Best Summer Experiential Marketing Campaigns - Our Top 15 Picks!

Best Summer Experiential Marketing Campaigns - Our Top 15 Picks!

Summer is in full swing! We here at Catalyst are certainly excited. For experiential marketing, this is the best time to bring your creative A game to the table - and to get optimal results. Don’t we all want to be out and about, taking advantage of the sunshine and the warmth? We’ve put together some of our favorite summer brand activations in recent years. They provide important insight into the current most effective strategies and trends. Read on and be inspired!

1. Mercedes Benz at the US Open 


As the official vehicle of the US Open, all eyes were on Mercedes Benz and how they would present the brand at this year’s matches. They certainly didn’t disappoint: their campaign was all-encompassing and their presence was hard to miss at the event. Leading up to the US Open, the car manufacturer introduced a scavenger hunt around New York City where branded tennis balls were hidden alongside new model Mercedes Benz cars. Fans had to turn to Instagram for clues given out by global ambassador Sloane Stephens. The reward? Access to the Mercedes Benz VIP suite where guests can enjoy a full brand experience complete with food & drinks and prime location to watch the matches. In another area of the venue, the Mercedes Benz Brand Center allowed attendees to participate in a match of digital tennis or check out some car models. A third activation spot featured photo opportunities enhanced by AR and props, and, of course, more cars.

Key Takeaway: Create something for all. 

Sometimes, it is possible to please everyone. This Mercedes Benz activation wrapped many key elements of experiential marketing in one: AR/VR, O2O, KOLs, on-site interaction and food & drinks. By creating a variety of experiences, they ensured that there was something for everyone, from kids to adults, VIPs and otherwise.

2. 7UP vs the Heat

7Up knows that there is nothing better on a boiling day than drinking an ice-cold soda. They used this to their advantage and created a series of activations around Latin America. The installation was a “heat tracker” that displayed real-time tweets related to the heat with a social thermometer, which could go up with every heat tweet. When the needle reached the extreme zone, the container within the installation would open up, allowing everyone to reach in for an ice-cold 7Up.

Key Takeaway: Build anticipation. 

The needle slowly moved towards the extreme zone, encouraging passersby to stop and see what would happen. This increased their interaction time with the brand and also made that 7Up at the end all the more enjoyable.

3. Woolworths Summer Sensorium at Australian Open 

Instead of describing the greatness of your product to your audience, why not let them try it themselves - and then some? This is precisely what Woolworths did at the Australian Open to showcase the finest Australian produce they offer. They created an immersive multi-sensory experience - guests were served a 3-course meal and fresh juices, all made with the freshest seasonal produce. But the highlight was definitely the dome interior, which offered a 360° projection accompanied with narration by actor Roy Billing.

Key Takeaway: Bring it to life. 

Create an experience that engages all five senses, and get inventive with how to do so. The result will be an unforgettable activation where guests can get to know the brand on a much deeper level!

4. Ottawa Tourism -- Ottawa is Anything but Vanilla 

A pop-up store was set up on one of Toronto’s busiest streets and shoppers were offered free ice cream. It all appears to be a typical marketing ruse, ice cream on a hot summer day. However, upon closer inspection, all of the flavors offered were labeled “not vanilla”. It turns out that this was Ottawa’s tourism campaign that hoped to convey the message “Ottawa: anything but vanilla”! The “not vanilla” ice cream flavors were every bit as intriguing. There were five unique flavors that drew inspiration from what Ottawa has to offer - apple+elderflower, peppercorn+plum, vegan coffee+date, smoked caramel+bitters and hops+honey.

Key Takeaway: Have an impactful message and build your campaign around it.

In order to keep the activation interesting and more importantly, cohesive, why not first come up with a central message? Once that is in motion, the rest of the pieces will come together much more easily.

5. Bacardi Bay at Governor's Ball Music Festival 

Summer means that festival season is in full swing! At the Governor’s Ball Music Festival, Bacardi activated with Bacardi Bay, which generated much buzz at the Festival. Guests were treated to signature cocktails made with their rum, silk-screen body painting, as well as a balcony with an elevated view of the performances at nearby Bacardi Stage. All in all, it was an inviting, island-themed space that allowed festival goers to relax and mingle.

Key Takeaway: Transform festival space.

