These days it’s not uncommon for a child to play a team sport. It’s also not uncommon that they’re a fan of their hometown team(s). In my case, my 7 year-old son plays hockey and is a huge Blackhawks fan. He dreams about seeing the Blackhawks play at United Center: to be in the same place as his hockey heroes, to be near them, up close and personal. He watches games on TV but really just wants to be there and be a part of the experience.
Being in the live environment matters
That’s because nothing beats the live event - it’s an experience that’s unmatched. The live event isn’t programmed, scripted or predictable. It’s exciting. Everyone is in it together, from kids to grandparents and all in between. It’s a bonding experience – with people we’ve never met before but who are seated around us. They become our friends by sharing the same roller coaster thrill of victory and defeat. It’s about more than television can capture – the live event is about everything that surrounds the fan, from well before game day and for weeks, months or years after as the memory lives on.
The live event starts well before the puck drop or coin toss. The anticipation starts when tickets are purchased, and heightens as the stadium gates open. Lines of people eagerly wait to get inside the arenas - where greatness occurs. As fans we wait outside the stadium, surrounded by spectacular LED images of some of that night’s advertisers. Hordes of strangers become a community that experiences a once-in-a-lifetime event together.
The live event is more than a bonding experience for tens of thousands of fans. It’s a unique environment and one of the few places left where brands can create shared experiences with consumers that are otherwise difficult to reach. While at home we watch little TV (and skip commercials when we do), but at the game we sit attentively in our seats, captivated by our surroundings. The live event is amazing for fans, but it’s also where brands have more fun.
Fan engagement from pre-game to post-game
Case in point: we took my son to that Blackhawks game he dreamed of. While there as a family, not only did we see an amazing game on the ice, but also we took part in many branded experiences at the stadium.
Upon entering we were presented with Blackhawks co-branded aviator sunglasses courtesy of The PrivateBank. Talk about a photo opp!
Like most, we were at our seats well ahead of the puck drop to take in the pre-game entertainment. Many had their phones out to take pictures of their favorite players during warm-ups. Wrought with anticipation we met our section-mates, making friends with fellow fans – business people there to entertain clients, families there to bond, couples out for a date, and friends out for fun. Everyone’s state of mind was heightened due to the experience, thrilled to be in the arena. Together we trolled the video board waiting to see someone we knew, something funny, or even for our own faces to appear.
Many times the entire crowd was on their feet. We jumped and danced while high-fiving previous strangers. Other times we laughed in unison at the “kiss cam”. We watched larger-than-life advertisements as if we were in a movie theater. We engaged with many more brands during game breaks, watched their races and games on the video board, and cheered along with the rest of the crowd.
Our mobile phones were a big part of the night too. A few smart brands got in on that action, combining their video ads with mobile campaigns. We texted-to-win as part of a promotion for future game tickets. We took tons of photos, we checked in, and we posted hashtags on social media. We chatted and laughed with the new friends we made in our section about our favorite video board antics. We grew a deep appreciation for the brands that seemed to share our love of the team.
THE LIVE EVENT IMPACT GOES BEYOND THE GAME
The fun didn’t stop when the game ended. Of course, the fun never stops on social media so game day photos live on, Plus, we took home coupons to use at our local Dick’s Sporting Goods and scored half-price pizzas at Papa John’s later that week because the Blackhawks scored more than two goals that night. We have posters, photos and a hockey puck on display in our house from that night. It was a night we won’t forget, and the brands that were part of the night made an indelible mark on our experience.
It’s not to be forgotten that we were also there to watch a hockey game – and what an incredible game it was. The Blackhawks won it in the last minute, which of course made it a nail-biter. Regardless of the score, the brands that are part of the experience always come out ahead. The experience of a live event is so much more than a game. The live event is a special place that provides advertisers a most unique opportunity to connect with consumers. We are not being “sold to” at the live event; we welcome into our hearts the brands that care enough about our teams - and us as fans - to create and take part in our special moments.
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