Sports and Experiential Marketing – What’s the new play?

Same Game, New Rules

SWISH. The atmosphere is nothing less than electric. Everyone is on their feet now. Time stands still as thousands of eyes are all fixed on the same scene unfolding in front of them. The faint swoosh of the net and blaring of the buzzer is drowned out by the eruption of roars from the crowd…Whether you’re a Sportscenter junkie or an occasional fan, it’s hard to beat the thrill of live sports. In a non-COVID world, sports and experiential marketing go hand-in-hand, but for the time being, stadiums remain empty or only partially full. Regardless, sports fans and brands alike have found creative uses of technology to bridge the gap between the couch and the court-side. 

Here’s a brief look at the landscape of sports and experiential marketing as its evolved:

IRL to AR

With consumer behaviors in constant flux, marketers are challenged with the task of adjusting along with their audiences. After a tumultuous 2019 season, the NBA was forced to halt play in March just before the playoffs. The season suspension was the first sobering moment of just how widespread the impact of the virus would soon become. At the time the season was suspended in March 2020, there were still 259 games left in the 2019/20 NBA regular season. 

Photo credit: usatoday.com

With the proverbial shot-clock ticking, the NBA and it’s sponsors weren’t ready to throw in the towel just yet. After months off, the season resumed within the highly monitored Disney Bubble with relative success, proving a path forward for contact sports like basketball. With the restart, brands have been quick to employ the latest in live-streaming tech to bring the experience and excitement of sport to fans. Michelob Ultra, the official beer of the NBA, didn’t miss a beat and took their sports and experiential marketing strategy online offering the chance for virtual court-side seats to the Finals. Using its Teams “Together” mode, Microsoft has designed stadium-like experiences for 300 fans to watch their teams play and interact with each other from giant 17-foot screens surrounding the court. While of course, recreating all the excitement online doesn’t translate perfectly, features like the “Tap-to-Cheer” option on the NBA and WNBA apps give fans and players a chance to make the best of an awkward situation. On the app, brands and athletes have a natural way to interact with sports fans who can still show their support and give their favorite teams the home-court advantage from their own homes. 

Home Advantage

Speaking of home advantage — with fans unable to come to them, brands are having to get a little bit more creative when delivering experiences. And Bud Light, a brand integrated into sports and experiential marketing more than any other, is taking that challenge literally. When sports seasons were allowed to resume, Bud Light was ready to go the extra mile for sports-starved fans. After the anticipated return of the NHL season, Bud Light teamed up with Drizly to deliver some celebratory beers right to fan’s doors in true hockey fashion – by way of a big Bud Light blue Zamboni. Since the campaign’s initial puck drop, they’ve expanded their delivery offering to include Bud Light Platinum and Bud Light Seltzer through 21 different retailers. Not to mention, as part of the There’s a Bud Light There campaign, the brand hailed the return of baseball season by creating a few video spots with a light-hearted quarantine-take on the classic “Take Me Out to the Ballgame”. With a little ingenuity Bud Light has been able to make it easier for fans to find something to celebrate, even if it’s just some comic relief. 

Photo credit: twitter.com

The Pandemic-Proof Sport

Esports and online gaming leagues have surged in popularity since the pandemic hit. Though the leagues had to cancel live competitions in the wake of the virus, it still thrives online through streaming platforms like Twitch. What was once an online niche has exploded into the mainstream and brands are taking notice. We’re seeing big brands like United Airlines getting in on the action and initiating esports sponsorships during the pandemic. By teaming up with sports, they’re combining something tangible AND digital. This is an innovative, fresh, brand marketing opportunity for an established brand like United. This isn’t a one-off blip — expect to see more and more brands following suit as professional gaming starts stepping center stage.  

