The Best Experiential Marketing Campaigns of the Year

It’s not your imagination: This industry is on a roll. Fact is, we started the Ex Awards 13 years ago to recognize what back then was just a handful of experiential programs that were showing others in this burgeoning industry how viable and valuable live events could be. Today, it’s become the world’s largest recognition program for experiential marketing and still the only marketing awards on the planet judged entirely by brand-side marketers.

In this annual super-issue dedicated to showcasing the best work of the last 12 months, we offer our comprehensive guide to the smartest campaigns, the biggest ideas and the most innovative experiences that earned top marks from the judges. Across 25 categories, and with more than 1,000 entries in the running, this was the biggest year yet. And proof, if you ever needed it, that experiential marketing is indeed a viable and valuable piece of the marketing mix.

Congratulations to this year’s winners. —Jessica Heasley, Group Editor

Download the Full List of Winners

The 2015 Grand Ex Award

Going to Town: Surprise and Delight, Social Currency and Content Collide at Whatever, USA

It was, it is, it will be—one for the textbooks. A goal so ambitious it required the creation of an entirely new blueprint to reach an entirely new audience. A strategy so dependent on live experiences it forced the rest of the marketing mix to fall in line behind events. And an idea so big… it took an entire town to bring it to life … Continue Reading

Best Proprietary Property (Consumer)

Client: Activision
Campaign: 2014 Call of Duty Championship
Agency: NCompass International

Why it’s a Winner: The only thing growing faster than live eSports tournaments is the number of consumers tuning in to watch them online. With bridging that gap in mind, Activision crafted an engagement strategy that transformed every corner of its live tournament into a best-in-class broadcast platform that could be seen around the world on practically any type of device. A smart distribution partnership with Microsoft and Major League Gaming ensured eyeballs across multiple platforms for the three-day event, and an even savvier move that had consumers watching the finals exclusively on Xbox Live made it easy for gamers to purchase the latest release.

The Case Study: With million-dollar prize packages, major sponsor interest and sell-out arenas, it doesn’t get much hotter than the eSports platform, folks, and Activision is carving out a rightful place as a leader in this fast-growing space. Attendees of the live event (the venue: a 106,000-square-foot tent called the Event Deck at L.A. Live) stepped into an environment flush with opportunities to immerse themselves in the Call of Duty brand.

The layout guided attendees through multiple open-air competition stages where they could get up close and personal with the live matches, and a dramatic main stage and arena that made online viewers feel like they were sitting in the front row. Teams entering the arena from their VIP player’s lounge (swank!) received the full athlete treatment complete with lighting, special effects and multiple content pieces highlighting each competitor’s background and often emotional journey to the event. The teams on the main stage competed within a custom sound-proof enclosure built specifically to the needs of the competitors, adding an additional layer of excitement to those in the arena, while providing those watching from home with compelling and dramatic angles that captured the emotion and intensity of the players.

From the sidelines, top-tier gaming industry talent hosted the broadcasts and provided expert insight and coverage to online viewers. Live Twitter polling results were displayed on the broadcast and images were posted on Instagram to capture the action in the room.

Results: The 2014 Call of Duty Championship was the brand’s most successful consumer-facing event in generating social conversation, exceeding its award-winning Call of Duty XP program by 156 percent. The event was the catalyst for multiple global Twitter trends across the U.S., U.K. and France. Instagram generated over 120,000 engagements, the most received from a single event to date, and organic post reach on Facebook exceeded 5.7 million during the championships, up 166 percent from the prior week.

Highlighting (and italicizing) this ex Winner’s top trends:

Activision spared no expense to make sure its eSports tournament reflected a premium sporting event and was broadcast ready for live streaming around the world online and across phones, tablets and computers. To encourage content creation among core enthusiasts and influencers, the brand offered exclusive access to studio execs, players and key talent for one-on-one interviews. To check out Trend Tracker’s annual list of the top 50 trends in experiential, visit ges.com/2015trends

Client: Under Armour
Campaign: All-American Game
Agency: Intersport

It’s tough to connect with teens (to say the least) so Under Armour created a platform that gives its brand, and presenting partner American Family Insurance, access to America’s next generation of high school athletes, their parents and their fans. The Under Armour All-America Game gathers the country’s top football players for a one-time contest between teams outfitted head to toe (naturally) in Under Armour gear.

This year, the brand transformed the one-time event into a year- long local and national engagement that featured a grass- roots tour to more than 90 high schools and pre-game content broadcasts across partner ESPN’s network of channels. At each tour stop, selected players were recognized and presented an honorary game jersey at school rallies; ESPN.com and Rivals. com traveled with the tour to produce content and coverage of each event. A new Game Week skills camp called the Under Armour Elite 50 Underclassmen Experience gave key media, bloggers and fans a deeper look into the future of the Under Armour game and college football while also giving the chosen athletes a better sense of the brand that is bringing them the opportunity to play.

By the time the last pass had been thrown, the program had generated nearly 200 million impressions and more than one billion unique views across more than 600 broadcast, print and web placements (we’re talkin’ a cool $1.6 million in media value, people). The brand also earned 3,000 new Twitter followers and 6,000 new Instagram followers, thanks in part to a dedicated social media lounge where players were encouraged to post photos. Set, hut!

