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Reimagining Live Events with the “Drive-In Experience”

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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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