Subaru Carves Out Micro-events, Adventure for its 2022 WinterFest Tour

Among brands embracing the micro-event trend of 2022 is Subaru, which has reimagined its WinterFest platform as a music and mountain lifestyle adventure tour featuring small, curated and high-touch experiences under the umbrella of its large presence at eight resorts across the country. The platform, which launched in 2014, is returning to the slopes after a two-year hiatus to meet the pent-up consumer demand for outdoor recreation, to maximize the winter experience for brand devotees, and to evoke an “emotional connection” with 25- to 34-year-old outdoor adventure seekers.

At the heart of the tour is a showcase of the Subaru Wilderness Family of vehicles and, in addition to music, the experience includes food and beverages alongside giveaways, gear demos and even special appearances by avalanche rescue dogs. WinterFest kicked off in Killington, VT, at the Killington Mountain Resort, Feb. 11-13, and will wrap in Bend, OR, at Mt. Bachelor, April 14-16.

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“WinterFest has always been a way for Subaru to connect to its owners, potential owners and mountain resort visitors. Our goal has always been to make someone’s day at the resort better and to provide a free, memorable experience for whoever wants to come,” says Matt Barber, brand partnerships and experiential marketing manager at Subaru of America. “Before COVID, we started to refine that experience and make it more about a full-scale lifestyle festival that is unique to the resort visitor.”

Subaru WinterFest_2022

Live music was one of the main attractions at Subaru’s WinterFest event in Killington, VT.

Festival attendees can relax in a Subaru WinterFest village offering s’mores and other treats from partnering brands including Alpine Start, Kate’s Real Food and Alpine Start Coffee (served in Klean Kanteen mugs). Tiny houses have long been popular at WinterFest, says Barber, and this year presents a newly-designed rollout featuring two different activation outposts. One is a Subaru WinterFest station where fans can win giveaways and demo winter sport equipment. Subaru owners can visit the area to drop off their skis for a quick, complimentary custom “Wax and Relax” service (using nano technology) by Dynamic Wax. The other outpost offers a Subaru brand experience featuring vehicle audio demos and a timeline of more than 50 years of adventure vehicles culminating with the 2022 Subaru Outback Wilderness edition.

All festival attendees can explore gear demos from Mammut, Nordica, Thule and Arbor Collective while Subaru owners can opt in for the VIP treatment (think: free VIP parking, special gifts and perks including free lift tickets).

There is also live music hosted by Subaru audio partner Harman Kardon on the main stage at each resort. Music performances will spotlight national touring bluegrass, indie and Americana bands including Dawes, Twiddle, Trampled by Turtles and The Ghost of Paul Revere. In addition, all Subaru fans can attend satellite shows taking place outdoors on an all-new, fully custom pop-up stage built from a 1999 Subaru Sambar at each of the eight resorts.

This year Subaru also rolled out a new COVID-friendly touchless QR code system and sweepstakes platform with brand ambassadors on-site to help attendees navigate the technology. Focused on environmentally friendly habits, Subaru designed WinterFest to be an almost entirely waste-free event with Klean Kanteen, TerraCycle and Leave No Trace offering giveaways that help consumers integrate green practices into their lives.

WinterFest’s charitable effort will bring dog-friendly experiences to select WinterFest events. Through a partnership with the National Ski Patrol (NSP), Subaru created a scholarship fund that sends patrols and their avalanche rescue dogs to the Wasatch Backcountry Rescue International Dog School. For every person at the festival who opts-in to a daily drawing this year, $1 will be donated to NSP to train avalanche rescue dogs.

“If you build spaces for people to feel comfortable hanging out and spending time in together, the results will speak for themselves,” says Barber. “Your opt-ins, engagement and attendance numbers go up. We started focusing on creating space for people to hang out, be it fire pits with s’mores, or rooftop hangouts on top of our trailers, and then hosting a free concert from a national performing artist along with it. Event marketers can get caught up in the giveaways and swag, and that branding is important, but providing space and an experience to make someone’s day or weekend better, is huge.” Agency: Powdr.

Photo credit: Ethan Johnson

This story appeared in the Spring 2022 issue

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