Client: Food Network Magazine
Campaign: Food Network in Concert
Agency: Pop2Life

Best-selling epicurean title Food Network Magazine last year brought its brand and its “rock star” chefs out of the kitchen and into the real world with a first-ever mashup event featuring food, wine and, well, real rock stars. The Food Network in Concert event offered foodies and music fans in the Chicago area the chance to see seven-time Grammy award winner John Mayer, American Idol winner Phillip Phillips and other bands perform live. Food Network stars Sunny Anderson, Anne Burrell and Geoffrey Zakarian joined the fun to present panels, sign books and do meet and greets with attendees.

Cooking demos and tastings featured local chefs and amped up the “rock star” connection with fun themes like the “I Can’t Get No (Sauvignon)” Rolling Stones wine pairing. When guests needed a break from all the tasty food and sightings throughout the day, they could play a game of life- size Jenga or corn hole, lounge on comfortable couches or just relax and enjoy the beautiful Chicago fall weather. The event also benefitted national charity partner Share Our Strength and its No Kid Hungry Campaign.

Feedback on the inaugural concert event was promising. Of the 710 respondents to the online survey sent to all ticket purchasers, 79 percent rated their overall experience as “very good” or “excellent.” Eighty-eight percent said they would be likely to attend another similar Food Network Magazine event in the future. Rock on.

Best Shopper Marketing Event Program

Client: Beam Suntory
Campaign: Jim Beam Bourbon Bar
Agency: Geometry Global

Why it’s a Winner: Unlike traditional mass sampling experiences, this Bourbon Bar offered consumers a highly consultative experience rich with personalized recommendations and ideas they could use on the spot. Topping off the approach, a high-tech takeaway element that grew the brand’s database and reinforced Beam’s formidable history while inviting new bourbon drinkers into the fold.

The Case Study: More and more American’s are filling their plates with farm-to-table produce and free range meat. So it’s no surprise they’re also washing it down with small batch, organic and locally made bourbons. Jim Beam tackled this trend head on with a Millennial male-targeted in-store sampling campaign that reinforced the brand’s 219-year-old heritage in an intimate one-on-one setting.

The brand’s off-premise activation strategy had three key objectives: one, get whiskey-drinking guys ages 21-29 to reconsider and purchase Jim Beam; two, amplify the effort by connecting it to the Jim Beam “Make History” platform; and three, extend the conversation through an integrated CRM program. Jim Beam started the conversation through a series of pop-up sampling events in more than 14 markets that transformed a trip to the local liquor store into a visit with your favorite bartender.

Inside stores, samplers invited shoppers to pull up a stool and join them at the Bourbon Bar for a proper bourbon tasting. Through casual conversation, staffers identified the occasion consumers were shopping for and then made a personalized Jim Beam brand recommendation that would complement their plans. The signature Jim Beam cocktail (prepared on-site) further elevated the encounter by going beyond the usual “plus-one” drink recipe (e.g., whiskey and cola), reintroducing them to an American classic in a new way. With three Jim Beam variants and a signature Jim Beam cocktail on hand, the brand’s “bartenders” had plenty of options to familiarize consumers with the brand, arm them with valuable bourbon education and bring new bourbon drinkers into the category.

Adding to the experience, consumers who participated in the tasting were invited to join the online “I’m Beam” program and instantly print a customized Jim Beam White label on-site. Using a mobile app, consumers inserted their own picture into the label alongside the other woodcut portraits of the Jim Beam family. Staffers printed and gifted the personalized label, marking the consumer’s “initiation” into the Beam family.

Results: The program generated 68 percent growth in event sales from 2013 to 2014 and saw a 58 percent boost in conversion from 2013. Beam senior brand activation manager Emily Carpin called it “one of the most successful off premise programs in the history of Beam.”

Highlighting (and italicizing) this ex Winner’s top trends

Smart marketers like Jim Beam are proving that quality trumps quantity when it comes to live engagements—and it boosts sales, too. This program created a highly-personalized engagement platform that used consumer insights to create relevant and contextual purchase recommendations. A customized high-tech component rewarded consumers instantly for sharing their personal data. To check out Trend Tracker’s annual list of the top 50 trends in experiential, visit ges.com/2015trends

Client: Microsoft Stores
Campaign: Surface Pro 3 Product Launch
Agency: United Entertainment Group

Microsoft wanted its stores to be the go-to destination for its new Surface Pro 3 (SP3). The resulting program offered a variety of in-store experiences designed to excite both super- fans and consumers of all ages. Launch day kicked off with a VIP experience designed to delight all early-morning loyalists who showed up to pick up their pre-orders or buy on-site.

Treats included hot grab and go breakfast burritos, yogurt parfaits, coffee, juice, Surface branded cookies and exclusive giveaways. Live djs created a festive launch party atmosphere. A summer sweepstakes launched the same day, rewarding those who signed up for a SP3 demo with a shot at a family prize package loaded with Microsoft devices. A week later, the party continued in 10 store markets with the Surface Summer Celebration, a series of events that transformed the stores into beach-themed getaways complete with beach towels, chairs, beach balls, a live dj and leis for every customer.

The brand cleverly integrated its SP3 into the events with themed activities that showed off the device’s features. The Artist Corner, where caricaturist artists drew consumer portraits on the SP3 with Microsoft Fresh Paint software, showed off the drawing and touch screen features. In-store Skype sessions featuring friendly rivals Jerry Rice from the San Francisco 49ers and Doug Baldwin from the Seattle Seahawks demonstrated the smart glass features of the SP3 (and the excitement of each respective city’s fans). In all, the SP3 launch program packed ’em in, attracting more than 7,000 attendees and earning 310 media placements with a reach of 434 million.

