Bringing in audiences other places cannot reach

Using venues outside of their main purpose can attract new audiences, which means marketers can extend their brands reach through partnerships and sponsorships.

Natural History Museum

The excitement of the London 2012 Games may be fading for sport fans but the Olympic stadium will soon house music events Hard Rock Calling and the Wireless festival, which are moving from London’s Hyde Park. Line ups are to be announced, but last year’s acts included Bruce Springsteen, Paul Simon and Rihanna.

John Reid, president of concerts at Live Nation Europe, which will run the music events, says: “We are delighted to be staging music concerts at the London Olympics venue, which last year became a globally recognised site for outstanding performances, both in sport and music. In the coming weeks we will unveil the headline acts for the first Wireless and Hard Rock festivals to be staged in London’s new flagship venue.”

Reid adds: “Live Nation is building its international presence and our plans for the London Olympic venue signal our commitment to further European expansion.”

This is arguably the biggest change in the use of a venue in recent years and is part of a growing trend to make sure stadia, cinemas and other buildings are used outside of their main purpose. For example, from Friday, comedy fans will be able to watch live stand-up on the big screen, following a deal between cinema sales house DCM, Sony Digital Cinema and The Comedy Store.

This is DCM’s first distribution deal to broadcast alternative content in cinemas nationwide and will enable comedy fans to watch performances at 150 screens in the UK.

Alcopop WKD is supporting the partnership through promotional activity including social media competitions to win tickets to showings in local cinemas, enabling it to target particular groups of people.

“This great content from live music events, comedy, sports or opera can be opened up to a national audience through cinema,” says Joe Evea, commercial director at DCM. “You then attract footfall you might not have had before.”

It also means that WKD can reach people in several locations rather than sponsoring just one event in one venue. “WKD can also take over cinema foyers or auditoriums. It gives the brand something it can activate, either on-pack or in its own marketing, to give it a sense of ownership.”

Odeon also runs alternative live event content that draws in new audiences for its cinemas. It has shown live National Theatre productions, ballet, opera and music and sports events including boxing, rugby, football and the Wimbledon tennis championship in 3D.

“It’s a great way to use screens that are under-utilised,” says Drew Kaza, executive vice president digital development at Odeon. “It’s a win-win for us and for the provider of the content. If you speak to the National Theatre or Royal Opera House, they’ll tell you that this helps with their remit in reaching audiences around the UK.”

The cinema chain routinely sells out of National Theatre Live performances and Kaza believes these events are a great experience, potentially giving audiences a better view than at the theatre.

Initiatives such as these also enable brands to pursue hard-to-reach demographics. Kaza claims that these events are attracting lapsed cinema-goers: “In some cases, there are people who haven’t been to the cinema in 10 to 15 years and now we have them coming back four times a year to see opera with us.”

Brands can also further their overall strategy by getting consumers to question the use of a venue that they thought they knew. MasterCard is sponsoring an event at the Victoria & Albert museum next week which transforms a space into an ‘Arabian sanctuary’ that features a series of performances and workshops that tie in with the exhibition Light from the Middle East: New Photography.

This is part of MasterCard’s Priceless London series, which provides events exclusively to its cardholders. Paul Trueman, head of marketing UK and Ireland at MasterCard, says: “The key thing is tapping into what the facility can do that hasn’t been done previously. One of the things we try to do with the Priceless London programme is to say: do you know your city?

“Sometimes it is about what we create and sometimes it’s about pointing people to what is special about London and making the most of what already exists.”

Events less ordinary

MasterCard also works with the Natural History Museum and the Science Museum to ensure that after normal trading hours, its customers are allowed to explore parts of the museum that are not open to the general public as well as having access to talks from the museums’ curators.

The MasterCard events are an example of using a venue to its full potential by extending its everyday use and this is being taken further by others that are looking to use every aspect of a building.


The O2 arena in London’s Greenwich, for example, started life as the ill-fated Millennium Dome exhibition space. But along with music and performance shows, it now allows people to walk over its roof across a fabric walkway suspended 52m above the ground.

