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Reimagining Live Events with the “Drive-In Experience”


Companies are adapting to a social-distanced world by taking a retro experience and reinventing it for a new generation. 

As the U.S. heads into the fall and COVID-19 guidelines tighten, social distancing has kept the experiential marketing landscape virtual, rather than physical. But, brands and agencies have taken a popular pastime of a bygone era and brought it back into the mainstream: “the drive-in experience.”

With the interactiveness of traditional live events, combined with the necessary precautions to help keep people safe, drive-in experiences have been reinvented to create memorable moments for a new generation.

Drive-In Experience

Drive-Ins Assist The Return of Live Sports 

More than four months after being shuttered amid the COVID-19 pandemic, professional sports have started to return. Yet, a growing wave of infections in states where teams are slated to practice and play, as well players themselves, has put public plans for some pro-sports leagues on hold. 

As the sports world continues to navigate the uncharted waters of adapting public spectator events to a world where “keeping six-feet apart” is currently the norm, one professional league has utilized drive-ins as a social distancing-friendly experiential marketing tool.

Last June, to kick off the Credit Bank One Invitational in Charleston, S.C., tournament sponsor Tennis Channel hosted its first live, drive-in viewing event. In partnership with a Charleston-area theater, guests (and their cars) were invited to attend the pop-up activation. 

Prior to the drive-in, Tennis Channel put out a call-to-action on social media to local residents to RSVP for free on a first-come, first-serve basis. Tennis fans who gained entry to the event were treated to complimentary snacks, beverages, and even branded swag.

Live Sports Drive In Experience

By using the #CreditOneBankInvitational to boost mentions and awareness, Tennis Channel measured the pop-up’s success based on social and earned media coverage.

According to Neil Roberts, Executive Director of Marketing for Tennis Channel, the goal of hosting a live drive-in experience was to offer an alternative way for tennis fans to comfortably (and safely) watch the sport they love. 

“The drive-in experience put like-minded fans in a group setting that was almost as good as being in the stadium.”

Drive-Ins Rock the Live Music Experience

In terms of live events, probably the one that most people miss the most is the “live concert,” the most social of summertime events. Last month, U.S. events promoter Live Nation recreated the experience for current times with it’s first-ever drive-in concert experience, “Live From the Drive-In.” 

With nine shows over the course of three nights in Nashville, St. Louis, and Indianapolis, attendees were treated to performances by Brad Paisley, Nelly, Darius Rucker, and others from the comfort of their cars stationed in private, individual “tailgating zones,” which equaled the size of about a two-car garage, ensuring social distancing measures. 

With nine shows over the course of three nights in Nashville, St. Louis, and Indianapolis, attendees were treated to performances by Brad Paisley, Nelly, Darius Rucker, and others from the comfort of their cars stationed in private, individual “tailgating zones,” which equaled the size of about a two-car garage, ensuring social distancing measures. 

In an effort to truly capture the thrill of the live music experience, the shows were broadcast on theater-style LED screens and speakers. 

Tom See, President of Live Nation Venues – US Concerts, noted that drive-ins are a great way to bring people together, safely and responsibly. “Around the world, we’re seeing a real eagerness from our fans and artists to safely get back to the concert experience,” he said. “Our ultimate goal is to connect fans with artists to create those lasting memories, and we have teams around the world exploring unique ways to make that happen.” 

Taking Drive-Ins “Beyond the Sea”

As the throwback tradition of drive-in experiences maintain their resurgence in popularity, there are companies looking at new ways to take them even further. 

Australian entertainment and event company, Beyond Cinema revealed plans for an “aquatic movie watching” experience starting next month. Creating a floating cinema docked along the waters across 16 U.S. cities, Beyond Cinema has opened the drive-in experience to an entirely new audience.

Drive-in Movie on the Water

And, you don’t need to bring your own schooner in order to participate. By renting a mini-boat that ensures maximum distance, anyone can enjoy a late-summer evening movie right on the water.  

The company says they’ll offer a mix of classic films and new releases, announcing titles when tickets go on sale. Plus, popcorn is free for all attendees, with other snacks and drinks available for purchase. 

Drive-In Experiences Create Connections in Uncertain Times

Experiential marketing that works best is built on in-person events. In 2020, “virtual” has dominated our lexicon and our societal consciousness, but nothing compares to experiences that take consumers on a personal journey. 

That emotional connection and communication is what fosters successful brand engagement. With the reemergence of drive-ins, companies have taken an activity that reached its zenith in popularity over a half-century ago and reimagined it for the 21st century. 

Executing successful live experiences as our world continues to navigate the restrictions of COVID-19 is no easy task. But, as drive-ins show us, it’s not impossible and they have the ability to take experiential marketing to new and creative heights.