Client: McKesson
Campaign: Health Mart Senior Savings Tour
Agency: EMG3

Chain pharmacies around the country may be in a race against one another to win the business of Medicare Part D recipients, but only one actually put the rubber on the road. Health Mart Pharmacy is a national network of independently owned pharmacies with a smaller profile (and budget) than its competitors. So to differentiate its offerings from the “big guys” and make connections with senior citizens and Health Mart Pharmacy owners, pharmacists and staff members, the brand took its message on the road in a fleet of armored trucks.

At its core, Medicare Part D is about saving money; the program exists to ensure that seniors can obtain drugs at the best possible cost. To bring this “savings” to life, McKesson wrapped four armored trucks with eye-catching graphics, staffed them with uniformed “security guards” and deployed the fleet to four high-priority markets where it visited golf courses, retirement communities, senior centers, mall walking clubs and other senior-friendly hotspots. The trucks’ rear doors opened to reveal a photo backdrop, complete with faux cash, money bags and other props designed to drive brand interactions and encourage selfies (sticks provided). Staffers also handed out unique (candy filled) “prescriptions” featuring playful “drugs” like “Putterall” for a “better golf game.”

Each premium included an invitation to consult with a local Health Mart pharmacist about Medicare Part D. The tour generated 2.9 million on-site and transit impressions and additional online and consumer-facing p.r. efforts yielded an estimated one million incremental mentions.

Best Vehicle Design

Client: Weber
Campaign: Weber Grill Academy Experience
Agency: GMR Marketing

Why it’s a Winner: This teaching academy got its students all fired up—to sell Weber grills. The interactive, educational experience gave sales associates at big-box retailers a first-hand demonstration on Weber grills and accessories, and answered all their burning questions about the brand, proving that an educated sales team is a productive one.

The Case Study: The Weber Grill Academy Experience lived up to the brand’s tagline, For Grillers By Grillers. Its primary objective: to educate retailers on Weber product attributes and drive an increase in product sales and loyalty from store employees who have direct contact with the end user—those backyard grillers.

From March through October, its 53-foot double expandable trailer hit the road stopping at major retail outlets such as Lowe’s and The Home Depot, and setting up in central locations to ensure multiple retailers could attend the training within close proximity. A two-stage training process contributed to the success of the program—inside and outside of the truck. The exterior of the trailer provided first-hand demos of the Weber grills in action.

The interior of the unit contained information on Weber as a company and focused on product quality and attributes. Craftsmen Industries custom fabricated the curbside expandable section with removable Plexiglas panels so the wall could be converted to an open-air setup. The experience for the sales associates while on-site was a face-to-face encounter versus an overly technical training exercise. The goal here was personal interaction, and this program used every moment, from data collection to getting on the grill, to cultivate it. The tour reached more than 3,000 big-box retail sales associates, who in turn sell to thousands of people at their stores.

Results: Grills are a destination purchase that drive consumers to retail, however, a surprising number, nearly 30 percent, leave without having made a purchase. As a result of Weber’s hands-on training for sales associates, which it tested in 35 percent of the stores, the brand saw a 19 percent sales lift in stores that received the training. Pretty hot.

Highlighting (and italicizing) this ex Winner’s top trends

This program transformed a typical b-to-b training exercise into a consumer-centric experience filled with memorable, hands-on moments (and probably a few tasty burgers, too). Face-to-face, personal interactions with the product ultimately drove excitement and sales, and a highly- localized and geographically accessible targeting strategy ensured the program achieved the reach it needed. To check out Trend Tracker’s annual list of the top 50 trends in experiential, visit ges.com/2015trends

Client: Dannon
Campaign: Oikos Sampling
Agency: ignition

In what had to be one of the most fun pitch meetings ever, Dannon last year greenlit the creation of a mobile vehicle that looked exactly like three cups of Oikos Greek yogurt—on wheels. Part food truck, part sampling experience, the Dannon Oikos Sampling Trucks crisscrossed the country for seven months to reach health-conscious females ages 21 to 45 and yogurt lovers of all ages.

The trucks blended a larger than life 3D presence (think: the Oscar Meyer Weinermobile) with the trendy efficiency of the urban food truck. The exterior coating was blown foam and hand-shaped to replicate the actual packaging as closely as possible. The tops represented three different flavors (blackberry, strawberry and blueberry), and featured life-like details and oversized molded fruit pieces complete with spoons protruding out of the yogurt cups. Inside, the truck was divided into distinct spaces for operational necessity.

The front cup covered the flat cab and accommodated three sampling tour staffers. The center cup housed an insulated refrigeration compartment that kept the product at optimal temperature with an access door on the passenger side for loading product and staff. The rear cup served as the action spot for consumer engagement, including an open space for product distribution. The results were as tasty as the yogurt itself. With a lofty goal of distributing three million samples nationwide, including a Super Bowl blitz across Manhattan, each of the two identical custom sampling vehicles was active from the end of January through Sept. 1. Additional teams with package-shaped sampling coolers blanketed the country during the summer months, reaching all but two of the contiguous 48 states.

Client: Kraft
Campaign: Mr. Peanut’s Nutmobile
Agency: Turtle Transit

So many people are nuts for peanuts that the 2014 Planters Nutmobile fleet had to be expanded to meet the demand of fans who wanted the big traveling peanut to visit their community. With increasing traffic on the Nutmobile blog and a dedicated following on Mr. Peanut’s Facebook page and Instagram feed, not to mention the always dapper Mr. Peanut’s updated wardrobe makeover, the brand added two more vehicles to its fleet.

