Outdoor Event Marketing: Things to Consider

So last weekend in New York, this happened:

Obviously an out-of-towner.  A real New Yorker would have added two words to that sign

My son and I participated in the first of three Summer Streets Saturdays this year.  In an event started last year, the City shuts down Park Avenue from 72nd Street to the Manhattan side of the Brooklyn Bridge.  Cyclists and walkers can traverse the entire length with no cars and only a few stops at major cross streets.

Since the event attracted a lot of marketing participation, from lead sponsor Citi to relatively small brands such as GoGo Squeez and Nuun, I thought it might provide a good opportunity to discuss how marketers can get the most out of sponsorship and other types of participation in events like these.

Strike while the iron is hot & other cliches

It should come as no surprise that the Knicks missed what we can only call an easy layup.

Down by Thomas Paine Park, the Knicks and their WNBA team the Liberty, braved the derision of every basketball fan who whizzed by and sponsored booths.  The Liberty offered prizes to anyone who signed up via an iPad and spun a wheel.  My son won a green sweatband.  However, 48 hours after sign up, I have yet to receive an email.  And I even gave them my real email and not No_Playoffs_Since_2013@gmail.com!

Mean jokes about the Knicks aside, marketers not only need to thank event sign-ups immediately, they also need to let them know what other emails they can expect and other ways to interact with the brand. Cliche or not, you only have one chance to make a first impression.  Of course a lot of signups only wanted free stuff (myself included); marketers need to figure freeloaders into their budget.  However, marketers who don’t respond to signups quickly have wasted all of their promotional budget.

Takeaway: Extend the value of your event presence by following up with anyone who gave you an email address.

Cater to the participants

Some food brands such as the aforementioned GoGo Squeez and Nuun had a presence in a little corral off the route at about 24th Street.  People on bikes–a large portion of participants–couldn’t bring their bikes into the corral.  Instead, they either had to leave behind someone to watch the bikes or  give the bike with a valet, a safe but time-consuming process.  Meanwhile, Honest Tea had sampling booths along the route that allowed bikers to walk their bikes over and have a drink.

When you plan an event, think about it from the participants’ perspective.  Will they have anything with them that might prevent them from visiting your booth, like heavy coats or bulky equipment (or kids, for that matter)?  Can you provide something that they might appreciate given the nature of the event, like a cool drink on a hot day?

Takeaway: walk a mile in event participants’ shoes, sneakers, skis, etc.

Location, Location, Location

Lastly, a thought for brands who didn’t have a formal sponsorship but who happened to have a location near the event.

I couldn’t help but notice so many lost opportunities.  Outdoor retailer REI has a store right on the route at Houston Street–a perfect opportunity to display new bikes or walking products and/or promote themselves by offering some basic bike repair services like tire inflation.  Cafes and restaurants could have easily offered Summer Streets specials, but I didn’t see any that did.

Takeaway: if you’re on the route, even if you’re not part of the program, take advantage of a sudden surge in traffic.

I’d love to hear from those of you who have planned events in the past for anything you’d like to share.  Fire away in the comments!


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