Taking a Timeout

Through all of the lockdowns, quarantining, and self-isolation, social media, and live video have offered all of us a way to safely stay connected as well as giving brand marketers another outlet for activation. Brands like GoPro and JPMorgan Chase rely heavily on event marketing and sponsorships throughout the year, but both brands found themselves facing the unique challenge of having marketing dollars set aside to spend on events and suddenly nowhere for it to go in 2020. GoPro pivoted to #HomePro — social media-based sweepstakes challenging consumers to find adventure in their own homes and submitting their most creative at-home adventure video or photo for a chance to win free gear, discount codes, and other prizes. Chase kicked off the U.S. Open tennis tournament with Chase Sound Check, a live virtual concert with performances by Khalid, Kane Brown, and Chloe x Halle and hosted by Serena Williams. Additionally, Chase launched the #UnlocktheOpen Twitter sweepstakes where the brand is delivering more than 8,000 free boxes of branded swag and treats from local bakeries to consumers who participate. Both campaigns have been a success with thousands of submissions from all over the globe proving that with a little creativity and new messaging, brands can still connect with fans from a distance. 

Whole New Ball Game

Of course, everyone is missing the thrill of in-venue sports and with football season upon us, this fall just won’t feel the same without time-honored traditions like The Bud Light x Broncos tailgating and stadium experience. But even with all this change, those of us in the business of building creative experiences are finding ways to stay connected and keep the relationship between sports and experiential marketing alive, even if it’s from a tv screen rather than a stadium seat. Agencies, brand sponsors, and technology developers have taken the change in stride and aren’t viewing it as an obstacle to overcome, but an opportunity for experimenting with creative solutions and emerging tech. By weaving together digital and live experiences into hybrid events, brands are pioneering new solutions to reimagine the fan experience and even bring a little bit of much needed normal to our lives. 

Meet Our Intern – Katie Guy

Get to know our incredible Fall 2020 intern:

  1. Name: Katie Guy

School:  University of Texas at Austin

Hometown: Baytown, Texas

  1. Why did you want to intern at The Pineapple Agency?

Through Experiential Marketing, The Pineapple Agency has created spaces for human connection and immersive experience to intersect. The Pineapple Agency has been doing great work to enhance our digital and physical spaces through fostering meaningful relationships and I wanted to learn from an agency that has produced content and events that enrich people’s lives.

I am extremely thrilled to have this opportunity and am looking forward to a great semester!

  1. How do you stay focused working from home?

It has for sure been an adjustment! I try to find different spaces around my house to change up the scenery and create a schedule that carves out time to work and rest. I don’t even know if blue light glasses actually work but I have been using them!!

  1. What are your hobbies outside of work?
  • Watching movies has to be one of my favorite things to do in my free time.
  • I also love spending quality time with my good friends and roommates. We have been going on many walks to new places and experiencing the city a little differently during this time. 
  1. What is on your Colorado bucket list?

My Colorado bucket list may seem pretty basic to most Coloradans, but here it is!!

  • Attend a concert at Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre
  • Drink a coffee from a coffee shop with a snowy view 
  • Wander around Rocky Mountain National Park 
  • Make it past ski school and the bunny slopes 
  1. What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
  • The best days begin when you wake up, make your bed, and go for a walk outdoors. 
  • When it comes to creative work: The art of storytelling is the greatest experience shaper that we have ever known. Technology is a storytelling tool that changes with the experience.
  1. What is your favorite festival you’ve been to, and one that you really want to go to?

My favorite festival I’ve been to is ACL (Austin City Limits) and one that I would really like to attend would be Lollapalooza in Chicago!

The Pineapple Agency Earns Spot on 2020 It List Recognizing Top 100 Event Agencies

DENVER – Out of hundreds of applicants, The Pineapple Agency made its debut appearance on the much-anticipated Event Marketer’s It List recognizing the top 100 agencies in the event and experiential industries. The agency was featured among long-time experiential marketing heavyweights as well as first-timers and diverse-and woman-owned shops. The Pineapple Agency attributes this milestone to its compelling run of success in 2019 during which the company saw a 150% increase in revenue growth by adding Michelin and Rivian to their roster of powerhouse clients highlighted by Anheuser-Busch. The agency’s work producing a fully integrated experiential marketing activation for Michelin Tires at Daytona Bike Week turned plenty of heads and proved the agency as one to watch. The Denver-based team plans on building on that momentum into 2021, even amongst a changing event landscape.

