Event Permits: Making Sure a Sampling Program Follows The Rules

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Event Permits: Making Sure a Sampling Program Follows The Rules

You’ve produced thousands of samples trained brand ambassadors and are ready to hit the ground running. But even the most interesting and well thought-out sampling campaign can fall flat if your brand is hit with hefty fines from local municipalities and ushered out of the city limits before the fun even begins.

Yes many brands still go guerrilla and yes it often works even if local municipalities technically require permits. But especially in the wake of last year’s Cartoon Network debacle in Boston the rules for street marketing campaigns are getting a bit more stringent in many cities and it’s best to be familiar with what’s expected on your end in terms of rules and regulations. Whether it’s your first time out or you’ve just turned a bit of a blind eye in the past to sampling regs here are a few things you need to keep in mind.

Start at the Source. Unfortunately there are no hard and fast rules for what permits you need for every sampling campaign. Some cities are very lax on requirements while some require comprehensive presentations before signing off on an event campaign. If you want to get off to the right start with cities (and if you want to avoid financial penalties down the road) play it safe and contact City Hall to get an idea of what’s needed. You can also check out EM’s archive of permitting stories online to find the appropriate contacts in major cities.

Think Beyond the Product. You didn’t hear it from us but if the brand is just sending out  ambassadors to busy street corners with product you can probably get away with going guerrilla. But bring in one other component like a mobile vehicle perhaps and it might be a whole different ball game. Mobile vehicles often require permits of their own usually for the space that they’re going to inhabit. If the brand wants to park in front of a store check with the store’s owners first to see what needs to be done. If the vehicle’s going to be at a park or a square check with the local parks and recreation department.

Play Nice. Cities are more forgiving of any permitting mishaps—and more willing to play ball again—if your sampling campaign is neat and tidy. “If you’re going to be doing sampling you better have a plan for the waste that you’re producing ” says Christian Jurinka managing director at San Francisco-based Attack Marketing & Promotions.

Bring in your own cleaning crews post-event to clean up any debris and make an effort to locate recycling centers in the city you’re in to drop off excess recyclable waste. “It’s a way to let the powers-that-be know that you’re present and you aren’t trying to hide or get away with something ” says Andrew Loos managing partner at Attack.

Take the Easy Route. If the brand is going to be distributing food (something cooked or created on site not pre-packaged) it’s probably easier to partner with a local caterer who already has all the permits needed for food distribution.

Similarly if you want to bypass the permitting process altogether consider hooking up with a street festival or an organization hosting an event that’s reaching your target and purchasing a sponsorship advises Gary Marcus senior vp-business development at New York City-based Elite Marketing Group. “It’s doing it the right way doing it legally and still getting your promotion out there.”

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