Why Functional Brand Integration Can Enhance the Event Experience for Everyone
This year’s Australian Open looked a little bit different.
Yes, different in a sense that we once again saw thousands of fans flocking back to enjoy the unrestricted nature of a major event (which still feels like a novel pleasure), but also because of this year’s brand activations…or distinct lack of.
Unlike past years, the big, bold brand activation pushing makeshift campaign messaging didn’t seem so apparent.
Instead, it felt like brands had opted to find much more subtle and functional ways to integrate into the event experience.
Let me explain.
Australian sun care brand Bondi Sands didn’t have a large scale “hero” activation, but its easily one of the most recalled brands for this years AO (amongst a small sample size of colleagues and friends that also attended the AO).
Why? Well instead of investing in a costly, labour-intensive activation build, Bondi Sands invested $2m into leveraging the partnership and cleverly handed out product sampling which filled a direct need for fans who were battling the Melbourne sun. This move put the brand and its product at the fingertips of fans when they needed it most.
Solving A Problem for Fans = Functional Brand Integration
Another example we came across was the Chemist Warehouse “activation”. While technically, the Chemist Warehouse store classifies as an activation it was ultimately just a novel shop front presenting the most practical set up we came across outside of the array of food and drinks options.
The store provided the convenience of your local pharmacy at the heart of the AO.
From mums running in to grab band aids for their kids, to hydration tablets, to a neck and shoulder massage, the store had everything you needed for a long day out.
Rather than focusing on generic brand activity or being restricted to promoting a handful of their brands, Chemist Warehouse tapped into its brand DNA and ensured it provided a familiar experience for customers all while maintaining their low-price mentality (even at an event where a Bahn Mi cost $20!).
Convenience And Practicality = Functional Brand Integration
But, what about brands that are less conducive to sampling, and providing low-cost services?
Well, there is still a place for these brands to integrate authentically into the fan experience and deliver a specific function.
As naming sponsor of the AO ballpark, Emirates took the idea of being family friendly quite literally to new heights.
A true haven for kid’s, the AO ballpark included activations such as an aerial adventure zone, adrenaline tower, an entertainment stage, 8m high water slide, Tennis Hot Shots zone and a First Nations immersive digital art experience.
Functional? You could argue that it provided an opportunity to introduce your kids to tennis, build their confidence all while developing a positive perception of Emirates as a family friendly airline…or…just a way to tire the kids out so you can enjoy the tennis later on.
Either way, it served a clear function.
Keeping The Kids Entertained For The Entire Day = Functional Brand Integration (Kinda)
As one of the first major Aussie sporting events on the calendar (and often considered one of the most progressive) the AO typically provides an early insight into how brands are thinking about their partnership activations for the upcoming year.
On the surface, replacing the large-scale brand activation footprint in favour of increased variety in food, and drink stalls is a perfect way to enhance the fan experience from Tennis Australia’s perspective.
But beyond that, brands are deliberately choosing to cleverly integrate themselves as problems solvers for fans to also enhance their experience.
It will be interesting to see the brand results once the tournament wraps up, but we are anticipating that this approach to activation may deliver stronger results on objectives.
So, while admittedly in this industry, we all love to think of a big sexy brand activation, it may be time to consider alternative approaches to enhancing the fan experience and activate more “functionally”.