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Experiences Without Borders: The Rise of Virtual Events

Experiential Marketing

With COVID-19 affecting our face-to-face interactions, virtual events have become the new way to execute experiential marketing events. Check out how you can implement well-executed virtual events into your brand’s marketing strategy. 

As the world continues to deal with impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, most of this year’s mass-gatherings have been cancelled, leaving brands searching for a scaled-down alternative to large-scale experiential marketing campaigns.

Fortunately, modern technology has made it possible to host stunning virtual events that rival even many face-to-face activations. 

Let’s take a look at what virtual events are, why they’re worth your time, and how you can take in-person sensibilities and apply them to the digital world.  

Virtual Reality


Rethinking the Value of Face-to-Face Interactions

In the age of coronavirus, brands and agencies have had to rethink entire marketing strategies, devoid of the in-person interactions that are a cornerstone of experiential marketing campaigns leveraging one, some, or all five senses. 

But, today it’s COVID-19. Tomorrow, it could be something else. Crises have always forced marketers to think outside-the-box, and whether it’s a venue cancellation or a public health emergency, necessity is the mother of invention. 

Virtual events, also known as “online events,” are interactive gatherings that are liberated from the constraints of a single, brick-and-mortar location. While some events are completely virtual, with participants attending from locations convenient to them, other virtual events combine both in-person and virtual elements, also known as “hybrid events.”

According to virtual events platform 6Connex, the overall industry has increased an astonishing 1,000% since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic led to global shelter-in-place/stay-at-home and social distancing guidelines. 

However you choose to host your virtual event, it’s more than simply plugging in your computer. While it’s impossible to predict every obstacle, having a defined roadmap with clear objectives can help you accomplish your goals and host a successful virtual event. 

1 What is your brand trying to accomplish?

2 Who is your target audience?

3 What is the “key messaging” you want to convey?

4 What do you want attendees to take away from your virtual event?

5 What are your goals and/or KPIs that will measure the event’s success?

When you can answer these questions, you can unlock the power to reach people on a global scale, right where they are.

Zoom Meeting


Why Virtual Events are Valuable to Your Brand

In 2020, there are numerous ways to execute a virtual event. From “on-demand” and “broadcast,” to “augmented reality” (AR) and “virtual reality” (VR), brands have the ability to tap into innovative technologies that engage with audiences on a level on-par with, or even superior to, face-to-face events. But, it’s your job to focus on the type of virtual experience you feel will best serve your needs. 

So, now you know about all of the technical wizardry you can bring to the table for your virtual event, but you may be wondering why they’re valuable to add to your experiential marketing strategy. 

For one, virtual events allow brands to reach a wide audience. With virtual events, travel isn’t an issue to think about and they’re also more cost effective, without the big budgets associated with booking large venues and hiring temporary event staff. Plus, those lower costs can translate to savings for virtual attendees with reduced ticket prices. 

Virtual Events Experiential Marketing

Another benefit of virtual events is that they’re easily measurable in almost real-time. Depending on the goals and KPIs you’ve set for your event, you can quickly find out how many attendees there were, how they paid for their tickets, which parts of your event were most popular, and more.

With the ability to track, analyze, and measure your virtual event, your brand can utilize those metrics to better strengthen and position your event strategy. 


Make the Most of Your Virtual Event

In our socially distant world, virtual events are thriving. In April alone, video conference company Zoom saw a 30-fold increase in usage of its software with a peak of 300 million daily participants in virtual meetings. 

But, the question remains “what can brands do to produce high-quality virtual events filled with meaningful interactions and engaging content”? While there are various ways to ensure your virtual event is a success, there are a handful of “best practices” you should always keep in mind.

1 Have a game plan that fits your brand’s needs and goals. Every event should start with a well-defined vision with measurable goals to track your success.

2 Make sure the time is right. Virtual events are global events. So, aside from making sure there aren’t competing events or holidays you may not be familiar with, take time zones that work for your attendees into consideration as well. Depending on the scope of your event’s reach, you may want to plan for multiple sessions across several time zones and/or make content accessible after live sessions for those who couldn’t make it.

3 Prepare for “technical difficulties.” If you’ve ever been part of a video conference or webinar, you know how technical glitches can negatively impact the flow and presentation of a virtual event. Have you and your participants tested WiFi connections? Do you have backup files of visuals and PowerPoints? Have you performed a dry-run of your virtual event to make sure less tech-savvy participants are well-prepared? The sooner you can anticipate problems, the sooner you can create solutions for them.

4 Make your event engaging. Without face-to-face interactions and connections, it’s fairly easy for a virtual event to come across as “cold” and “distant.” When you create more opportunities for engagement, your audience is more compelled to participate. From Q&As and shoutouts, to polls and asking for feedback, your event has a higher chance of getting people to tune-in when they feel the event is inclusive and participatory.


