Walmart Meeting Offers Live Interaction, Mini Concerts - Event Marketer

Walmart Meeting Offers Live Interaction, Mini Concerts

DB_Walmart_Ex 2008
Year: 2008

When you’re numero uno on the Fortune 500 list, your annual shareholder’s meeting had better be pretty friggin’ good. This year, Wal-Mart delivered. Big W skipped the elaborate Broadway-style musical numbers and instead tried a new approach to its mission–critical annual meeting. We called it “Funny bones, heartstrings and rock stars.” They, um, didn’t call it that. But the point is, the Mart put on a show that did the near impossible: appealed to 6,000 employees and more than 9,000 shareholders, analysts and press—all at the same time.

Audience interaction was a key piece of the strategy, so the brand created a program that enabled a dialogue between the audience and the on-stage talent. For the four-hour employee day event on May 31, stars of the ABC TV show, “Whose Line Is It Anyway,” Colin Mochre and Brad Sherwood, kicked off the day’s program, then reappeared throughout the morning, sprinkling improv segments between division updates, reports and motivational speeches. Wal-Mart associates were brought on stage for the short comedy skits and Mochre and Sherwood expertly wove in internal jokes that resonated with the crowd.

For Friday’s shareholder’s event, entertainer Sinbad emceed and mixed live, on-stage bits with short documentary-style sketches featuring the comedian at his local Wal-Mart store. Sinbad’s affable, everyman quality enabled the brand to poke fun at itself, its competition, and its critics, striking a perfect balance with more serious agenda items, like the company’s financial reports.

The event’s main theme was the common thread connecting content together and helping keep focus on the positives, like $4 prescriptions, energy-saving light bulbs and a new Dell partnership. “One of the keys was coming up with an overarching theme and then sticking to that theme,” says Mark Henneberger, vp-shows and events at Wal-Mart. “‘Saving people money so they can live better’ really is a rallying cry for the company but actually allowed us to be really focused in how we approached everything we did for the entire week. I think that was one of the keys to our success.”

Back-to-back mini-concerts served as morale-boosting entertainment plus previews to upcoming in-store CD promotions. The Eagles, Gretchen Wilson, Fall Out Boy and Jennifer Lopez, to name a few, all performed at the event. “From a technical perspective being able to make that transition [between acts], and make it seamless was probably our biggest accomplishment,” says Henneberger.

The event may have been held in a college gym, but the rotating stage and one-of-a-kind backdrop was worthy of a U2 concert. TBA Global created a 100-foot wide, 18-foot high custom LED image system—one of the largest ever constructed for a corporate event. In Fayetteville, AR, people.

Created from contract to show date in just seven weeks, “pretty extraordinary in itself,” Henneberger says, and to the delight of everyone from buttoned-up bankers to feisty employees shedding the polyester vests for a few days, Wal-Mart’s annual “window to the world” was a rockin’ success.

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