The power of shared experiences is undeniable, and while there are myriad ways to design events around the concept, communal watch parties are leading the way for many event marketers. And with good reason—watch parties offer brands the opportunity to tap into consumers’ passion points, alleviate their pain points (like the lack of time or resources to attend an event in person) and even engage new demographics. Done right, the watch parties are just as engaging as the live event itself, whether it’s an awards show, sporting event or something different altogether. Here’s a look at some of the brands whose strategies are worth watching, too.
Google I/O Extended
Google I/O is Google’s annual developer festival hosted in Mountain View, California. For those unable to attend the 3-day event in person, Google is able to extend their reach to motivate, inspire and connect its developer community from around the globe through I/O Extended events. The events are hosted by local developers worldwide, and give the global developer community the opportunity to engage with the premier tech event’s cutting edge content, and create their own local experiences in concert with I/O. Agendas include live streaming sessions, local demos, hackathons, codelabs, and more. Last year, over 600 I/O Extended events were hosted worldwide, from New York City to Colombo to Dublin.
Golden State Warriors fans are as passionate as sports fans come, so to amplify its partnership with the team and deliver authentic hoops experiences to diehard fans, American Express developed an All for Dub Nation Watch Party event series. Held in venues like San Francisco’s historic Social Hall and even aboard a ship nicknamed the “S.S. Dub Nation,” the events offered attendees everything from fare curated by celebrity chefs to throwback Warriors memorabilia to special appearances by past players including Rick Barry, Muggsy Bogues and Tony Delk. Compared to the overpriced hotdogs and uncomfortable seats found at live Warriors games, watch party attendees were living in the lap of luxury. Amex FTW.
Casper, known for its quirky personality and unique activations, extended its brand into the arts and entertainment space with watch parties in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver for this year’s JUNO Awards, Canada’s version of the Grammy’s. If there’s anything the mattress brand knows how to master, it’s creating a cozy place to curl up, and Casper did just that, touting its products along the way. Instead of standard seating, the brand offered watch party attendees full-sized beds to relax on, along with pairs of its slippers and branded pillows. The built-in product trial was perpetuated by bedside service, complete with munchies and refreshments, including poutine and wine. The brand even distributed awards ballots so attendees could vote on whom they thought the night’s big winners would be. Talk about a dream come true.
A long-standing partner of the Tony Awards, IBM placed its sponsorship at center stage with a Broadway-themed influencer Watch Party at a swanky penthouse in New York City. Using proprietary social listening techniques, the brand had identified a desire among Broadway fans for a place to watch and discuss the Tony Awards—and it delivered. The event, which featured everything from a social scavenger hunt to fare curated by “Chef” Watson, was designed to immerse influencers in its technology in the hopes that they would share the experience with their legions of followers—which they did in spades.
For esports fans that weren’t able to snag a ticket to the League of Legends World Championships in Los Angeles, it was Coke to the rescue. The brand teamed up with cinemas across the U.S., Canada and Europe to host more than 200 championship watch parties featuring high-def satellite streams of the finals, along with live pre- and post-show coverage. To simulate the live experience, Coke created a stadium-like atmosphere, providing attendees with the same limited-edition Coca-Cola cups and “thundersticks” sold inside the Staples Center where the championships took place. As Alban Dechelotte, senior manager of entertainment marketing at Coca-Cola, put it,
“There’s just no comparison to watching alone on a laptop with sharing the experience with hundreds of fellow fans cheering along.”
IMDb and OREO
Movie website IMDb, in partnership with OREO, executed the first-ever Academy Awards live streaming companion show at a watch party for Hollywood’s biggest night of the year. More than 300 industry insiders were treated to food and refreshments, a stream of real-time IMDb facts and data, host commentary and, of course, a giant screen where they could catch all the action. The highlight of the experience for many attendees, however, was OREO’s eye-catching sampling station, which featured a 60-pound chocolate logo and a live chocolate-sculpting experience that unfolded over the course of the evening (and eventually became a late-night snack). Sure beats rummaging through the fridge at home—alone—during commercial breaks.
There’s really no wrong way to approach watch parties, so long as your brand objectives are clear and your audience is engaged. They say the experience is the next best thing to attending the live event itself, but the right strategy has the power to make a watch party just as enjoyable, or in some cases, even better.
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