Football Tailgating Event Strategies That Tackle Fan Engagement

There are few fan bases as passionate as football buffs, whether it’s at the professional or college level. Luckily, for event marketers, there’s an easy way to access the demographic: the tailgating scene. With the right strategy, brands can organically insert themselves into the conversation, and more importantly, connect with fans on a major passion point. Ready to tackle fan engagement? The following football tailgating event strategies will help you score.


Football tests players’ physical and mental agility, so to engage fans along its 13-school Players Academy tailgating tour, GEICO gives attendees a taste of what it takes to become a college football athlete through interactive challenges. Participants first swap their contact info for RFID bands, then proceed to the first challenge where they create an animated GIF that serves as a digital souvenir. Next, a quiz tests fans’ knowledge of the featured university’s football program while simultaneously providing information on GEICO’s insurance offerings.

At the third station, fans engage in a quarterback toss game. At the final stop, participants take on AT&T’s It Can Wait texting and driving virtual reality experience. The experience as a whole is designed to encourage consumers to earn a “4.0 GPA” by completing each of the four tasks, adding a competitive aspect to the activation that resonates with fans. Football tailgating event strategies that combine education AND interactive features?



We’re all well-acquainted with the concept of tailgating, but have you ever heard of “sailgating?” It’s the University of Washington football fans’ way of revving up for a game, but it doesn’t take place in the parking lot outside the stadium. Just like the name implies, sailgating takes place on the water in Seattle’s Husky Harbor. To get in on the action and meet fans where they are, Wendy’s builds a 130-foot-long restaurant on a barge and sails it into the harbor with the help of a tugboat. Sailgaters can dock their boats outside the floating eatery and pick up spicy nuggets, burgers and Frosties to fuel them up before the big game. For those who don’t want to lose their prime location on the water, Wendy’s also offers a delivery service on branded search-and-rescue boats, living up to its “We Got You” slogan. Football tailgating event strategies with food taking center stage? Pass the fries please!

With a sponsorship presence in both the NFL and at the college level, Pepsi dreams up a multi-city tailgating tour that engages both fan bases. Touchpoints include classic tailgating games, like giant Jenga and cornhole, as well as free food and plenty of cold Pepsi products to crack open. The brand also teams up with country duo Locash, who perform at each of the tour events. And to keep those uninterested in country music engaged, Pepsi offers meet-and-greets with football alumni, team mascots and cheerleaders.

“We know tailgating is a big thing with football,” says Melissa Duhaime, senior marketing manager at Pepsi Sports. “So to bring that to the next level and bring the game closer to fans through the alumni and cheerleaders and the music tie-in is really a great way to elevate that experience for fans.”

Football tailgating event strategies truly elevate the experience? That’s what we live for!


Bud Light has long been associated with football tailgating strategies and experiences for both NFL and college teams. The brand ups the ante for Miami Dolphins fans with a Bud Light Backyard tailgating experience within Hard Rock Stadium’s South Plaza. The activation footprint includes a grand entryway, a rustic tiny house, live music, a larger-than-life bottle installation, a photo op, games like cornhole and picnic table setups where attendees can sip on Bud Light, Bud Light Lime and Bud Light Orange for $2 a pop.


Box wine brand Bota Box owns the tailgating scene by combining two Sunday favorites, brunch and football, to deliver the Bota Brunchgating experience. The brand partners with Jeremy Jacobowitz of ‘The Brunch Boys' to host a Brunchgating pop-up in New York City. The event features an elevated brunch menu that includes recipes and wine pairings dreamed up by The Brunch Boys, classic tailgating games, a photo op and plenty of wine.

Adding a charitable component, Bota Box gives attendees pink foam pinkies to raise for their teams—and breast cancer awareness (the brand also donated $10,000 to the cause). Football tailgating event strategies for a good cause? Yes!

Tailgaters are already primed and ready for an experience (the game). As a result, brands who activate for the demo are tapping into an attendee base that is generally ready and willing to engage—all it takes to succeed from there is a compelling strategy and a winning attitude.

Check out brand activations designed and produced by Sparks.

Posted by Dyan Cornacchio | Request as a Speaker

Social media and creative writing connoisseur. Obsessed with my golden retriever, pop culture, and pizza. Nothing makes me happier than being home on LI, relaxing at the beach with my family.