If you’re like most experiential marketers, you’re probably wondering what happened to January and February. From a sports perspective, the Super Bowl, X Games, NHL and NBA All-Star Games, and the Daytona 500 are now in the rearview mirror. March Madness is right around the corner and we, as sports marketers, are quickly realizing that our first quarter is coming to an end. Second quarter programs are rapidly approaching and most of us are now knee-deep in strategy, ideation and planning. With that in mind, this is the perfect time to challenge yourself and reconsider your approach to your 2012 experiential marketing plans.
The days of popping up a tent and just “executing” are way behind us. Experiential marketing in today’s landscape is truly about delivering a total brand experience. Some key issues we’re facing now are that our event experiences must begin far earlier in the activation cycle with digital and social networks leading the way to prime our audiences for an upcoming event. Our on-site consumers have become far more tech-savvy and expect an experience that will provide them with instant gratification, in addition to something they’ve never experienced before.
Overall, consumers have come to realize that a free foam football is nice, but the influence and purchase power they hold is worth much more. They want to be wowed over time before they fully engage with a brand and that will take a much different approach than most marketers are using today. These factors make it imperative to connect with your target consumer during multiple phases around your event activation. The goal should be to create familiarity with a brand and strategically provide consumers with the tools that enable them to become the long term influencers that you desire.
Leaders in the traditional marketing industry are throwing out the old marketing funnel and are adopting a more circular approach to take advantage of today’s extended consumer decision journey. In the sports marketing and lifestyle industry, we’ve already seen this shift in which brands are requiring their experiential marketing programs to be, not only larger than a single touch point, but also a catalyst for consumers to actively evaluate and engage with the brand over time.
The sports world is filled with events attended by millions of passionate consumers (fans); your goal should be to tap into the already existing fan passion, and create an integrated strategy to encircle the consumer and their engagement habits around their sport(s) of choice. In the end, consumers want to engage with a brand before they actually participate in an actual activation. Every step of this engagement whether pre-event, during or post-event should provide an opportunity for consumers to share their experience with friends and family, and organically lead them to consideration, purchase and continued advocacy for a brand.
So as you plan your upcoming event or experience, consider every factor in the marketing mix that can take your activation to the next level. Here are the main questions you should ask yourself as you’re planning your event.
During the Event
A fully integrated approach to your experiential marketing program is a must in today’s competitive landscape. If you do not connect early and provide your target consumer the opportunity to engage with your brand in multiple ways before, during and after your experience, you are doing your brand a disservice.
Experiential marketing should not be looked at as just a tactic or a complement to your traditional/sports marketing campaign. Experiential marketing is an integral part of any effective integrated brand strategy, and literally has the power to bring your brand to life across all mediums. This sounds simple in theory, but now you need to ask the right questions, find the right answers and make it happen.