Remove Barriers and Reach More People with Virtual Events 

If your brand has never hosted a virtual event, the challenge may seem daunting. But, when done right, your brand has the ability to cast a wide net and reach more people on a global scale. And, all while following social distancing guidelines and government regulations.  

As long as you have a detailed plan with measurable goals and your attendees wants/needs in mind, coupled with the resources to ensure your event goes off without a hitch, and innovative activities to keep your audience thoroughly engaged, hosting a virtual event can provide your brand with exceptional results.

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How Brands are Supporting Social Issues with Cause Marketing


In an era of social responsibility, consumers want brands to show their support for causes they believe in. Find out how cause marketing can help show what you stand for and help make a difference. 

As always in society, younger generations take a lot of heat when their social consciousness aligns with their spending habits, creating a disruption across the consumer landscape. 

But, these perpetual progressions are eternal and unavoidable. No matter the generation.  

This presents brands with a unique opportunity to highlight not only who they are, but what they believe in. And, “cause marketing” has allowed brands to evolve, creating experiential campaigns that are more consumer-centric and event-based around issues making headlines today. 

Let’s take a look at a few powerful campaigns brands employed to both advocate for and actively support important causes, leading by example and driving change.

cause marketing zara pride


Take “Pride” in What You Do

The best trends in cause marketing utilize the most successful tricks in the experiential marketing playbook, which makes sense. If you want your brand to have a real-world impact, it only makes sense to bring your campaign out into the real world and directly to the people. 

Commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, largely credited as being the seminal moment leading to the modern fight for LGBTQ rights in the U.S., last year’s global Pride celebration was held in New York, where the movement started. 

Global apparel retailer Zara and JustWater (founded by Jaden Smith) wanted to take part in this historic milestone and show their pride in a memorable way. 

With a three-sided glass truck customized into a 3D Pride flag utilizing 9,000 colorful bottles of JustWater, Zara strategically stationed their pop-up right at the heart of the festivities. 

And, to keep attendees cool and hydrated over the course of a hot June weekend, Zara’s field marketing team provided parade-goers with a rainbow selection of complimentary JustWater flavors.

This bold and colorful cause marketing campaign not only garnered Zara over one million impressions on social media worldwide (as people used the global trending #PrideLove to tag their photos with Zara’s rainbow truck), but also showcased Zara’s commitment to and support for the LGBTQ community. 


In 2012, when Kentucky-based distillery Jefferson’s Bourbon partnered with marine/oceanic conservation non-profit OCEARCH, you’d be forgiven for scratching your head to figure out what would bring these two unlikely forces together. 

Well, the idea originated using the science of aging whiskey. Constant movement in its barrel matures whiskey faster since it’s in direct contact with the wood more often. So, Jefferson’s Bourbon strapped a handful of its barrels and hitched a ride aboard OCEARCH’s 126-ft. research vessel and mobile lab to find out how a voyage across the seven seas would impact the flavor of their product. 

Turns out, the oceanic expedition resulted in a darker and more complex whiskey and, as a result, Jefferson’s Bourbon now has a line of Jefferson’s Ocean bourbon.

Jefferson's Ocean Cause Marketing

With a portion of all proceeds going directly to OCEARCH, the non-profit has been able to expand its operations with more research vessels stopping at 30 different ports on five continents. 

Four barrels of Jefferson’s Bourbon now embark on seasonal expeditions (for a total of 180 barrels annually) as OCEARCH collects important scientific data on the ecology and behavior of the world’s oceanic marine life.


Ben & Jerry’s may be one of the most popular ice cream brands in the U.S., but you could also say the Vermont-based company is a pioneer of cause marketing. With outspoken support on issues of the day like voting rights, LGBTQ equality, and Climate Change, Ben & Jerry’s is almost as well-known for their activism as they are for the catchy names of their ice cream flavors. 

As rallies are being held around the world advocating for racial equality, the issue has been an important one to Ben & Jerry’s for years. 

Just last fall, a limited-edition flavor called “Justice ReMix’d” was released as part of a national campaign with the Advancement Project National Office to help reform the U.S. criminal justice system. 

Along with portions of sales from “Justice ReMix’d” going to the Advancement Project National Office, Ben & Jerry’s also organized educational events and gatherings around the country to raise awareness. 

And, with nearly half a million visitors to their factory in Waterbury, Vermont, Ben & Jerry’s also teamed up with Art For Justice, which funds artists who’ve been previously incarcerated for an installation at Ben & Jerry’s headquarters exhibiting their work.


Everyone believes in something, and that goes for brands as well. Whether it be animal rights, poverty and homelessness, or online bullying, consumers have become more and more aware of the world around them and many want to make a difference. With the resources and man-power at brands’ disposal, customers almost expect the companies they know and love to stand for something. 

By aligning your goals with your audience’s beliefs, cause marketing is not just an opportunity to show the world who you are, but to help make it a better place. 

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