You don’t have to be an X Games contestant to find adrenaline-pumping, heart racing activities to sink your teeth into these days. Events built for thrill seekers continue to crop up as companies explore new ways to not only connect with more adventurous consumers, but leverage those experiences to boost brand awareness. From social influencers to everyday daredevils, brands are engaging attendees with action-packed activities that tap into their playful side and, in turn, inspire organic sharing online and in person.
The trend has become a key strategy for tourism brands seeking to illustrate the carefree nature of planned retreats and promote their destinations’ most alluring attractions. Experience Kissimmee, the tourism arm of the Florida tourist destination, in February treated consumers in Chicago’s Millennium Park to a zip line experience. The brand invited consumers to “escape the cold” weather for sunny Florida with a ride down the line (Agency: FCBX, Chicago).
Despite frigid temperatures, consumers waited more than two hours to participate in the zip line experience and a total of 1,362 people took part. Why? It was challenging, it was adventurous and it was an experience worth sharing with others (to the tune of seven million social impressions, no less).
Toyota has also begun catering to its more intrepid customer base. The brand in May headed to the desert hills of Hualapai, AZ, for Hotel Tacoma, a three-day experience for influencers that brought to life its Play Now ad campaign for the 2016 Tacoma. The experience tapped into the essential “human truth” that play is an important and vital part of a healthy life. Accordingly, Toyota transformed the desert landscape into a weekend playground for mountain biking, rock climbing, ATVs, mini-bikes, motorcycles and stunt performances. It was gritty. It was risky. And influencers couldn’t wait to share all the blood, sweat and cheers with their followers (Agency: Saatchi, Los Angeles).
Then in June, we watched the adventure trend unfold right before our eyes. Jack Links’ Ultimeat Meatathon, a quirky celebration of National Jerky Day held in Brooklyn, NY, featured a 612-foot long jerky-themed obstacle course—and EM was there to capture the action in all its meaty glory. From noshing tasty samples to discovering the “meat cloud,” we came, we ate, we conquered.
The event marked Jack Links’ fifth year celebrating National Jerky Day—a holiday it dreamed up in 2012 to commemorate Americans’ love for the meaty snack. Since then, the notoriously playful brand has been busy bringing the festivity to life through unconventional consumer events. This year Jack Link’s, ahem, braised the steaks, offering an interactive physical challenge that highlighted the activation’s health and wellness theme, which played off of the brand’s tagline, “Feed your wild side.”
“What we wanted to do this year was not only to feed people’s wild side but fuel their wild side,” says Johnna Rossbach, director of marketing integration at Jack Link’s. “The goal this year was to show people that not only can you have fun, but you can have a really healthy snack that fuels whatever activity that you’re doing.”
And what an activity it was. The Ultimeat Meatathon obstacle course was not for the faint of heart—or stomach. Consumers began the competition by taking on the Forest Stump Jump where they were challenged to make their way across a field of stumps without touching the ground (think: that couch-jumping game you played as a kid to avoid falling into a pit of “lava”). Next, participants could opt to navigate the Jerky Traverse Climbing Wall or drop and perform 10 burpees in the Squatchie Zone. And after watching competitors attempt both options, let’s just say we were grateful to be witnesses and not participants.
Contestants then took on the Feed Your Wild Side Jump by scaling a cargo net up to a platform, then taking a leap and landing on a giant branded cushion dubbed the “meat cloud.” From there, the competitors dropped down on all fours to make their way through the Jerky Crawl maze. Finally, participants could fight off their “hanger” pains in the Hangry Gauntlet, where they swung their way through a series of meat-themed punching bags. Phew. We were exhausted just watching. But participants couldn’t get enough of the action.
“What was exciting to see was the people that took [the course] super seriously,” says Rossbach. “They came back multiple times throughout the weekend to check the leaderboard, all the way up to 8 p.m. [on the final night] making sure their scores were still up top.”
It’s not hard to see why. The event embodied the spirit of adventure and tapped into the passion all brands hope to evoke in consumers through their events. The strategy included everything risk-takers crave—daring, dirt, adrenaline, even bragging rights.
It wasn’t the first and it won’t be the last event developed with thrill seekers in mind. The trend is gaining momentum, as evidenced by the Michelob Ultra Summer Series, which wrapped in August and gave consumers the chance to participate in three exclusive events: paddle boarding in Miami, a sunset run in New York City and rock climbing in Southern California.
Bottom line? Unexpected adventures generate memorable experiences, moments so invigorating they’re impossible not to share, whether it’s on Instagram or through simple word of mouth. So strap on your helmet and hold on tight—it just might be time for a walk on the wild side.