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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