Bud Light x Broncos 2019 Stadium Activations

“Our belief is that experiential marketing has seen exponential growth over the past several years for a very important reason: humans crave live experiences,” The Pineapple Agency Founder and CEO, Justin Moss said, “We believe that deploying a hybrid model combining live and virtual tactics is the key to moving forward in addition to engaging consumers both at live events and in their homes.” 

Rivian x Honnold Foundation Pre-Order Event & Livestream

Founded in 2008, The Event Marketer Top 100-It List has become a coveted marker of achievement for those in the experiential industry and acts as a valued third-party content source for prospective new partners. This year’s winners earned their places by proving themselves to be agile, adaptable agencies able to effectively pivot strategies and produce strong, integrated marketing campaigns and events. The list reflects the agencies who are leading the charge on recognizing the changing needs of the brands they serve and depend on new-thinking agencies to lead them through this evolving marketing climate. 

About The Pineapple Agency

The Pineapple Agency is an experiential marketing agency that works with brands and other agencies to bring out-of-the-box creative ideas to life through PR stunts, pop-ups, mobile tours, technology, events, festivals, trade show booths and more. Founded in 2014 by creative visionary and veteran festival producer, Justin Moss, The Pineapple Agency is a one-stop-shop for creative and strategic brand activations. Using bold strategies, the agency works with brands to boost awareness while earning the metrics and insights needed to elevate business.

For more information, visit thepineappleagency.com or contact hello@thepineappleagency.com.

Part I: Take the Time to Think Through Art Direction

Published by O Hello Media

Photo credit: Ohellomedia.com

Brands we see rising to the top are those who engage their audience through an integrated marketing plan wherein all layers of marketing work in unity to achieve the same goal. As soundly engineered as “the catapult” ball retriever from The Sandlot; each part of the system plays a key role in moving the needle (or in this case, the ball).

Brands we see rising to the top are those who engage their audience through an integrated marketing plan wherein all layers of marketing work in unity to achieve the same goal.

The appropriate order of operations

BEFORE ANY MACHINE CAN OPERATE, HOWEVER, IT MUST BE BUILT; AND BEFORE IT GETS BUILT, IT MUST BE DESIGNED BASED ON A SET OF GUIDELINES SO IT CAN FUNCTION PROPERLY.

There is a purposeful order of operations in place to achieve the results you’re looking for, and so just as the marketing machine must begin with a set of guidelines, so too must we apply the same strategy to photography & videography coverage for your brand activation. 

Photo credit: Ohellomedia.com

Cue the shot list, right? WRONG. In comes the proverbial BEAST (yes, another Sandlot reference) to snatch up that baseball because one key element was missing for success:

ART DIRECTION.

A shot list can not be developed before the guidelines are in place, which is exactly the purpose art direction serves. These guidelines are the most valuable when they are clear, intentional, aligned and strategic. To help you think through how to begin this process, we’ve outlined some thought starters and considerations for what exactly art direction means and looks like as it pertains to photography & videography for your brand activation:

Photo credit: Ohellomedia.com

Tips for developing art direction

1. Review your brand standards

What does your brand look like visually? We’re not talking about your brand colors or fonts, but more so how does your brand translate into an image? Is it vibrant? Warm and approachable? Electric and bright? If you were to describe your brand as a person, what would he or she look like? What kind of facial expressions does he or she convey? These are questions you want to be thinking through as you define what the content from your event will look like so that it aligns accordingly and therefore appeals to your target audience to draw them in.

If you were to describe your brand as a person what would he or she look like?

Photo credit: Ohellomedia.com

2. Think through environmental considerations

You have put a lot of thought into the design of your experiential activation but in many cases, the physical setting and/or location is a byproduct of other factors such as foot traffic or involvement as a sponsor of a larger event. Those environmental factors have a huge impact on the final content. Make sure you’re looking at the lighting conditions, such as natural vs. artificial light as well as the time of day for the shoot. Guide your content creator on the best camera settings and supplemental equipment to achieve the lighting conditions that will ultimately produce content that aligns with your brand standards.

Photo credit: Ohellomedia.com

3. Identify the story you want to tell through the images or footage captured

Our team at O Hello Media takes an editorial approach to content capture, as this enables us to truly tell an authentic story of the consumer experience at your brand activation. Perhaps, however, it makes more sense for your brand to create more ‘influencer’ style shots that are posed, curated and hyper stylized. Think through how you want your photographer or videographer to approach their capture and interaction with your attendees, as each form of documentation will tell the story in a different perspective.

