Music festival layout design

The Most Clever Brand Activations at Events

Looking for new and creative ways to have the best brand activations at events? Explore inspiring brand activation examples from leading brands at some of the world’s biggest events. Learn what they did, why it worked, and how you can make it your own. Then, review the main takeaways from each idea to help you come up with the most effective brand activations possible for your company or clients. 

Discover 13 of the best brand activations at events 

Get new ideas for your own brand activations at events with these 13 creative suggestions. Discover real suggestions based on the work of award-winning marketing teams from a variety of events such as CES, Coachella, and Marcom. Learn more about why each idea is effective and how to personalize it for your unique audience. And finally, leave with actionable takeaways you can directly apply to your own marketing efforts. 

1. Raise money for charity. 

Take a page from State Farm’s Neighborhood of Good and set up your own mini-festival with games and experiences that raise money for a compatible nonprofit. Their activities included music education for children which directly ties back into their charity, Notes for Notes. 

Make it your own: Find the intersection between your company’s values and the main event theme to select the best possible charity. Then, create experiences that bring it all together. 

Main takeaway: The best brand activations at events aren’t just about your company – consider how you can make a difference in the world and get your name out there at the same time. 

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2. Form strategic partnerships

Learn from this collaboration between truth and BIGS Sunflower Seeds at Vans Warped Tour and other events their target demographic frequent. The clever campaign against smoking involved passing out sunflower seeds, a snack known to help prevent or substitute tobacco product usage among teens. 

Make it your own: Consider what non-competitor brands can help solve a problem for your audience and team up to create a unique event experience or hand out free product. 

Main takeaway: Partnering up with another company to do brand activations at events can help ease the burden of hosting and expenses while also providing a memorable connection between fans of their brand and yours. 

3. Design a pop-up shop with a twist. 

Draw inspiration from the Dolls Kill Quickie Mart at Coachella which specifically catered to online shoppers and discouraged browsing in an on-brand way. Their unexpected take on a classic retail experience helped them stand out from the many competing festival vendors. 

Make it your own: Surprise event attendees with out-of-the-box messaging, shop design, or concept ideas. 

Main takeaway: Visualize what your audience has come to expect from typical experiences like yours then flip those ideas on their head to truly shine. 

4. Host an event kick-off party. 

Consider this example from Adidas as you plan your next brand activation. Their BBQ & basketball event featured tasty food, special guest performances, and a glittering pool that all set the tone for the rest of Weekend One at Coachella. 

Make it your own: Personalize this experience with food that represents your company’s home town and guests that your attendees will recognize from your own digital content. Or host featured speakers who are not presenting at the main event but go well with the overall theme. 

Main takeaway: Find out what excites event attendees about the main event, then use that as to base your own get-together on in the hours or days before it begins. 

5. Start a branded coffee shop. 

Cozy up with event attendees like Facebook did at their CES brand activation featuring cafe style tables and a fully functional coffee shop. Not only did it give attendees a reprieve from the long cafeteria lines in the main hall, but it also gave them space to chill out guilt-free between events.   

Make it your own: Serve venue, event, or weather-appropriate refreshments such as lemonade or Pepsi as one of your brand activations at events. 

Main takeaway: Connect with your audience on a personal level through a simple experience they are sure to value within the context of their immediate surroundings. 

6. Design immersive booths. 

Create an unforgettable moment for event attendees with an immersive booth like the one the Star Trek Universe did at San Diego Comic-Con. Fans of the show were able to feel as if they’ve stepped inside the real spaceship. 

Make it your own: Even if you aren’t marketing a tv show, there are lots of ways to help get your fans up close and personal with their favorite elements of your product. For example, if your brand eases work stress, set up a mini spa experience for attendees. Or, if your client has an interesting cultural back story, bring a piece of that country to life within your booth design through music and food. 

Main takeaway: Find what makes your brand exciting for event attendees – especially within the context of the main event – and design your booth around it. 

7. Add off-site experiences. 

Copy HBO’s The Watchmen and host brand activations that appear in surprising areas outside of the main event space. Their mysterious telephone booths popped up all around San Diego during Comic-Con, offering coveted TARDIS photo opportunities and collectible pins handed out by brand ambassadors nearby. 