All three Nutmobiles travel throughout the year with Mr. Peanut and Planters Peanutters behind the wheel, making appearances at special events, conducting media interviews and distributing samples. The two new Nutmobiles, at 27-feet long, eight-and-a-half-feet wide and 11-feet tall, also contain seating for fans inside the vehicles, along with custom storage for the brand’s event assets, a climate- controlled room for Mr. Peanut’s mascot costume and product samples.

To create the dimensional ribs of a peanut shell, the steel framework was carved and coated with Polyethylene foam piping and finished in fiberglass and epoxy resin, then finished with custom-color automotive paint. The vehicles feature a deep-cycle battery system with rooftop solar panels that generate power during events and a rooftop hatch for Mr. Peanut to entertain fans during parade opportunities.

The expanded fleet increased visibility for the brand and reached more target audiences at community events, retail and sponsorship activations.

Best Production of an Event (B-to-B)

Client: Aston Martin
Campaign: Aston Martin On Ice
Agency: InterluxeGroup

Why it’s a Winner: This adventurous, turnkey winter driving experience showcased the brand’s performance capabilities on a custom-made ice track built from scratch and tailored to exacting requirements. It combined extreme driving in an extreme environment with a sumptuous Aston Martin lifestyle experience.

The Case Study: Aston Martin enjoys a worldwide reputation for understated style and elegance, qualities that shine through in its vehicles and in last February’s Aston Martin On Ice, a program that provided media, its top-selling dealers and owners the opportunity to test its dynamic driving fleet on, well, ice. This remarkable experience took place on a single-manufacturer custom ice driving track built from scratch on a picturesque ranch in the heart of Crested Butte, CO.

Attendees got to test their driving skills and explore the full potential of the Aston Martin range in a unique environment with luxurious accommodations and flowing hospitality, including gourmet meals prepared by private chefs. As guests arrived at Gunnison airport, a fleet of SUVs and Aston Martin hosts assisted with baggage collection and transfers to their accommodations, two luxury appointed private homes where they were greeted with champagne, an assortment of local cheeses and delicacies, a welcome gift and letter signed by Julian Jenkins, president of Aston Martin The Americas, and an Aston Martin On Ice Patagonia jacket in their size.

The rest of day one was spent cat-skiing on a private mountain or dog sledding through the wilderness, followed by a welcome reception and program briefing. The next day, On Ice instructors led attendees through dynamic driving exercises, including braking and cornering, a slalom and ski pad autocross challenge and hot laps. The long, exciting day at the track culminated in a sleigh ride to a private cabin for some upscale Colorado mountain fare. Day three brought advanced ice and snow clinics before a farewell lunch.

Results: The experience was a complete success. The track was designed, built and maintained on time and on budget. Twenty members of the press attended, delivering worldwide coverage; 44 owners attended on a pay-to-play basis, generating approximately $200,000 in program revenue to offset costs and 24 dealers attended.

Highlighting (and italicizing)  this Ex winner’s top trends

Lifestyle and food experiences are bringing to life the aspirational qualities of many brands, and are a top trend among luxury automakers. Also driving this space, hands-on, one-on-one engagements in a unique environment and thrilling, once-in-a-lifetime experiences that create loyalty and brand advocates for life. To check out Trend Tracker’s annual list of the top 50 trends in experiential, visit ges.com/2015trends

Client: Miele
Campaign: The Science of Perfection
Agency: inVNT

Miele’s theme for 2014 was “Creating Fascination,” and the launch of its new W1 washing machines and T1 tumble dryers delivered on that promise with an event that had aerialists, tap dancers, acrobats and the W1 and T1 flying through the air. The goal of the event was to expand engagement, drive awareness and excitement by transporting the audience from the mundane to the extraordinary. The unexpected, eclectic and engaging multi-sensory experience, which took place at the Winter Garden at London’s Canary Wharf, did just that.

The unconventional space was inspired by the design of a washing machine drum. As guests enjoyed cocktails, they caught glimpses of a mysterious performance behind diaphanous curtains, then donned noise-canceling earphones for the narration that followed as the performers took to the air. But more than just a product demonstration or warm-up act, each moment of the presentation brought the features of the machines to life, connecting attributes like innovation, creativity and durability to the washer and dryer.

To emphasize their strength, an athletic dancer tapped away on the machines’ parts. An aerial ballerina scattered rose petals to depict Miele dryer aromas. After the live show, the audience proceeded through experiential science labs and interactive exhibits that showcased the brand’s high-tech capabilities. Dealers claimed it was the best launch event ever. More than 600 display units were ordered over the two-day launch, exceeding targeted sales for the entire year and more than paying for the event itself. Press coverage extended beyond the expected industry trades.

Client: MillerCoors
Campaign: Distributor Conference 2014
Agency: VWV

Miller Coors’ Distributor Convention is the most important two days of the year for the company, a chance to educate, motivate and demonstrate how the brand will “win in beer” during the key summer selling period. It’s a time for networking, rewarding outstanding performers and unveiling advertising and marketing plans, capped off by a good, cold beer at the end of the day.

This year’s “Go Time!” theme offered a nod to the heavy military presence in San Diego, where the event took place, as well as the company’s advantageous position over the competition and a rallying cry to “Win Summer.” Before the distributors arrived, the company recognized its top performers at a Sales and Marketing Awards event at Petco Park with an award show on top of the Padre’s dugout and an after party on the field.

