WE SAID IT LAST MONTH and we’ll say it again: If your consumer’s main takeaway from your exhibit was that it was one of 32 football-themed games you’ve got a problem Houston. Building effective exhibits for fans at sporting events like NASCAR races and NFL games is not an either-or strategy—you have to give sports fans a memorable hands-on experience packed with what they came for plus deliver your brand attributes as a subtle yet relevant part of the package. “One thing you don’t want to do is do one or the other in the sports scenario ” says Ryan McMullen account director at Norwalk CT-based Octagon which handles activations for The Home Depot and Sprint. “Think of two buckets: a thematic bucket and a brand bucket. If you just do the thematic side with your partner you’re missing out on delivering a brand experience. If you just do a brand experience and leave out the thematic of the sports partner you’re not really leveraging what you paid to use. Really make sure you use both.”
Here we follow up on last month’s Passion Properties Part I report to offer you 12 more activation strategies ideally suited for cluttered sports fan experiences.
If you’re not activating off of your footprint you’re missing out. Brand ambassadors on foot can intercept attendees on their way into the experience drive traffic to your booth and increase your number of brand engagements for the day. At sponsored drag races Ford Customer Service Division (FCSD) sends staffers to the parking lots to hand out special coupons to Ford owners. Some get special track access and meet and greets with the brand’s driver. “We have to be scrappy in talking to customers and getting people there to talk about what we do ” says Al Giombetti executive director at FCSD. “It can’t be just a display that’s sitting there. That would be a failure.”
MAKE MEANINGFUL ATHLETE INTERACTIONS
Autograph signings are a dime a dozen but an additional layer of interaction can differentiate your exhibit from all the others. At The Home Depot’s Super Bowl display NFL players periodically stop by and cheer kids on in the Kids Workshop. At NHRA events FCSD hosts a hospitality trailer trackside for b-to-b events and training for local retailers. Sponsored driver Bob Tasca III meets guests but also rolls his sleeves up and assists the brand in its auto technician training.
PICK THE PERFECT PROPERTY
Sports properties each deliver uniquely different audiences. Being clear about your target and objectives will help you deliver an experience that rises above the chaos. FCSD chose NHRA over NASCAR because NASCAR had just gotten too big. “It gives us more of a chance to have a dialogue with customers versus a monologue ” says Giombetti. “Monologue means you’re just shouting out at them and you’re hoping that they hear you. But dialogue allows you to have conversations and maybe hear what’s on their mind maybe even come up with some new ideas and just talk. That’s what we’re training our people to do versus just having them show up and we throw them in a simulator.”
CHANGE IT UP
The Home Depot’s Kids Workshop is a perennial favorite but the brand keeps it relevant by changing up the activities to match the event and the season. Kids can make flower pots in the spring stools or toolboxes around Father’s Day and pinewood derby cars at racing events. The strategy keeps families interested drives repeat visits year after year and develops long-term relationships. “Hopefully we’ve created a future home improvement project builder ” says Erick Teach account director at handling agency Octagon.
MAKE INNOVATIVE TIE-INS
Amp up your tie-in concept to cleverly connect the dots between your brand and the property’s demographic and you can carve out a brand new space. Bridgestone is an umbrella sponsor of the PGA World Club Championship and the official tire of the PGA tour. At this year’s Tour events the brand is launching a new exhibit. Consumers can do the time-tested golf swing practice activity with Bridgestone balls and clubs but the brand cranks up the creativity with four put-puts each dedicated to a line of Bridgestone tires. For its Turanza touring tire that focuses on a quiet ride and great wet performance the putting area is a wet surface that’s designed to look like a street after a storm. The Dueler line put-put focused on off-road conditions has debris in the road you have to get around. “It’s a fun way to get product attributes that are relevant to the event or sport you’re exhibiting at ” says Michael Fluck advertising and Internet manager-consumer tire marketing at Bridgestone.
DO IT LIKE WALT DOES
Disney is famous for making your wait in line entertaining and even downright fun. Good line experiences keep consumers there longer and foster goodwill with the brand. The Home Depot queues its long lines for its kids workshop activation so people can interact with other parts of the house. They can learn about the brand’s Neighborhood MVP program while waiting near the display wall chat with staffers giving away swag or enjoy stilt walkers brought in to specifically entertain those waiting in line. Bridgestone distracts attendees with different brand messages posted along the route. Those waiting in line for Sprint’s simulators can keep their hands busy with a smorgasbord of products on display.
DO IT RIGHT THE FIRST TIME
One of Ford’s key differentiators is it’s street cred with auto technicians so when its staff needed more time to ramp up on the tech-talk the brand skipped the first race of the season in Pomona CA and instead launched at the second in Gainesville FL. “You only get to launch once ” Giombetti says.
For brands with massive and diverse product lines it’s tempting to throw it all out there for consumers to see. But too many messages just muddy up the brand impression. Sean McClosky mobile marketing senior marketing manager at Sprint says just focus on the fun and be realistic with your messaging goals. “There’s just so much stuff we can do so we have to ratchet back and say ‘How can we make it simple for the fan?’” he says. “We know people are there to have fun and we try never to lose sight of that. Though we may want them to walk away with one little nugget of information that they may not have known at the end of the day if they had fun with us we think that’s going to be a positive.”
DO SNAPSHOTS AND THEN SOME
You can’t walk 10 feet without stepping into a green screen photo booth these days.
To make yours unique think both sight and sound. Bridgestone’s NFL Experience attendees not only got their downloadable photo after the event they received a tune tag for three free songs. The additional perk reminded attendees that Bridgestone sponsored the half-time show too.
HAVE SOMETHING FOR THE KIDS
The Home Depot recognized that there weren’t many NASCAR activities that talked to the eight-to-10-year-old fan. They can’t get into the Sprint simulators they have to be 21 to check out the Bud booth and while the Army Experience is impressive it’s geared toward 18- to 24-year-olds. The brand responded with an activity that’s exclusively geared toward a demo that wasn’t getting any love. “We’ve got an element here that parents and children can do together that is also brand targeted ” says Teach.
OFFER EXCLUSIVE ACCESS
Fans want to get as close as possible to their favorite sports figures but giving them that access isn’t always possible. This year Sprint found another way to tap into the adoration. Its new Tech Garage feature let consumers get a rare peek inside the future star of the track—the stock car of tomorrow. Attendees were guided through a 15-minute tour by a dj who used the opportunity to plug Sprint’s line of rugged phones. “The idea is that NASCAR has all these levels of access and you have to buy a ticket and get another ticket to get to pit row for a tour. Very few get into the garage ” McClosky says. “We said how can we weave our storyline into it but show them things they can’t see on their own?”
BUILD EMOTIONAL TOUCHPOINTS
Does your experience accomplish something deeper than a ball toss? Instead of a one-way brand-to-customer interaction The Home Depot’s Kids Workshop creates a forum for family interaction that sparks emotions that last long after the event is over. “It allows those kids to feel like they’ve accomplished something ” says McMullen. “Not only having fun with the family but walking away with an improved self image that they got to build something or done something they might not have done before.”