Increased Attendance, Engagement: Inside AARP’s Experiential Program Revamp – Event Marketer

Increased Attendance, Engagement: Inside AARP’s Experiential Program Revamp – Event Marketer
How AARP Updated a 55-Year-Old Event Model with a Traveling Event Activation

Increased Attendance, Engagement: Inside AARP’s Experiential Program Revamp


The AARP Block Party activates annually at events like the Philadelphia Flower Show.

Three years ago, AARP took its marketing on the road, aligning with consumer events that would allow the nonprofit, which is dedicated to helping people live their best lives as they age, to engage multiple generations. The insight: That AARP isn’t simply a Baby Boomer brand or a Gen X brand; instead, there are different consumer age groups that ultimately provide conduits through which the brand can expand its membership. The approach has led to a significant increase in measured engagement—188,000 engagements recorded in 2018, versus 9,900 in 2015.

For many years, the 60-year-old brand relied on its flagship magazine and conferences as primary sources of marketing and engagement. Then came a nearly decade-long analysis of how AARP was attracting new members and engaging current members. As a result, the brand landed on a new strategy that would take it outside the convention center. “We love our members, our superfans, we engage with them and have conversations and programming around the country each year, but our model really has shifted into an awareness campaign,” says Jason Weinstein, vp-event strategy and service at AARP.

And so up rose the AARP Block Party, an experience the brand now activates annually at events like the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta, Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, Essence Festival, New Orleans Jazz Fest and, earlier this month, the Philadelphia Flower Show. They’re all events where families attend together—whether it be grandkids with grandparents, older millennials poised to share what they’ve learned about AARP with their parents, or AARP members themselves excited to engage with the brand in person.

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“This will be our third time going to Sturgis and it is always kind of a head-tilt when people walk past our booth, but the average age of a Harley owner is 47, so that’s a sweet spot for us,” Weinstein says. “We’re also at San Francisco Pride Week this year, so activating in these really compelling moments where it’s a light touch from a marketing standpoint.”

Experiential touchpoints like augmented reality are allowing AARP to ditch paper collateral in favor of embedded content. For instance, a consumer participating in a driving game may come across an on-screen billboard that offers tips about AARP movie screenings and discounts. All of these casual tips and content moments may result in a question asked of the staff, or a light-bulb moment in relation to AARP for the adults watching or participating, Weinstein says. Other light-touch engagements include a community service pledge and corresponding mosaic wall, prize wheels and vending machines that dole out useful branded swag like sunglasses and ear buds. Member perks and surprise-and-delight moments, like prepaid one-year membership cards, round out the experiences.

“If I walk into a booth with a child in one hand and a churro in the other, and someone tries to slide across an important piece of information, do I really want to let go of either my kid or my food to grab a one-sheeter? The answer is: ‘No,’” Weinstein says. “So, we think the right way to deliver content is to create a digital environment where we can text or email information. It’s that frictionless moment we’re going to have with the consumer. We want them to feel good about getting a handshake and about spending time with us next time.” Agency: Freeman, Dallas.

Featured photo courtesy: Steven St. John/AP for AARP
(Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta)

Rachel Boucher
Posted by Rachel Boucher

Rachel joined Event Marketer in 2012 and today serves as the magazine's executive editor. Her travels covering the experiential marketing in dustry have ranged from CES in Las Vegas to Spring Break in Panama City Beach, Florida (it's never too late)—and everywhere in between.
View all articles by Rachel Boucher →

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