The convention itself showcased MillerCoors’ Strategic Selling Tools, a toolbox that provides the distributors engagement with the programs and digital strategies offered by the company and answered their perennial “What are you doing for me?” question. The first night’s reception, held outdoors on an unused lawn by the Convention Center, and the closing night private block party on 7th Avenue capped it all off, turning real bars and restaurants into MillerCoors accounts and showcasing the brands in their natural on-premise environments.

In surveys, 97 percent of the 3,500 attendees felt the meeting held value; 93 percent said the company is delivering the tools and programs to drive sales. The block party earned high marks, too.

Best Production of an Event (Consumer)

Client: Anheuser-Busch
Campaign: Whatever, USA
Agency: Mosaic

Why it’s a Winner: In a campaign that will one day end up in textbooks, Bud Light took the Super Bowl launch of its #UpForWhatever ad campaign and brought it to life—literally—to forge a deeper connection with Millennials, that elusive 21- to 27-year-old demo that sees themselves as social curators, storytellers and more. The program was designed to spark conversations and became a viral part of the Millennials’ social graph.

The Case Study: Whatever, USA turned Bud Light’s #UpForWhatever campaign into a secret summer destination custom-made for Millennials and their social sharing. In early summer, a massive media, p.r. and digital/social effort launched to entice them to “audition” for the chance to visit Whatever, USA.

More than 22,000 audition events took place at on-premise accounts, online, across mobile and through media partners. Branded content and urgent creative messaging kept the intrigue levels high all summer long as on-premise events ramped up in frequency and intensity until Crested Butte, CO, was unveiled as the first-ever Whatever, USA, a town physically transformed into the largest brand experience in the world—82 different events over a weekend, all for 1,300 winners culled from more than 200,000 consumers that applied to get in.

A Last Call for Whatever took place on Sept. 2 from 8-11 p.m., with winners announced at 10 p.m. local time, giving them less than 10 hours to pack and board their plane. The city of Crested Butte was entirely remade, with eight blocks of Main Street painted blue and every lamppost, sign and storefront transformed. The goal? Let 1,000 people create one million different stories. And they did. Bars tapped Bud Light products. Parades, bands, drag queen drag races, beach parties, bacon-fests, live concerts and a gigantic ‘70s disco party added to the excitement along with so many simultaneous, participatory and entertaining engagements that no two people had the same experience.

RFID bracelets enabled check-ins, tagging, location-specific messaging and photo ops, which were syndicated to Facebook feeds as well as viewed in near real-time in a personalized photo gallery living in the native Whatever, USA Android and iOS app. The app allowed attendees to customize their weekend, streamline social engagement by synchronizing their social feeds, connect with other attendees, post clips, pictures and comments. The app also helped attendees discover events and shareable surprises, like Vanilla Ice’s Ice Cream Truck. To handle it all, broadband suppliers boosted local Wi-Fi capacity to 25 times the normal signal of Crested Butte.

Results: More than 1.8 million (age-validated) Millennials engaged in the promotion, exceeding projections by more than 300 percent. Four-week usage among Millennials jumped 39 percent.

Client: Bacardi
Campaign: Bacardi Triangle
Agency: Broadwick Live

It was a bold idea from a bold brand. Bacardi’s brand values have always been about freedom, passion and irrepressibility, and throughout its history has enjoyed a close affiliation with music. The Bacardi Triangle promotion, a three-day extravaganza that took place over Halloween weekend at a private island in the Caribbean, tapped into all three as it helped young men discover, navigate and experience the big, bright world of music holidays, destinations and adventures.

The idea was to motivate males to drink Bacardi (instead of beer)—and to do that, the rum brand transported key cultural influencers and five winners of its Bacardi Triangle sweepstakes to the five-star Waldorf Astoria El Conquistador resort in Puerto Rico. On the final night, attendees sailed to the private Palomino Island where headliners Ellie Goulding, Kendrick Lamar and Calvin Harris, who came via private jet with their entourages, took to the stage.

Besides the headliners, who were selected for their reach and release of new albums, more than 20 global artists performed for more than 1,800 attendees. Key global partners included Vice Media’s Noisey and Munchies, Expedia, Lastminute.com, Shazam, VH1/MTV and Viacom. But it wasn’t all about top entertainment and partying by the pool. Technology had a presence there, too, including RFID wristbands, mobile geo-fenced messaging, ibeacon messaging and Android and iOS apps that synced all artists and performance schedules. The promotion delivered a total reach of 5.6 billion; digital engagement included 1.2 million likes, views and shares on Facebook and 1.2 million on Twitter.

Client: Heineken
Campaign: Ibiza Final
Agency: TBWA

Heineken was looking to leverage its UEFA (Union of European Football Associations) sponsorship in a unique and spectacular way and become part of the online conversation in social media around the Champions League Final when it discovered a happy coincidence—that the Final fell on the same day as the opening of Ibiza’s party season.

As a result, it brought the excitement of Champions League Football and Ibiza-style partying together for the first time in a consumer experience that combined spectacular beach activities and entertainment, watching the Final on a big screen against an ocean backdrop and Ibiza’s famous opening parties. With all of that, plus football celebrities in attendance and live streaming on social media channels, it was sure to connect with its target audience—its so-called “Man of the World” consumers, ages 25 to 34, from around the globe, who love music, sports and new adventures. Heineken’s Ibiza Final experience delivered on the brand’s desire to become part of the online conversation in social media around the Champions League Final.

