Events and Experiences

According to the IEG Sponsorship Report, $11.14 billion was spent on sponsorships in North America during 2004, with 69% of this going to sports; another 10% to entertainment tours and attractions; 7% to festivals, fairs, and annual events; 5% to the arts; and 9% to cause marketing. By becoming part of a special and more personally relevant moment in consumers’ lives involvement with events can broaden and deepen the relationship of a company with the target market.

At the same time, daily encounters with brands may also affect consumers’ brand attitudes and beliefs. Atmospheres are “packaged environment” that create or reinforce leaning toward product purchase. Law offices decorated with Oriental rugs and oak furniture communicates “stability” and “success”. A five-star hotel will use elegant chandeliers, marble columns and other tangible signs of luxury.

Recognizing that it can now reach only 15% of the population with a prime time ad as compared to 40% in the mid 1980s, Coca-Cola has diverted money into new initiatives that allow it to embed itself into the favorite activities of its target audience. The company has created “teen lounges” in Chicago and Los Angeles where kids can hang out and buy Cokes from see-through vending machines; it has placed downloadable songs on its myCokeMusic .com Web sites in Britain; and it has blended its brand into the content of TV shows from the United States to Venezuela.

Coca-Cola is not alone. More firms are creating on-site and off-site product and brand experiences. There is Everything Coca-Cola in Las Vegas, M&M World in Times Square in New York, and General Mills Cereal Adventure in Mall of America in Minnesota. Small brands, of necessity are even more likely to take less obvious and less expensive paths in sponsorship and communications. With a limited budget, Yoo-hoo to target teens by sponsoring the Warped Tour, an alternative music festival, via samples and off the wall contests. For examples concertgoers could get free products if they were willing to chug the chocolate drink out of a boot (dubbed a “shoe-hoo”).

Harley Davidson

Harley Davidson to create a memorable brand experience to celebrate its 100th year anniversary in 2003 announced its “bringing party to the people”. The Centennial Celebration was a gala of road tours, parades, music, test rides, exhibits, exclusive parties, and even a couple of weddings. A Ride Home Tour caravan motored along four different routes around the country before arriving at Harley’s Milwaukee headquarters for a three day grand finale bash attended by 150,000 people. Besides reinforcing customer loyalty, the celebration helped to reach out to a new audience as well as raise money for the Muscular Dystrophy Association.