Touring Events: Adding a competitive edge

Touring events with competitions are a growing part of many brands' marketing strategies, says Abigail Wills.

At the end of last year, communications agency Band and Brown was commissioned to devise an event that would build awareness of the new format BT Phone Book. Its solution was a touring event that took place in shopping malls across nine UK cities and culminated in Covent Garden Market in December.

So far it doesn't sound very different to the experiential marketing activity that takes place in shopping centres on a daily basis. But Living by the Book, as the campaign was titled, managed to capture the public's imagination through an unusual format and clever use of a competition device.

"The Phone Book has recently introduced classified listings, so now offers three services in one. We wanted to dramatise this and put it in the hands of regular users, who are between the ages of 25 and 40 and mostly women, so shopping centre audiences were perfect," explains Band and Brown head of events Mandy Sharp.

The agency linked up with a local radio station in each region and sourced two contestants willing to spend five days living in a perspex box in the shopping centre with just a telephone, Phone Book and the clothes they stood up in. They were then challenged by the public to conduct tasks and source everything they needed through the Phone Book.

Whoever the public decided had done the best job of living by the book got to keep what they had sourced and what remained of their £1,500 budget.

The five-day stunt also included a number of challenges that benefited local charities, such as sourcing a football strip for a youth team.

Sharp believes having the competitive element to the event worked for a number of reasons. "For events like this, it fits to try and add a challenge element," she explains. "We're always looking for ways to reach the wider audience. It makes it much more newsworthy to have two people pitting their wits against each other and it was a great local story because it involved local people and companies."

For an event where the priority is to raise awareness of a brand, there is no doubt the added media coverage a competition can generate is a plus point. Field marketing agency CPM new business director Tim Butterill also points out that it pays to make events more exciting. "If you're trying to make an event as experiential as possible, the build up and the competition makes it much more memorable," he says.

CPM worked with computer games specialist EA Sports, football body FIFA and Xbox on a touring event last year. The nine-week campaign to promote EA Sports' FIFA World Cup 05 game started in October and toured exhibition centres in eight cities worldwide, such as Johannesburg, Paris and Rio de Janeiro.

A knock-out competition saw regional winners go through to a final at FIFA's headquarters in Zurich on 18 December. The overall winner was awarded a trophy at the FIFA Player of the Year Awards, where he shared the stage with famous footballers such as Thierry Henry and Ronaldinho.

Geoff Howe Marketing Communications director Simon Marjoram agrees that competitions make for a successful way of sampling a new product. The agency has worked with brands such as Samsung and O2 on the rugby inspired Kick to Win tour, and Nintendo. "The trick with competitions is to get entertainment value in there. If it's passive it won't add anything to the experience of interacting with the brand. Things have evolved since giveaways and it is about enriching the experience," he says.

Nintendo's Konga Beach Road Trip took place last summer and toured 18 locations throughout the UK, including London Zoo and a number of Woolworths stores. Geoff Howe commissioned a 12m-long trailer, which it decked out as a Hawaiian beach bar, and hosted a Konga Bongo Battle tournament. Winners from the regional heats went on to a final at gaming event Game Stars Live at Excel in September.

"The format followed on from a similar event the previous year, which aimed to introduce younger children to new Pokemon characters," explains Marjoram. "We found that the best way to do this was to immerse them in the games but we also had to make sure it appealed to the mums and dads. We sent teams into the local communities the week before the event to target people at leisure centres and schools to alert them to the fact that it would be a fun summer holiday activity," he says.

Hosting a global or nationwide contest worked well for EA Sports and Nintendo but CPM's Butterill stresses that a touring competition will not suit every brand. "Competitions might not work as well for products such as coffee, for example, which is normally associated with relaxing," he explains.

The Works London creative director Josh Robinson adds: "If it's a computer game or sports brand, where competition is inherent to the brand values, there are instances where competitions as part of a touring event work, but it's not something every company should consider."

Robinson believes that one of the advantages of using a competition device at a touring event may be that it facilitates data capture. "If it's an interactive feature, a competition format with the promise of prizes acts as an incentive and people will be more willing to give their contact details," he explains.

This was the case at an event The Works London created for Tiger Beer, which saw 500 people attend a club night and kick-boxing contest held in an NCP car park in London. Guests were invited to predict the winner of the kick-boxing contest by filling in a betting slip with their details, in exchange for the chance to win a lifetime supply of beer.

But despite the need to make it easy for consumers to leave their contact details at an event, data capture should not be the sole reason for implementing a competition element to a touring event, cautions Robinson. "The event should be about reinforcing or changing a perception of a brand. There are more direct and cost-effective ways of getting consumer data and if you target the activity right in the first place you should always be able to gather data from the right people anyway," he says.

Robinson adds that it is important to ensure the competition element of an event does not outgrow the brand, removing the focus from the product itself. "It should be the brand that draws people in to the experience, rather than it being a case of 'Win a Ferrari and while you're here we'll tell you about our product.' An event should be cleverer than that. It should be about the brand adding value and a competition should be a subtext," he concludes.


Brand experience agency Closer chose a series of outdoor summer concerts in 2004 as venues to promote Unilever Bestfoods-owned Hellmann's Warm Chicken Salads.

It commissioned a fully-branded and equipped trailer that hosted demonstrations from qualified chefs on how to use the new two-in-one product. Promotional staff roamed the concert venue handing out leaflets with money-off coupons and entry forms for a prize draw.

"The campaign was a great success. Greeters and tannoy messages highlighted the prize draw and being able to win a prize on the night helped motivate participation," explains Hellmann's brand manager Clare Holliday.

The choice of a magnum of champagne as the prize was aimed to capture the celebratory mood of the concerts. "It was a relaxed environment and we deliberately didn't want to link the prize to the brand," says Closer managing director Karen Evans.

The competition element also provided Hellmann's with the opportunity to capture data from the audience. The prize-draw entry form included questions on consumer lifestyle and independent research was undertaken to assess the audience's response to the product before and after taking part in the sampling campaign, explains Evans.

Around 8% of the attendees who sampled the product at the concerts took part in the prize-draw, and in total some 60,000 people were targetted across the 15 events.

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