With famous footballers reporting live from the Ibiza spectacle and providing live match commentary, Heineken significantly outperformed other Champions League sponsors. It achieved a 75 percent share of voice on Twitter and drove 130 million social media impressions around the final match. “These days, it’s all about finding unique insights to develop unique experiences, and then showcase these to a global audience. And that is exactly what we did,” says Roeslan Danoekoesoemo, global sponsorship manager at Heineken.

Best Activation of a Cause/Sponsorship Community Tie-In

Client: Domino’s
Campaign: Vibes: A Night To Feel The Music
Agency: LatinWorks

Why it’s a Winner: This buzz-worthy event connected Domino’s commitment to technology (you’ve ordered with their mobile app, right?) and the local community in a fun and free concert for the deaf and hard-of-hearing held in between the two weekends of Austin City Limits, the city’s renowned annual music festival.

The Case Study: Vibes: A Night to Feel the Music brought an immersive music showcase to Austin’s deaf community. Held at The North Door, a local venue known for innovative programming that “feeds the soul,” that is what this event did in more ways than one. The multi-sensory concert provided students, staff, alumni and families of the Texas School for the Deaf a musical experience that transcended sound by incorporating vibrations and dynamic light displays synchronized to music.

The venue was outfitted with a special wood floor that reacted to low-frequency speakers arranged throughout the space to create vibrations the audience could feel. LED bracelets worn by attendees flashed to the beat of the music, along with beach balls and balloons that further amplified the vibrations. LCD screens captured and displayed real-time social media content so concertgoers could engage in conversation throughout the night; a photo booth kiosk provided an opportunity for photo ops and sharing.

The live-streamed concert featured some of Austin’s most celebrated acts, including rock band Quiet Company, hip-hop duo Riders Against the Storm and electronic trio The Shears. Texas School for the Deaf alumnus Russell Harvard, most recently recognized for his role on the FX series “Fargo,” and widely known in the deaf community, served as lead music interpreter, performing the lyrics and engaging the audience in the full meaning of every song. A “Sound of Tangibility” device was demoed so attendees could further “feel” downloaded music through vibration technology via Bluetooth; the devices were sent to some of the live stream viewers, so they could feel the vibes, too.

Domino’s served pizza throughout the night and awarded a $10,000 grant to the school. Since the event there have been requests to bring these good vibes to additional cities throughout the U.S. and beyond.

Results: Social and p.r. impressions totaled more than 1.5 million; of those, earned media gained approximately 1.3 million impressions through local outlets. Nearly two-thirds of the 300 attendees tweeted and one-half posted through Instagram.

Highlighting (and italicizing) this Ex winner’s top trends

This immersive musical showcase spotlighted the deaf community, but should open all marketers’ eyes to the many ways they can use all five senses to craft events for consumers with disabilities. A real-time social media concert displayed on LCD screens, a photo booth kiosk and a live streaming element rounded out the one-of-a-kind multi-sensory experience. To check out Trend Tracker’s annual list of the top 50 trends in experiential, visit ges.com/2015trends

Client: Pfizer
Campaign: Advil Relief in Action
Agency: Match Marketing Group, Inspira Marketing Group

Advil’s Relief in Action program wanted to establish Advil as the “go-to” name in pain relief, especially for the thousands of volunteers across America who work tirelessly to help those in need, even when they may be in pain themselves. The 28-week Mobile Relief Center tour, which teamed up with actor and volunteer Josh Duhamel to kick off its second year in 2014, made approximately 100 stops in 12 states, visiting national, regional and community-focused events, as well as unplanned ones, distributing water, snacks, seating, shelter and Advil pain reliever.

During national volunteer events, such as the Capitol Hill People’s Fair, the tour drove awareness for the program and recruited new volunteers. At regional events, including Clean Ocean Action Beach Sweep, the brand concentrated on quality engagement with volunteers as well as recruitment. It also gave a boost to volunteers at the ongoing Hurricane Katrina relief and Habitat for Humanity New Orleans programs. Advil captured stories in the Volunteer Story Booth, then shared them on its Facebook page.

Consumers also could take the Volunteer Pledge to show their commitment to volunteerism. After 82 event days, the programs touched 86,513 consumers, delivered more than 70,000 samples and captured 340 volunteer stories. Of those consumers engaged, more than 4,000 took the Volunteer Pledge. The brand garnered 3.7 million impressions, and 88 percent of consumers surveyed said they would likely use Advil in the future.

Client: General Mills
Campaign: LuckyToBe
Agency: Diamond Integrated Marketing

As a sweetened cereal in a declining category, Lucky Charms is an off-trend breakfast option, but its colorful activation at WorldPride in Toronto, the largest human rights gathering in the world, was spot on. With scores of Millennials of both LGBT and non-LGBT orientation in attendance, the brand engaged the target audience with a powerful message of love, acceptance, hope and support while unlocking a new target shopper to boost sales.

The hues of WorldPride’s enduring symbol, the rainbow flag, correlate with the colors of the marshmallows found in Lucky Charms cereal. Each tasty little morsel was assigned an emotion that Pride elicited (Supporter, Proud, Empowered, Courageous or Full of Hope), and festivalgoers were encouraged to identify with a color of the rainbow and answer the question, “Tell us why you are lucky to be you.” In the Lucky-branded tent they received product samples along with their choice of placard representing their personal message, which they could share over social media using #Luckytobe. (More than 1.5 million used the hashtag.)