Make it your own: Take to the streets with guerilla marketing that plays off one of the more fun aspects of your main event booth. Create photo opportunities, hand out exclusive swag, or run “minute to win it” challenges with cool prizes. 

Main takeaway: Find a way to add value to event-goers, locals, and even those who couldn’t buy tickets to the main event with a mini experience you know they will love. 

8. Appeal to all five senses.

Play with audiences in fun A.S.M.R. booths just like Marriott’s Moxy did for their brand activation using relaxing scents, curious textures, eye-popping visuals, soothing sounds, and tasty treats.  

Make it your own: Consider the full scope of what you’d like your audience to experience as they enjoy your brand activation and check off each of the five senses with items that uniquely portray your company or clients. For example, Moxy served freshly baked pizzas and held onsite audio and visual performances by beauty moguls such as Bella Thorne, which perfectly encapsulated the vibe of their Millennial-friendly hotels. 

Also, get even more inspiration from abstract versions of this trend with Cadbury’s brilliant multisensory experience, which used bubble wrap floors to share how satisfying their treats taste. 

Main takeaway: Connect with your audience on every sensory level to appeal to more folks, communicate your uniqueness, and leave a lasting impression on attendees.   

Guide: How to Create an Event Planning Checklist

9. Join events for unexpected industries. 

Follow the lead of snack brand Cheetos and consider hosting brand activations at events where your audience wouldn’t expect to see you, just like they did at New York Fashion Week. Cheetos’ House of Flamin’ Haute hosted a runway show and beauty experience for the world’s most elite fashionistas. 

Make it your own: Dig deep into the interests of your target audience and use that as a base for your brand activation strategy. 

Main takeaway: Seek out popular events where you know most of your competitors won’t think to join but your target audience will attend. 

10. Highlight individual product features. 

Learn from the success of the Mercedes Benz brand and feature individual product releases in your brand activations at events. They debuted their new voice assistant technology at CES using shrinkwrapped vehicles that displayed the hashtag “UltimateMobileDevice” to highlight their new branding as a leader in the technology and user experiences spaces.   

Make it your own: Use highly visual marketing tools such as your trade show booth design, car wraps, or even bench ads to capture attention. Then keep it with a clever hashtag that redefines what your new product or brand refresh is all about. 

Main takeaway: Try to craft a laser-focused campaign message and pair it with a strong image for your own brand activations at events. 

11. Run a food truck. 

Open your mind to the possibilities of hosting a food truck even if your company doesn’t create edible products. That’s what Google did with their donut truck tour in London to promote their AI device which, not so coincidentally, looks just like the sugary treat. 

Make it your own: Brainstorm what food or beverage your brand: looks like, pairs well with, or should be enjoyed alongside. Then serve that to event attendees to refresh and delight them. 

Main takeaway: Remember that food is always a great way to connect with people on a personal level, especially if it helps communicate something memorable about your brand or product. 

12. Start a night or day club. 

Become an unofficial event co-host like Budweiser did when they started their Country Club at the Stagecoach music festival. Their on-site barn hosted country music celebrities and served country cuisine prepared by famous chefs, among many other themed activities. 

Make it your own: Keep in mind that themed clubs come in all shapes and sizes – even if you can’t construct a mini-festival as Budweiser did, you can come up with a side event that involves dancing and music your audience will love, even if you simply use a Spotify playlist. 

Main takeaway: Create an on-brand space where attendees can let loose and have fun to help boost your brand activations at events. 

13. Fill a need for attendees. 

See an event need that the host isn’t fulfilling? Follow H2O+ Beauty’s lead and provide it for attendees. The brand provided a hydration themed oasis for event-goers at a secluded desert music festival with plenty of sunscreen, frozen treats, and water-based activities to keep them all from overheating. 

Make it your own: Take a closer look at how your brand activations at events can help attendees deal with local weather, transportation, food, or any other basic need they may have. 

Main takeaway: Assist event hosts with brand activations that cover missed opportunities to make guests feel more comfortable. 

Supercharge your brand activations at events

Now you know more than a dozen examples of the best brand activations at events and how to personalize it for your audience. You also have some key takeaways that you can directly apply to any of your brand activations in the future. Next up: check even more great event marketing examples if you need a little additional inspiration. Or, learn about the latest corporate trends in event planning that can help drive ROI at your brand activations. 

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