The immediate fallout from cancellations and delays of large festivals and conventions like SXSW, Coachella and all major sports leagues will undoubtedly cause a chain reaction in our industry. Experiential activations, movie premieres and sports are distractions that we need in our everyday lives and now they are gone. At least for a while. So what does it mean?
All of these events differ from each other – but everyone involved in an experience-based industry will have to find ways to pivot our thinking and how we approach our day-to-day jobs and lives. The cost of cancelling activations and events can be a big blow to brands.
Brian Salzman, CEO of brand and influencer marketing agency RQ—which was involved with producing experiences for HBO and LG—said the cost of a SXSW activation usually depends on the size, content, and whether it’s a festival partnership or festival-adjacent event.
“Experiences at SXSW can range in cost from $10,000 for a guerilla-style street team, to easily several millions of dollars for multi day activations,” Salzman said. “If you are an official partner you also have to add in the SXSW partnership fee, which comes with its benefits. Line items such as staffing, hotels and Airbnbs, custom technology and shipping add up really quickly. Likewise, cancel or kill fees this late in the game are high. Usually, a brand can recoup 25%, but costs incurred such as design, fabrication, shipping and travel have already been spent.”
Just because physical experiences cannot take place, that does not mean brands cannot reach consumers with meaningful experiences. We can shift some of these experiences to digital activations and bring them to life through AR, streaming content, digital ARGs and, in some cases, virtual worlds.
So what are other shifts in experiential tactics that industries are leveraging to reach consumers in meaningful ways? It requires a combination of media, content, communications strategy, data and insights to pull them off.
SHIFTS IN THE WAY WE CONSUME ENTERTAINMENT:
Movie theaters and studios are reacting to the health crisis by changing the way they think about their marketing. Current events have kept patrons from the treasured “in-theater” experience. Studios like Universal have several big titles scheduled to release, which are directly impacted with the shut down. Their solution? They have opted to move those releases to video on demand (VOD) in people’s homes and push back release dates. (If we want to work in a brand from our client roster into the conversation we could plug viewing movies on an LG entertainment package for a premium in home experience?)
This is something that has never been done by a major studio before. In doing so, they can majorly impact the entire exhibition of films. Larger movie chains like AMC Theaters launched a VOD section of their app earlier this year. This provides a perfect opportunity for studios to test the VOD release model for larger film titles, which is something they have wanted to do for some time.
Not only is the in-theater experience taken away from fans but so are all of the activation experiences that come with it. Studios pay big for fan activations at festivals like SXSW and conventions like San Diego Comic-Con. Without those events, a large portion of their marketing dollars need to go elsewhere.
They have been redistributing those dollars into the digital world with apps, online contests, social spend and online viewing parties. Some theaters and studios are also leaning into a Patreon type approach by providing intriguing streaming content for a subscription fee. Everything from live special guest Q&As to commentary tracks.
I think there is a real opportunity to create ARGs and richer digital experiences that foster a culture and community. Being able to dive into a property and learn more about the characters and story only helps drive more interest in the film, series or brand.
With the theater experience temporarily being halted, streaming services are looking for ways to capitalize on consumers being shut-in. For instance, there is a Chrome extension that allows you to host Netflix watch parties with friends. This extension allows you to hangout with friends while streaming your favorite shows and new releases. This falls in line with the adoption of VR with similar watch party capabilities to stream some of your favorite videos with friends anywhere in the world. While this could prove to be distracting for some, it is a shift to try to bring people together during a time of social distancing.
HOW THE NBA IS RESPONDING TO A LEAGUE SHUT DOWN:
In the world of sports some NBA teams have found creative ways to continue their season online. The Phoenix Suns announced the rest of their 2020 schedule would be simulated and played out each day on the streaming platform Twitch.
The stream had the following metrics.
- 12K max concurrent viewers
- 126K unique viewers
- 619K minutes watched
This continues to showcase the effects e-sports can have on our sports leagues and how the footprint can expand beyond the court. I expect to see a slight uptick in streaming viewership on platforms like Twitch, and relevant brands would do well to look to this platform to engage their fanbase.
These leagues will continue to get more creative in the ways they deliver content while games have been suspended. For the NBA, they were already dealing with losses in revenue from China ($500 million) and now a stoppage in the league’s season will add onto those losses.
While the way we consume sports and movies and attend events may temporarily be paused, it remains to be seen what the long-term effects of these changes will lead to. It could mean our habits fundamentally change moving forward – or consumers will be so thirsty for these experiences that they will crave them even more.
Take social distancing as an opportunity to expand upon your digital offerings and create a more integrated approach to experiential that you can learn from and leverage when we get back to our day-to-day client needs.