Photo credit: Ohellomedia.com

4. Assess the content you already have

This could be the only activation as a part of your campaign, or it could be one in a series of many. In either case, take a look at the content you already have to maximize the final product output produced by your photographer or videographer. For example, if you already a great library of hyper-stylized images featuring consumers sampling your beverage product, perhaps this shoot should focus on more organic content of consumers reacting to your product.

The end result

As an experiential marketer, you know that your cog in the machine is the emotional trigger. You create opportunities for your on-site audience to feel a deep-rooted connection to you as the brand. The photographer or videographer then must rise to the challenge and ensure the real emotion experienced on site translates into imagery or footage. 

Using all of the factors outlined above, well defined art direction will allow for the purposeful, strategic and brand-focused attention to detail you put into the physical experience to carry through to the content produced.

Meet Our Intern – Paige McLaughlin

Get to know our amazing Summer 2020 intern:

  1. Name: Paige McLaughlin

School: University of Denver

Hometown: Minneapolis, Minnesota

  1. Why did you want to intern at The Pineapple Agency?

I wanted to be a part of creating those special human connections at festivals that I have found to be so valuable over the past years. 

  1. What are your typical day-to-day tasks for Pineapple and how do you stay focused working from home?

Thus far, my main tasks have involved organizing customer leads, brainstorming ideas for social media content, and researching future festival opportunities. I work most efficiently when I change the location of where I am working in my house a couple of times a day. Coffee and LOTS of Matcha tea are absolutely necessary for good energy!

  1. What are your hobbies outside of work?
  • Cooking and trying out new restaurants around Denver (HUGE foodie!)
  • Skiing
  • Exploring the world of music and going to lots of concerts
  1. What is on your Colorado bucket list?

I would love to do an overnight white water rafting trip at some point! Skiing is one of my favorite Colorado activities but I would love to attempt snowboarding one day as well.    

  1. What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

When it comes to developing creative work: “Always start at the end with the story you want to tell” 

  1. What is your favorite festival you’ve been to?

 Chipotle Cultivate Music Festival 2014 (Minneapolis, MN)

What Level of Experiential Marketing Service is Right for You? 

If your company is considering hiring an experiential marketing agency, you’ve already recognized the value of experiences. Creating a unique branded experience allows you to break through the sea of traditional marketing and connect with your audience in a meaningful, memorable way. 

Experiential marketing is a relatively new field as compared to traditional advertising, which makes it a great opportunity to get ahead of the competition. It also means hiring an outside agency is a great way to maximize your marketing budget and produce a truly memorable engagement. Whether you are looking to produce an event, a digital or virtual experience, or an out-of-home campaign that engages your audience in a new way, your internal marketing team can amplify its reach and capabilities by partnering with the right agency. 

Tailored Involvement for Well-Fitting Results 

As with any outside agency, every brand has a different vision of how involved an external experiential marketing team should be. The level of involvement should be mutually beneficial and clearly discussed to ensure that all parties are satisfied and able to do their best work. Here are the three main ways an external experiential marketing agency should work for you. 

A full-service extension of your internal marketing team. 

For many brands, the best way to dive into a new realm of marketing is by finding a full-service extension of the internal marketing team that takes your existing brand guidelines and goals and translates them to an entirely new medium–in this case, experiential activations. 

Look for a full-service extension that listens to your needs and learns about your brand then delivers concepts, strategy, design, production, and execution. A full-service agency should work side-by-side with your team and relish collaboration. Look for the right balance of confidence in ideas while being receptive to feedback. 

An experienced team that brings your ideas to life. 

Lots of internal creative teams generate world-class ideas across all channels and marketing opportunities. However, one-off experiential executions require a unique set of skills and resources that many of the most talented marketing creatives simply don’t have the bandwidth for. From local permitting to sourcing niche details to installing giant shipping containers in tight spaces, oftentimes the hardest part of experiential activations is bringing them to life. 

