THE RETURN OF EVENTS: KEY TAKEAWAYS

SASCHA WEBSTER

Senior Account Manager

in Entertainment

March 11, 2021

COVID-19 pushed the sport, entertainment and events industries to re-define the way we deliver experiences. As restrictions have started to ease, we’re slowly seeing the return of physical events and activations. The Gemba Account Management team were involved in helping two of our clients – Westpac and Toyota – play an active role at two major public events that returned this Summer. 

 

Lights, camera, action 

Toyota used a new partnership with outdoor event series Moonlight Cinema to drive awareness for their racing brand, Toyota Gazoo Racing, to a broader audience than traditional motorsport enthusiasts. Gemba brought the partnership to life by leveraging Moonlight’s big screen, digital, social and onsite assets. Moonlight Cinema-goers around Australia have had the opportunity to see the new GR vehicles up close and personal across events in Adelaide, Brisbane and Sydney. Fans can have their photo taken and appear in their own GR Series ‘movie poster’ to share on socials, plus the chance to win Moonlight tickets in a premium Toyota Gazoo Racing VIP zone.

 

An evening at the world’s most beautiful cinema

Westpac OpenAir was used as an opportunity for customers to not only see but experience their brand refresh following its launch at the end of 2020. Westpac customers received exclusive, ticketed access to a premium dining area, the Westpac PremiAir Terrace, to enjoy dinner and drinks with a spectacular view pre-film. From ticket purchase through to attendance the Gemba team brought the new brand to life through decor, branding and fun comms.

 

Below are the three main learnings we had on navigating the return of live events and activations:

Learning 1: Avoid guessing what people are comfortable with, ask them!

When it comes to events, especially as we slowly emerge from a COVID-19 ‘world’, it is crucial to be proactive rather than reactive. Prior to and throughout an event season, seek feedback from your attendees about what will increase their level of comfort and reduce any potential concerns. For example, social distancing measures and contactless payments to minimise physical interaction with other guests. Due to

 a COVID-19 spike in greater Sydney just prior to Christmas, Westpac OpenAir Cinema was shut down for 23 nights. Before recommencing the season, ticket-holders were surveyed about what would help them feel more comfortable returning to the event. This included suggestions such as mandatory masks for event staff and staggered guest entry and exits. Sourcing direct guest feedback assisted with making decisions around reopening confidently. 

Learning 2: Don’t assume reduced guest count or capacity means reduced costs!  

Although it would be logical to assume that less event attendees means lower costs, we have found that this is not necessarily the case. When planning events, floor plans that allow for social distancing between guests is a no-brainer. However, an increased event footprint may also require larger branded structures, thus increasing the overall event build costs. While the increased size generates safety in social distancing, the space may require additional theming, styling and staffing to ensure it feels warm and inviting, and not empty. These additional elements can make events more costly, despite reduced attendance. One way we navigated the challenge of higher costs for both clients was to focus on delivering only 1 or 2 key elements really well. For Westpac, Gemba focused on providing a premium customer service experience in the exclusive dining area, the Westpac PremiAir Terrace. For Toyota, Gemba focused on an activation which got guests up close and personal with the new  Toyota Gazoo Racing vehicles. Not overloading the event or activation can help contain costs – ‘less’ really is ‘more’. 

 

Learning 3: Ensure consistent messaging and information. 

Establishing one primary source of information for guest updates is crucial. This is an easy step in the planning process that can reduce uncertainty, the need to be reactive, and ensure control over messaging is maintained. For both Moonlight Cinema and Westpac OpenAir Cinema events, the rights holder’s channels were the source of information for any and all updates and requirements, including COVID health and safety protocols. Aligning expectations and stakeholder policies in relation to specific situations means the comms approval process is seamless, and information and responses to changing scenarios are clear and shared quickly. 

 

It is fair to say that navigating the return of live events and activations will carry an element of ambiguity for some time. However, there are plenty of opportunities and benefits to be gained by those willing to take it on. Whilst it can be challenging, it’s a great time to test and learn and try new things. We can’t wait to see how sport and entertainment events continue to return and evolve, and to help our clients navigate this journey.