After the global Covid-19 pandemic forced events online, we are gradually returning to a new normal of hybrid virtual and in-person activations. But in this new era of events, what can brands do to keep customers engaged? As part of The Drum’s Experiential Marketing Deep Dive, our managing director of events Lynn Lester spoke to Louise Hodges, head of consumer communications at Virgin Money, and Natasha Curtin, global vice-president of Bombay Sapphire, to hear what they have to say.
During lockdown, both brands succeeded in pulling off compelling activations in-line with Covid restrictions. Virgin Money tapped into its Virgin heritage by throwing a live music event with SSD, which runs festivals in the north east of England. The events were socially distanced and coordinated over apps to deliver food and drinks to the designated guest areas.
Virgin’s Hodges says: “It seemed like a crazy idea at the time, to run a series of gigs at the height of the pandemic, but once we looked it and spoke to local councils, [we found they] could do a lot of the heavy lifting to make sure this was an event we could partner on.”
Meanwhile, Bombay Sapphire collaborated with the Design Museum in London, which reported a 97% loss of income during the worst of Covid. Together they decided to create an art exhibition with one of the few activities in line with regulations – going to the shops – by creating a shoppable art exhibition in the form of a supermarket.
“We worked with 10 up-and-coming designers who helped us design everyday items, from coffee, to Bombay Sapphire and tonic, to bananas,” explains Curtin.
“We knew that not everyone would be comfortable with coming in person, so we created a virtual shop for people to buy the items online and those sold out within two days. It gave us some great learnings, as in old times we would have had absolutely everything planned out, but here we only had 10 weeks, so we had to be agile.”
Overall, both parties agree that the pandemic has doubtless changed the face of events, and in the future customers will be much more interested in multi-faceted experiences.
“The days of just plastering your logo on a sponsorship asset are over,” says Hodges.