Marketing and communications professionals are taking advantage of cost-effective digital and social media tactics, such as livestreaming and contests, to help brands get the most out of events they produce or sponsor.
On Monday, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York livestreamed the red-carpet arrivals at its swanky Costume Institute Benefit for the first time. The Met, Vogue, and Amazon.com, the event's lead corporate sponsor, collaborated to produce the live stream.
For Amazon.com, livestreaming the arrival of stars such as Justin Timberlake and Sarah Jessica Parker to the event helped the company highlight its commitment to fashion, while boosting viewer interaction on Twitter.
“With everything we're doing in fashion – Amazon, ShopBop, MyHabit, Zappos – sponsorship of this exhibition and gala has been a great opportunity to demonstrate our commitment to the industry,” says Sally Fouts, senior PR manager at Amazon.
She adds that the online retailer's decision to livestream the event also allowed it “to bring our spirit of innovation to this stunning event.”
Hosted by Vogue editor William Norwich and fashion model Elettra Wiedemann, the streamed content included celebrity interviews as well as a behind-the-scenes look at the benefit. The hosts also picked questions suggested by viewers on Twitter using the hashtag #MetQuestions for their interviews.
LaForce + Stevens, a fashion-focused agency, also helped the Seattle-based company produce the event.
Agency executives say it is becoming standard practice for brands to extend the reach of their events via live streams, as well as social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. The video, photos, and text produced for streamed events also contribute to post-event coverage in traditional media outlets. The day after the Costume Institute Gala, The New York Times ran a front-page story about Amazon's foray into high fashion, while outlets such as Vanity Fair and GQ also covered the event.
However, Gemma Craven, EVP of Social@Ogilvy in New York, notes that brands should also leverage social media channels in the weeks before an event takes place. She recommends using event-sharing sites such as Eventbrite, Plancast, Lanyrd, and LinkedIn. Ogilvy PR has used Eventbrite for the BlogHer conference, for example, for event listing and ticket sales.
“You can drive buzz for an event by leveraging our natural desire to be where our friends are and where other people like us are,” adds Craven. “Event planning sites enable this, allowing users to share which events they are going to across their social graph. But this is a stage that can often be overlooked in event planning.”
At that point, PR resources should also be focused on social rather than earned media, agrees Adrienne Hayes, GM of Edelman's consumer practice in New York.
“With social media, you can hyper-target a more concentrated consumer audience to start,” she asserts, “but with earned media, you need to go to many media outlets to get the same concentration of audience.”
The strategy doesn't just apply to brands trying to reach fashion enthusiasts. To launch 2-in-1 shower gel and shampoo Sports Blast for client Axe, Edelman created an event on the eve of the NFL Draft pitting New York Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul and supermodel Kate Upton in a series of challenges, such as a football toss, a runway “walk-off,” and a table tennis match.
In the weeks before the launch, Axe reached out to its 3 million-plus fans on Facebook by asking them to come up with the challenges.
“We wanted to excite our fans early on,” says Christine Cea, director of brand communications for Unilever. “We also knew that by taking this approach that when we did provide photos, posts, and tweets about the challenges, there would be a higher level of interest among our customers because they're directly involved with them.”
Axe also used Twitter to send out an invitation two weeks before the New York event. The first 25 people to retweet the invite received guaranteed access.
Post-event, the event generated coverage in a number of traditional media outlets, including the New York Post, Marie Claire, and on Fox News.
“After you've conveyed a brand or product message, that's when you want to see the expression come through in social but, in particular, traditional media,” says Hayes. “That's where traditional earned media can create a lot of reverberation.”