An agency that specializes in executing your vision should be great at communication–both listening to your ideas and sharing its plans for bringing them to life. These agencies should have a large network of partners and contractors that can make literally anything happen. And they should embrace the challenge of executing your ideas, without the need to insert their own creative if that’s beyond the scope of the project. 

An agency that provides creative ideas, strategies, and a playbook for execution. 

For brands that just want to get started with experiential marketing, this is the easiest and best way to get a foot in the door. Simply reviewing the possibilities of experiential marketing activations gives your brand the opportunity to consider how much budget to allocate and allows you to understand more about how the agency thinks. Some agencies will even create initial concepts and ideas as a complimentary service if it’s your first time working with them. 

As always, you should look for an agency that is innovative, collaborative, and at the forefront of trends. Whether you want to ruffle feathers or simply capture audience attention in innovative ways, the agency should understand your goals and deliver unique ideas and clear plans to make them happen. 

How The Pineapple Agency Works 

We are comfortable working in any capacity with our clients and we always operate with the same goal extending across all of our projects: create an immersive experience or activation that brings our client’s brand to life, maximizes ROI, and creates lifelong customers/followers.

Whether you need us to integrate with your in-house and/or external marketing teams, want a few ideas, or are ready for a turnkey experiential activation, we know how to deliver. The Pineapple Agency has experience acting across all styles of agency and with clients of all sizes and needs. And right now, we’re offering our creative concepting services completely free to new clients. 

4 Ways Experiential Marketing Beats Traditional Marketing

While Super Bowl commercials still command six figures for thirty seconds, brands of all sizes are focusing more heavily on experiential marketing than ever before. Creating an emotional connection with consumers is not only more affordable than marquee traditional advertisements, the results are priceless. 

Experiential marketing has numerous advantages over traditional marketing, and here are four ways that it’s better than ever. 

1.     CREATING MOMENTS THAT LAST 

Advertising isn’t worth much if it doesn’t have a lasting impact on your target audience. Memorable moments create lasting brand relationships and evangelists and generate organic social shares, which live in people’s feeds differently than advertorial content. Experiential marketing gets to the root of the audience’s psyche through immersion and action. Consider these stats from OnSpot Social:

People generally remember…

 2.     POSITIVE BRAND ASSOCIATIONS

A brand association is what consumers think of or remember when they hear your brand’s name. Experiential marketing works because it invites your audience to do something memorable and create a positive brand association. An emotional connection to your brand may not be on the list of traditional ROI measurables, but it should be. Brand sentiment is rapidly becoming one of the leading ways to measure the success of a campaign. 

 3.     DEVELOPING AND REPURPOSING CONTENT

The buzz generated by an experiential activation creates an amazing opportunity to reach an even larger audience beyond the attendees. Not only can content be shared on social by your brand and attendees, it can also be repurposed and distributed through different media channels after the experiential activation has taken place. Budweiser held a tongue-in-cheek funeral for 3.2% beer in Utah after the Prohibition-era law was repealed, which led to a fun night in downtown Salt Lake City and content creation opportunities for an ongoing campaign marking the arrival of true “Bud Heavy” in Utah. Instead of a commercial shot in a studio setting, the campaign relied on imagery and footage captured during the experiential 3.2 funeral. Talk about getting more for your ad dollar! 

4.     REAL TIME INSIGHTS

There is a critical distinction in the age of social media–does your ad have engagement, or just reach? You can buy space in all the Newsfeeds in the world, but if you don’t engage your audience, it’s simply not an effective marketing strategy. Experiential marketing engages consumers in ways that go beyond the endless scroll of content and gives brands real-time insights into how consumers respond to your brand and content. 

IKEA recently threw a series of in-store sleepovers and “after hours”  sleep festivals that not only turned many shoppers’ dreams into reality (sleep in one of those comfy IKEA beds!? Yes, please), it gave the brand valuable insight into what products resonate most with consumers. What better way to know which beds are most in-demand than celebrating all things sleep at IKEA stores in memorable fashion? 

Experience Matters 

When it comes to marketing, delivering experiences matters. Brands that can engage and delight consumers are more likely to be top of mind, create positive brand associations, and even gain priceless consumer insights that cannot be replicated by even the most detailed analytics tools on traditional interrupt ads. And if you want to throw a memorable activation, experience matters, too.

