Located in the five Old Vic Tunnels under Waterloo Station, House of Vans plays host to the only indoor skate park in London, as well as a cinema, music venue, art gallery and bars and restaurants. There is also studio space that young artists can use for free to create a project then see it exhibited in the gallery.
Everything at House of Vans is free to attend, although available on a first come first served basis. The idea, marketing vice president Jeremy de Maillard tells Marketing Week, is to make the space feel like a “house where everyone is welcome”.
He highlights that this is not a short-term project, with Vans leasing the space for five years with the aim of integrating its brand into the local community. Vans will be supporting three local charities as part of the project and investing in the local skateboarding and creative scenes.
“We want this to be a stepping stone for artists and creatives in London. This is a way of showcasing the brand experience – we want to be synonymous with creativity,” de Maillard says.
There are no Vans products for sale at House of Vans, although there is a museum showcasing some of the brands iconic products. De Maillard says the aim is not to sell but to immerse people in the Vans brand and make them feel part of the “Vans family”.
He hopes that by making this investment the brand will experience a boost in brand equity, loyalty and increased purchase consideration and transactions.
It will be launching a membership programme that gives subscribers advantages such as priority for gig tickets and skateboarding sessions. For the most loyal, there are plans to offer “VIP” events such as a private session in the skate park with some of the big names in skateboarding.
Vans will not charge for the scheme itself but will require members to donate what they can afford to its charity partners.
It is also extending the project into the digital world with the aim of reaching a further 1 million people that might not be able to attend the space in person. The whole place is wired with HD cameras and Vans is planning live web casts of big events that will be shared on a dedicated House of Vans London website, as well as on social media.
There is also free Wi-Fi throughout the space so visitors can share their experiences on social media.
“We are trying to mix the digital and physical worlds. The consumer today is on their phone the whole time but we believe there is still a strong need for physical experiences and the more the world becomes digital the more meaningful and impactful those true authentic physical experiences become,” says de Maillard.
London is the second House of Vans project to go live, with the first opening in Brooklyn in 2010. It opens to the public tomorrow (9 August) and will be open five days a week.