“We want to create a huge, diverse programme: everything from having the biggest artists in the world to bringing in cool sporting events,” says Jeremy King, communications director at The O2. “The market is definitely there and it’s all about evolving and creating a better offering so people have more choice.”

As well as music, the venue hosts live events including NBA basketball games and has been confirmed as the venue to hold the first Euroleague Basketball event. In April, the second London Sundance Film Festival will take place there after a successful inaugural year in 2012.

The O2 also works with creative agency Pd3 on activity around events, which is where brands could leverage their sponsorship. For example, O2 teamed up with Google to offer nine of its fans the chance to speak exclusively with Peter Andre backstage via Google+ Hangouts ahead of his gig; the live web-chat was the first of its kind at the venue.

That content was then hosted on The O2’s YouTube and social media channels, with Google also supporting the promotion through its distribution channels. Ten audience members were also given cameras, allowing them to record the show through their own perspective, and these were hosted on YouTube.

Other event organisers looking to make use of more unusual spaces include Secret Cinema, which offers viewers an immersive event by transforming venues into scenes from films. Attendees do not know which film they will see, but take part in different parts of the movie by wearing costumes or walking around a film ‘set’ before the movie is revealed.

For its latest event it used part of the Bethnal Green Library to recreate the court room in The Shawshank Redemption and transformed a school building in Hackney into prison conditions similar to the film.

Venues are evolving and adapting to become spaces that can hold a wide variety of live entertainment, extending their remit and drawing in new audiences. The opportunity for marketers to extend their brand’s reach through sponsored shows and partnerships with these venues is only as limited as their imaginations.

Case study: NFL Fan Rally at Trafalgar Square


As part of the American Football season the National Football League (NFL) holds the annual International Series at Wembley Stadium. It is the only competitive league game to be played outside of the US.

Experiential agency Ignite has handled the pre-game brand experience since 2010, which involved transforming Trafalgar Square into an all-American NFL Fan Rally. The 2012 Fan Rally featured live performances from artist Wretch 32 and Soul Symphony alongside performances by cheerleaders from both teams, appearances from NFL stars past and present, and the chance to engage fans with interactive games, merchandise and traditional American food.

Mark Killingley, marketing director of the NFL, says: “Having entertaining and engaging pre-match activity is vital to the ongoing success and popularity of the NFL International Series. The London game is always hugely popular, and fans come not only to see top-class American Football, but also to enjoy fan events that are part of the NFL experience.

“Using an iconic location such as Trafalgar Square presented us with the opportunity to mix the excitement of the NFL experience against the backdrop of a London landmark. Not only did the site provide space for existing fans, the central London location meant that we were able to promote the sport away from our activities at Wembley Stadium.”

Events in unusual places

Alicia Keys
Alicia Keys

RnB in a cathedral

As part of MTV Crashes Manchester, Grammy award-wining artist Alicia Keys played at MTV’s free, ticketed live music event, which was held at the iconic Manchester Cathedral in association with Manchester City Council last September.

Gigs in a taxi

The Black Cab Sessions are one-off live performances by artists, including musicians and poets, which take place in the back of a black cab. Once filmed, the video is made available online for audiences. Artists include The Flaming Lips, The Maccabees and Mumford and Sons.

A phone launch opposite MI6

To launch two different Nokia Lumia handsets the brand created two bespoke live events with Canadian DJ Deadmau5. The first event was a free-to-watch 4D projection show on London’s Millbank Tower set to music. A year later, an entire square in Southwark was rigged up for a private light and music show.

Golf on the roof

In summer 2012, Selfridges launched the Big Rooftop Tea and Golf Party as part of a series of events to celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and the London Olympics. The department store’s rooftop was transformed into a crazy golf course made up of nine holes representing London landmarks, and an organic cafe. It was reported that the first 1,000 tickets were sold in 10 minutes. The last time the building had a crazy golf course on its roof was in the 1930s.



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