Blog: Lessons learned from Rio

As the Paralympic Games begin, Pulse Group's Rob Sharp reflects on the agency's work in Rio this year and shares his tips for working on brand activations at an Olympic Games.

The Team GB Clubhouse in London
The Team GB Clubhouse in London

Go local

Don’t be afraid of embracing a local workforce. We opened an office in Rio ahead of the games following our success activating Emirates Sponsorship of the FIFA World Cup and three events annually in the region. At our peak we had 30 people working for Pulse Rio during the games under the leadership of an experienced UK senior event director who is based in Rio.

Location is key

By embracing a local office you will reap the rewards when it comes to finding the perfect venue. Their innate understanding of how the city works to knowing who to pick the phone up to during the critical phase of negotiation will ensure your event is one step closer to being a success.

The Denmark and Lego House experiences in Rio, which we coordinated and managed, entertained a host of locals and international guests throughout the tournament mainly thanks to our locations being right on or over-looking Ipanema Beach. Lego House, which showcased Lego sculptures, allowed visitors to play with the products and receive special limited edition pieces like the Rio 2016 mascots, welcomed around 1,000 visitors a day.

There were some fantastic houses but spread across all corners of the city. Some were simply in the wrong place and, with so much effort and investment, it would be doubtful that they can claim these as a success.

Maximise every opportunity

With the traveling world in one city and a nation transfixed, simply opening up your doors with a bar, a screen and the offer of free food does not make an event or cultural showcase.

Brands need to invest in engaging their guests through the creation of live and one-to-one experiences. Knowledge of who their intended audience is and what they want to do will ensure success. We spent a significant amount of time researching the perfect entertainment for guests. From culturally relevant capoeira martial arts dancing to samba-inspired music, the Team GB Clubhouse brought a touch of Rio to London during the Olympic weekends.

Inside the Team GB Clubhouse

Tell a story

Create a low maintenance experience using different types of content and experiences and ensure you have something for everyone (not a phrase I usually like using). People love to explore and learn.  

Standout activations

An activation that worked well was Asics fan zone, which we created in one of the top locations in Ipanema, the charming Jardim de Alah.

Originally a public square, we transformed the site into a multipurpose space with many simultaneous activations in its cultural programme, from yoga classes in the morning to live shows and DJs in the evening. The zone included a beach club with sushi bar and lounge areas with games screening, an open air gym, a wellness area and the main stage with a diverse range of performing artists. The activation had well over 25,000 people over the live Olympic days alone and will be continuing through until mid-September and the closing of the Paralympics. It epitomized the Carioca lifestyle and was one of ‘the’ places to be throughout the Games.

What didn't work so well?

The only thing I can say is don’t underestimate the impact of the weather. It was truly terrible on some days and Rio just closes down when it gets bad. So have a plan B just in case.

Tokyo 2020

Looking ahead, go get a venue as soon as possible but work with people that know the city. Tokyo is going to be one incredible show.

Rob Sharp is managing director of Pulse Group.

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