Aligning the Lucky Charms color story to the rainbow flag created strong links between cause and brand. The activation was amplified by more than 1,700 tweets, 3,500 approved photos and 4,600 hashtag posts. Sales of Lucky Charms increased by 12 percent over the previous year’s levels in English Canada where the only additional marketing support change was the #Luckytobe campaign. The brand achieved more than 1.1 million impressions and created 170,000 consumer interactions. Magically delicious.

Best Event/Environment (B-to-B)

Client: Google
Campaign: Google I/O 2014
Agency: Sparks

Why it’s a Winner: Created a larger story and a connected event that engaged worldwide developers while delivering an engaging multi-track experience. Redesigned the look and feel of I/O with the theme of “Material Design,” a new global developer design aesthetic mandate that all platform users are being charged with incorporating into their apps.

The Case Study: Google I/O presented a “grown up” face to the developer community, an aesthetic built on a carefully crafted theme using light, surface and movement to create a consistent look and a more enjoyable experience for Google users. The more subdued approach offered a warm and hip aesthetic, a departure from the brand’s scrappy, playful past. Whenever possible, it incorporated Bay-area touches, such as two local street artists who created large-scale digital prints for the massive fabric walls covering the brick façade inside the building.

On the outside, unmistakable 30-foot I/O branding with a 20-foot Google Map pin marked the spot for event goers in downtown San Francisco. A full redesign of the space incorporated warmer tones and materials. Exposed plywood edges created a sophisticated industrial approach for registration and welcome properties, partner demo areas and interactive displays. Custom furniture, including a “lounge mountain,” offered spaces for attendees to chat, climb and code.

A Sandbox area on the second level hosted 12 partner pods, rather than the 100 of years’ past. Sixteen-foot signage towers identified areas of interest and A-frames were used for way-finding in lieu of traditional meter board signs. Two cloudlike forms hovering above the area served as a massive visual focal point. Adjacent to the Sandbox, a 6,000-square-foot CodeLab focused on the needs of developers and designers. Numerous “pop-up” spaces featured additional speakers and white boards with monitors where people could toss around ideas. The third level presented Google products and services in lifestyle vignettes, including Build With Chrome, a digital LEGO activity.

A “bigger, fewer” approach reduced the number of breakout sessions from 180 in 2013 to 75 in 2014. Also cool: Google I/O After Hours, which took place outside in Yerba Buena Gardens with Bay Area food, craft brewers and entertainment.

Results: More than 7,900 people attended the conference, a 32 percent increase over 2013, including 1,000 females (a 12 percent increase over 2013). The first-ever I/O Youth program brought 151 students. There were 75 sessions, 80 hours of live streaming content and 1.9 million remote viewers via I/O Live.

Highlighting (and italicizing) this Ex winner’s top trends

This event was a live manifestation of its design principles, with a more simplified and streamlined programming strategy that cut down on breakouts and opened up more opportunities for pop-up collaborations between attendees. Local street artists created large-scale digital prints for fabric walls carried throughout the space. To check out Trend Tracker’s annual list of the top 50 trends in experiential, visit ges.com/2015trends

Client: Accenture
Campaign: The Cube
Agency: Global Events

Accenture was on a quest to differentiate itself from its competitors by highlighting its digital resources and services, all of which are united under the Accenture Digital banner. To drive home that difference among clients and potential new customers who often can’t tell one digital consulting company from another, and to influence the executives who typically chose their consultant agency, Accenture Digital determined a p.r. event would be the most effective way to make its message heard. But this was no ordinary p.r. event.

With a 65-foot audiovisual cube used both inside and out as a stage, and immersive 360-degree video experiences, Accenture was able to wow the 160 ceos and politicians in attendance—and win new business in the process. Besides the physical set-up of the Cube, the most noteworthy challenge came from syncing all the projectors and their back-ups. When guests arrived for welcome cocktails, they encountered a stage in front of one of the Cube’s sides. Then they were invited to fully “live and be surrounded by Accenture Digital.”

The screen rolled up to reveal a rotating circular platform—the true stage where the event would take place—surrounded by seating. The platform slowly rotated so speakers faced every single person in the audience. For the finale, Apple cofounder Steve Wozniak appeared onstage for an interview with Accenture Digital’s group ceo backed by a panoramic camera shot from a flying drone that entered the Cube and landed by the central stage. What started as a private p.r. event quickly became news, and Accenture Digital won at least two new accounts thanks to the experience.

Client: Oculus
Campaign: Oculus Connect 2014
Agency: Freddie Georges Production Group

Oculus may be all about virtual reality, but its first developer conference had two very real goals in mind—to keep those developing Oculus-compatible content and technology in the loop with upcoming Oculus technology and to excite developers about its products. It delivered on both counts. To attract current and potential developers, the conference featured keynote speeches, workshops and demo opportunities.

Oculus ceo Brendan Iribe and other prominent Oculus personnel led the keynotes and discussed the future of Oculus technology as well as the field of virtual reality as a whole, reinforcing Oculus’ position as the industry leader. Attendees were encouraged to bring the technology, games and other virtual reality experiences they had developed for the Oculus platform. They could share their products and receive feedback from Oculus team members in designated demonstration areas. The combination of speeches and presentations by industry leaders along with workshops and demo stations allowed for more personal, hands-on sessions without sacrificing the efficiency of larger presentations.

