By Anne Field
The Fourth of July was a major extravaganza in Las Vegas. Along with a coordinated fireworks display from the rooftops of seven casinos, singer Miley Cyrus performed at the just-opened $4.3 billion Resorts World, while a 100,000-square-foot exterior screen broadcast the show to the throngs of fans outside the hotel. That was in addition to a five-day music festival throughout the holiday weekend, featuring 14 various performers, while Bruno Mars performed at Park MGM.
Behind the hoopla: a multifaceted campaign promoting the events, called “Live in Vegas,” which launched June 7 and runs through the end of the year. The promotions, including videos, tweets, and radio spots, are designed to spread the word about the return of large-scale, in-person, over-the-top entertainment in Sin City.
“Las Vegas is the entertainment capital of the world,” says H. Fletch Brunelle, VP of marketing and sales at the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. “And we’re announcing that we’re back.”
As pandemic restrictions loosen, marketers and brands are introducing a slew of ad campaigns touting the return of in-person events, even as the Delta variant is causing a surge in coronavirus cases. But marketers, betting that people will adhere to national and local safety guidelines, are keeping their messages focused on the excitement of attending live events.
It’s been a challenge to strike the right tone. “We have to be mindful of whether the fans are ready to come back and what they’re comfortable with,” says David Bruce, SVP brand and integrated marketing at Major League Soccer (MLS).
Nuance Is Key
While the goal of most campaigns promoting in-person events is to broadcast the message that a locality is open again for business, there are nuances, depending on the region.
NYC & Company, the official destination marketing organization and convention and visitors bureau for the five boroughs of New York City, is running a three-pronged, $30 million ad campaign called “It’s Time for New York City.” It’s the largest-ever, multiphased global tourism marketing and advertising effort to promote New York City.
The first phase targets regional tourists and features TV spots and online ads emphasizing the city’s vibrancy. The second phase of the campaign homes in on domestic markets, conveying a sense of excitement about the fall season and spotlighting the return of Broadway and other events. The third phase, catering to international travelers, will emphasize the wonders of spending the holiday season in New York City.
While not focusing on one-off events, “we’re demonstrating that a lot of wonderful things are happening in the city right now,” says Nancy Mammana, CMO at NYC & Company.
Marketers are paying close heed to local sentiment to help inform their messaging. When the pandemic first hit the U.S. in March 2020, Brunelle ramped up the monitoring of domestic travel and use of online focus groups, increasing the number of participants and frequency of analysis, “to understand what was going on in their lives,” he says.
Brunelle used that information as a guide, so when he learned earlier this year that people were ready to get back into the swing of things he decided the time was ripe to put the message out.
The Live in Vegas campaign was also complemented by a spot on broadcast and social media called “Boom Boom Clap,” featuring a woman dancing with a group of her friends along the Las Vegas Strip. That ad was a sharp contrast from “The Dance,” a promotion held earlier in the year showing a lone couple dancing in perpetually changing outfits.
In a similar vein, research into soccer fans along with the use of syndicated research into consumer perceptions led MLS to focus its messaging on the sense of belonging that rooting for a beloved team, surrounded by thousands of like-minded fans, provides.
The insights uncovered resulted in a fully integrated ad campaign titled “Our Soccer,” showing how fans miss out by not attending live games. “There’s more of a joyful tone,” MLS’s Bruce says. The league is hosting a week-long series of soccer celebrations in August in Los Angeles, headlined by an MLS All-Star Game between MLS and Liga MX All-Stars.
To stay apprised of fan perceptions, MLS also bolstered its intraclub communication. For example, regular calls among the league’s 27 teams, involving more than 100 people, increased. Teams also used a Slack channel to communicate in between those calls. “You can’t communicate enough in this environment,” Bruce says.
Such insights are also essential elements in contingency planning. Keeping a finger on the pulse of consumer sentiments, as well as changes in regulations, is vital. “As marketers, you have to be constantly on your toes,” Bruce adds. “With things changing so quickly, if you’re able to listen, you can easily flex and change.”
No- and Low-Touch Experiences
As traffic at live events increases, marketers plan to boost their out-of-home (OOH) ad spending, which is primed for a comeback.
Clear Channel Outdoor uses an analytics platform to ensure the ads it places for brands are in locations most likely to be seen by the desired audience segments.
For example, using anonymized, aggregated location data, the analytics system helps Clear Channel promote entertainment properties like streaming video services, theme parks, and live events by identifying billboards more likely to reach consumers who use streaming entertainment apps or who have visited attractions in the past.
To appeal to consumers who may still be reluctant to indulge too heavily in physical interactions, some sports marketers are adding immersive no- and low-touch experiences.
For instance, to promote American Family Insurance, a sponsor of soccer team Atlanta United, sports marketing firm rEvolution installed an experiential footprint where fans could take pictures at Mercedes-Benz Stadium — where the United home games take place — along with a kiosk with which they could scan a QR code to download or view additional content.
“There are multiple ways to engage without physically touching,” says Brian Quarles, chief creative officer at rEvolution.
The agency is taking digital and other marketing messages that were used during the height of the pandemic and repurposing them for the current environment.
For instance, Farmer John, a sponsor of the Los Angeles Football Club (LAFC), ran a promotional campaign in 2020 called “La Familia” supporting local community organizations. It’s now inviting some of those groups to Banc of California Stadium, where the LAFC play, to be recognized during live games this season.
“We’re elevating the experience of being in-person at a game, while still using digital storytelling content,” says Dan Lobring, VP of marketing communications at rEvolution. “We have a great many tools at our disposal.”