“The sixth floor, that’s where the really cool bar is,” says a woman to a friend in the elevator at Spring Studios in lower Manhattan, Tribeca Film Festival’s new-this-year event venue. It was home to the festival’s Storyscapes Exhibit and Lounge, presented with headline sponsor Bombay Sapphire April 16-18, that showcased five interactive projects by artists and digital media innovators from around the world.
The women I rode the elevator with were looking forward to the two free cocktails. Fair enough.
But in activating its sponsorship, Bombay Sapphire wanted to go beyond the booze. Promoting the release of its Tonic Journey flavor-pairing app and launch of an on-premise campaign, it wanted to position the Bombay Sapphire East product in the craft cocktail space. This “mind-opening” theme dovetailed nicely with the Storyscapes program. How well did it translate in the live experience? Read on for our take.
The ‘Cool Bar’
Yep, my journey started there. It was Friday night, after all. Attendees signed up via an Eventbrite link hosted on the Tribeca Film Festival website for one of several two-hour slots. After checking in on the ground floor for my time slot and receiving blue tokens for two free drinks, I hopped in the elevator and followed the two aforementioned women up to the “cool bar” on the sixth floor.
Right outside the elevator were Tribeca Film Festival sponsors illy and AT&T. illy served up free espresso drinks from a little bar and showcased its coffee products and makers. AT&T set up a branded step-and-repeat (the brand also had a booth with a 3D video activation at the festival drive-in event at nearby Brookfield Place).
Attendees then entered the Bombay Sapphire Storyscapes Lounge. It glowed blue, and featured décor that brought the “journey” idea to life, like intricate antique clocks and window displays with glowing outdoor landscapes behind them. There was comfortable furniture, tables, bumping music and a social wall that streamed posts marked with #Storyscapes. Attendees were encouraged to follow @sapphireginusa on Twitter or Instagram for live updates, exclusive access and real-time responses.
The Exhibit Room
On the fifth floor, staff welcomed attendees into the exhibit hall where five experiences awaited guests. One exhibit called “Karen,” by Blast Theory, had an oversized screen that took up an entire wall, white flooring and a small kiosk with a tablet station. Think Apple’s Siri, but a Siri that asks you a string of questions about your life, and maybe offers too much information about her life.
There were two bars on either side of the room featuring elements of the décor the brand used in the lounge upstairs. Tablets on each bar top showcased three cocktail options that evening, including a Ghostface Tonic featuring dandelion greens, turbinado sugar, almonds, blood orange peel and cinchona. Attendees sipped and chatted and perused the exhibits.
The Tonic Journey
Guests needed to pre-register via a separate invite for The Tonic Journey, the Bombay Sapphire’s VIP experience that was taking place on a mezzanine level overlooking the exhibit space. (I wanted to see what was up there, and I imagine others did, too.) A staffer on the program stood by a private staircase and checked in guests before each one-hour time slot.
Upstairs, the mezzanine lounge was plush. A large flat-screen TV displayed a roaring fireplace. There were mod couches and orchids. Two bars on either side of the room featured dramatic blue backdrops. The session designed for about six people at a time took us through the Bombay Sapphire’s new Tonic Journey app. We answered a series of questions on personality and taste preferences, and the brand’s partner Bittercube sampled a litany of essences and extracts. From this exercise, each group designed a custom flavor and bottle of tonic syrup—complete a custom label—that was shipped to each person post-event with a personalized Thank You note. It was a generous takeaway, one that likely had recipients purchasing Bombay Sapphire East gin to go with it.
Leading the event was Gary Hayward, brand ambassador at Bombay Sapphire North America. “Bombay Sapphire East has been on the market now for three years, and we’ve seen our numbers growing very positively, and with very little above-the-line marketing,” Hayward says. “Most of our efforts have been with specific sponsorships, and alignments targeted at the on-premise.”
The sponsorship and VIP experience helped launch a new campaign targeting the top 100 bars in the U.S. Bombay Sapphire is looking to engage top-end bartenders and give them the tools to customize their own tonics at their own bars. As Hayward describes it, it’s The Tonic Journey—but amplified.
“We’ve never wanted to be in the sponsor space as a brand just pouring liquor and giving free drinks away,” he says. “That doesn’t work for us, and doesn’t suit us either. It’s important that we’re able to tell our story as well; every year we have turned the sponsorship up a bit and dived a little deeper into detail.”
Now that’s a recipe for a good story.