinity and loyalty. .
• Pop-up shops and retail experiences. Pop-up stores and experiences can be an unexpected and pleasant surprise for consumers and a unique way to expand your position outside of a traditional location.
BMW created the innovative [SPACE] experience in the heart of Los Angeles to showcase the future of the brand, showcase new models and further connect consumers with the iconic luxury car maker. The immersive exhibit rivaled the mundane experience of attending a traditional auto show by creating a more personal activation, featuring LA artist collaborations, special events with partners, and live test drives.
• Use art and music to interact actively or passively. Art and music can be powerful platforms used to engage fans in unique ways. Local artists or installations that come to life can complement and encourage consumer participation. These activations can include experiences such as mosaics, photo shoot backdrops, and unexpectedly adding art as a real-time installation like a mural or statue.
Benjamin Moore has harnessed the power of art as he launched his new New York Rangers sponsorship. The ‘Brush with Greatness’ platform used art from the stadium to celebrate the players and defining moments of Rangers history, including a special live showcase to celebrate the retirement of legendary goalkeeper Henrik Lundqvist. The special exhibit tapped into the emotional connection fans have with sports and hockey fans in a new way.
• Socializing with food, drink or games. Given the increased demand for socializing and physical travel post-pandemic, people want to get out and have experiences with fellow fans that create connections, memorable experiences, and provide content for their social networks.
Vrbo leveraged this connection point to target families as part of its Citrus Bowl 2022 sponsorship. unity”. Fans had the opportunity to enjoy the game from Vrbo’s specialty little house, with dozens of big-screen TVs, family games and even a specialty hand-crafted citrus slushie.
We need to keep innovating and thinking outside the realm of “what’s been done before”. We need to embrace technology to improve experiences, tap into fan passion, and create measurable programs to better understand the impact we’re making.
While digital enhancements are a great resource or complement to any experience, live events still dominate the day, and we’re all excited to continue delivering memorable, measurable experiences to connect fans to their passions.
Kami Taylor is Executive Vice President of Experiential Marketing at Octagon