By blending together elements of a conference, convention and VIP event, Oculus Connect defied labels. Attendees showed off their equipment without having to pay for booth space as they would at traditional shows. And while attendees at most conventions are passive consumers of the content being presented, developers here had the opportunity to shape the experience and contribute to the event content. This mirrored Oculus’ own objective to encourage developers to keep contributing to Oculus-compatible content. For real.

Best Event/Environment (Consumer)

Client: Ubisoft
Campaign: Assassin’s Creed Experience
Agency: NVE: The Experience Agency

Why it’s a Winner: Captivated diehard Comic-Con fans and broke through the noise of all the other brands with an experience that stood out from the masses. By literally bringing Assassin’s Creed to life and engaging attendees in the experience, it became the most buzzed-about event at Comic-Con 2014.

The Case Study: History buffs are well aware of the chaos and brutality of the French Revolution. Now, thanks to the Assassin’s Creed Experience, attendees at Comic-Con got to participate in an obstacle course that replicated the look and feel of 18th century Paris and learn how to move like a true assassin, achieving the same sort of stunts that they perform in Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed Unity game.

They rolled, vaulted and raced their way across the course, which included large set pieces, cannons and custom propaganda flyers, performing techniques inspired by military obstacle course training (called “parkour”), sprinting across rooftops, dodging cannon balls and diving off a 25-foot Leap of Faith. Comic-Con attendees could also play the game on custom gaming kiosks, which encouraged on-site pre-orders. Those who completed the course earned a free limited-edition Assassin’s Creed Experience t-shirt. The course was specially designed by Ubisoft’s newly appointed chief parkour officer and Tempest Freerunning Academy, the world’s top freerunners, assuring it would be a professional parkour-grade experience.

Throughout the day, the course played host to professional parkour athletes from Tempest dressed in period attire. These athletes put on a show, illustrating the storyline of the game and captivating attendees. These shows were filmed, creating compelling content for digital amplification and engaging thousands of fans in the experience. But perhaps the most impressive aspect of the experience was the enormous fabrication undertaking that pushed the boundaries of temporary event construction, embracing the challenge of keeping the components modular yet extremely safe. Temporary scaffolding created the shape and height of the course, which was covered in custom skins and constructed in less than one month.

Results: The event achieved more than $4 million in media value, 200 million impressions across live attendees, press and online and more than 1.8 million user engagements. It was, in a word, revolutionary.

Highlighting (and italicizing) this Ex winner’s top trends

Gamers are a fickle bunch. This program offered authentic and compelling content for consumer engagement that was conceived to be amplified digitally beyond the physical confines of the experience. It rewarded true fans with a once-in-a-lifetime experience while generating pre-orders with hands-on demo opportunities. To check out Trend Tracker’s annual list of the top 50 trends in experiential, visit ges.com/2015trends

Client: American Express
Campaign: US Open Fan Experience
Agency: Momentum Worldwide

American Express’ activation at Pinehurst, home of the 2014 US Open, was as smooth as a well-honed golf swing that landed the financial services company straight into the digital age with the MyOpen Pass RFID Experience. The engagement allowed cardmembers to digitally capture their visit in a relevant, shareable and personalized way while connecting to their passion for watching, learning about and playing golf.

The activation came to life in the 20,000 square-foot US Open American Express Fan Experience where fans registered for a MyOpen RFID wristband. By adding their name and email address they almost instantly received a personalized email containing their MyOpen dashboard where all of their day’s content would ultimately be stored. After donning the wristband, they explored the activation, which featured swing analysis hitting bays outfitted with the latest in swing analysis technology.

A Rally Cam captured 180 degree GIF photos, a Pro Cam offered an augmented reality experience with pro player Sloane Stephens and an interactive PERCH table showcased the game’s historic fashion and equipment. Fans could experience each element as many times as they wished. All was saved in a carousel of content on their MyOpen dashboard. More than 200,000 fans entered the Fan Experience and 30,000 registered for the wristbands. MyOpen saw more than 80,000 interactions. The brand achieved more than 380 million total impressions and its perception by way of social sentiment saw positive increases, up seven percent year over year.

Client: PepsiCo
Campaign: #PEPCITY
Agency: inVNT

To celebrate Super Bowl XLVIII in New York City and thank the Tri-State area for its business, PepsiCo created #PEPCITY, a 10,000-square-foot pavilion erected in Bryant Park. Strategically positioned as an entertainment-based alternative to the hundreds of football-related brand activations across the city, #PEPCITY combined gourmet food with music, art, sculpture, architecture, poetry, Broadway, multimedia and performance, bringing together the many flavors of New York City with the many flavors of PepsiCo

A 120-foot-long entrance experience led to a 40-foot high by 80-foot-wide custom-designed geodesic dome that formed the heart of #PEPCITY where visitors received passes to sample creations by celebrity chefs as they experienced a rotation of performances, including an appearance by Tony Award-winning poet Lemon Andersen, Broadway cast members performing highlights from hit musicals, rap battles and more. Every evening #PEPCITY became a concert venue featuring attractions such as teen sensation Austin Mahone, Latino star Prince Royce and the iconic Ziggy Marley.

Original content, custom graphics and branded animations projected onto the dome awed attendees while the eclectic mix of food, art, media and performance created an “anything-can-happen” vibe that surprised and delighted guests and shed new light on the PepsiCo brand. More th

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