What Makes (and Breaks) Experiential Marketing Campaigns [Updated]

A couple of years ago we posted our first take on What Makes (and Breaks) Experiential Marketing Campaigns. All of that wisdom is still relevant, and now we’ve been thinking about what experiences and events might look like post-pandemic. We’ve also spent two more years growing and evolving with the industry, so here are our updated thoughts on “What Makes (and Breaks) Experiential Marketing Campaigns.”

Location

This is the most important element of an experiential marketing activation. You can design, budget, and execute the most engaging activation in the world, but if the location is wrong, your impact will be limited. The right site for your activation not only reinforces an experience, it maximizes the potential interactions you receive. The importance of location isn’t focused solely on the volume of people, either. It also needs to be relevant to the audience you want to reach.

And in the post-COVID world, location will matter in new ways. Spatial planning and allocating extra room for people to spread out is important for social distancing compliance and ensuring visitor comfort. Make sure the space feels open, the pathways are spacious and accessible, and signage is visible and plentiful. The world is eager to return to communal experiences, and yet people will be leery of crowds for years to come.

Safety measures and messaging

Health and safety measures have always been a consideration but how safety measures are presented and implemented will mean everything in a post-pandemic world. From abundant hand sanitizing stations, to dedicated staff cleaning high-touch surfaces to HEPA filters and air purification, you’ll want to mention the health and safety considerations of your event before, during, and after opening day.

In addition to wayfinding and branding, your event signage will need to promote good hygiene, social distancing, and health guidance without being intimidating. It may be necessary to explain new policies and restrictions in detail. People will notice the effort your brand puts into a fully detailed health and safety plan that includes smart practices like virtual queuing, safety checks or screenings, and touchless services. Use this as an advantage.

Focus on your core audience

Desire for events will be high but people will be apprehensive about crowds. Your brand’s return to experiential after the all-clear is the perfect time to focus on intimate events with a smaller number of people, whether that’s VIPs or those farther down your funnel. They will appreciate the feeling of being a part of the core community and the safety in lower numbers.

Following stay-at-home orders, brands and marketers can get ahead of the game by reaching audiences through intimacy, personal connection, and exclusivity. Hosting activations for smaller groups will also allow for reduced travel risk and crowd management risk. 

Reference: Adweek – Marketers and planners may have to adjust to new consumer mindsets.

Quality of the build

After quarantine, audiences will experience a new round of “first impressions” with many brands and experiences, which marks a unique opportunity for brands to get a second chance at first impressions. A high quality build with unique, memorable features and shareable moments will make a lasting impression and capture the imagination of visitors hungry for entertainment. 

This Nike+ Run Club experience created a fully immersive experience that emulated being inside of the Tron movie franchise, all while providing professional coaching and tech demos that built strong relationships with consumers.

While your brand may not need to go as far as dropping treadmills in Times Square, you should pay close attention to the level of detail and quality of materials used in your experience. Your guests might not remember all of the details at your event but they will definitely remember how they felt during the experience.

Time and patience

As we begin transitioning towards the future, now is the time to think, rethink, and plan your next activation. Nothing is moving as quickly as we would like, and while this may feel frustrating, it also creates ample opportunity to plan and design stunning experiences. Concerts and sporting events have been cancelled and indefinitely postponed, so now is not the time to set an event date. Instead, use this time to regroup, refine your messaging, and get creative. Consumers are eager to engage, but also nervous to do so. Brands are ready to return to “normalcy” but know that will take time. Patience and time management is critical right now because when we get the all-clear, experiences will be bigger, bolder, and more badass than ever before.

Never Stop Dreaming 

We are all in this uncertainty together. When we are free to plan and execute experiences again, it’s going to be an epic (and safe!) reunion for all experiential marketers and friends. By planning ahead, brands can position themselves well for future experiential marketing campaigns. If you can dream it, Pineapple can make it happen. And while we’re no strangers to making things happen on a tight timeline, having a plan in place will let your brand be one of the first to make a positive impression on consumers when the time is right.

 

When brands shine in the time of COVID-19