With so much music and dancing going on at festivals (not to mention the often stifling heat), it is important for brands to offer something other than that to allow guests to take a break. Spaces to rest, photo opportunities, food & drinks and other fun activities. Bonus points if the activation reinforces brand image, like what Bacardi did here that transformed the space into a tropical experience.

6. Honda Seat Belt Forest at Governor's Ball Music Festival 

At the same Festival, a different kind of activation was taking place. Honda turned the most unexpected component of their cars into a trendy installation that screams photo opportunity: their seat belts. Over 600 seat belts in bright colors hung from the ceiling in Seatbelt Forest, and at night they were illuminated with LED lighting. Staff were on site to help capture shareable GIFs and photos, further driving the social media element.

Key Takeaway: Make it Instagrammable.

In order to reach a wide audience, the power of social media cannot be ignored. By creating a fun photo opportunity, Honda was able to bring this funky activation to audiences beyond the festival, ensuring maximum exposure.

7. Veuve Clicquot -- Polo Classic

Veuve Clicquot’s Polo Classic has been a staple in the New York social scene since its inauguration in 2008 -- following a 70-year break, Veuve re-introduced polo to the city with this glamorous event. It now boasts more than 9000 guests. Celebrities such as Jennifer Lawrence, Alicia Keys and Neil Patrick Harris were in attendance. Stars and other guests alike enjoyed a champagne-filled day of polo.

Key Takeaway: Make tradition. 

Want to elevate brand recognition and prestige? What Veuve did with the Polo Classic takes event sponsorship to the next level. They identified what was missing from New York’s existing social offerings and took advantage of that.

8. Paul Smith -- Men in Black Suit Room 

Collaboration is a two-way street! Recently, Men in Black X Paul Smith suit rooms have appeared in Paul Smith stores in London and New York. They are timely for the new Men in Black: International movie, for which Paul Smith designed lead outfits. But these pop-ups don’t just promote the film - Paul Smith is actually releasing a capsule collection of MIB inspired suits and accessories! If they so desire, visitors can purchase their very own Men in Black suit...or try one on at the very least.

Key Takeaway: Establish meaningful partnerships. 

The partnership between Paul Smith and the Men in Black franchise goes way beyond these pop-ups, and is a perfect example of how two brands can mutually benefit without raining on each other’s parades, so to speak.

9. Nestle Aero -- Aero Bliss 

Nestle’s Aero launched an entertaining campaign to promote their new Aero Bliss chocolates. The activation required a bit of collaboration among passersby: to highlight the unique bubble texture of the chocolate, pressurized flooring was installed at the venue with five pressure pads. Once all five pressure pads were stepped on, bubbles were released and a dispenser revealed a selection of chocolates.

Key Takeaway: Intergrate interaction into the experience.

Consumers love a hands-on experience that will add some fun to their daily commutes. Being able to interact with the product, or a feature of it, will help make a lasting impression.

10. Desperados Beer -- Unplugged Party Light Show

Device-free parties have emerged over the years as a response to the often excessive use of phones at social gatherings. Beer company Desperados took this to the next level - they hosted a device-free house party where attendees could swap their phones for a beer. These phones were then plugged in along the walls of the venue and used to create a light show. Guests could party without worrying about updating social media, as well as enjoy the exciting visual of the light show.

Key Takeaway: Introduce a "feel-good" element.

We all wish to unplug from our phones sometimes but it is hard to find an occasion to do so. Desperados designed the perfect escape, thus creating a memorable activation and furthering the brand’s image.

11. North Face -- Pinnacle Project Pop-Up 

When we think pop-ups, we think footfall. We want to be able to reach the most people within our activation time frame...or do we? North Face’s Mountain Pop-Up shows that the opposite approach can also yield great results. They launched their pop-up on top of a mountain in the middle of the Dolomites in Italy - the location was only reachable on foot via a two-hour hike. From the get-go, it was solely accessible to the most experienced hikers, which generated a lot of buzz. Those who made it there discovered an interesting selection of products on display: eight collector’s items donated by famous athletes and adventurers, meant to highlight the North Face spirit.

Key Takeaway: Stay true to brand ethos.

North Face didn’t place their activation in the middle of a mountain range for no reason - it all aligned with the company’s mission, which is to make clothing and accessories for outdoor activities. It tied together nicely for an impactful marketing experience.

12. Greanpeace Philippines -- Dead Whale

Beachgoers at this Naic, Philippines beach were in for a surprise - surely one wouldn’t expect to find a 50-foot dead whale in the middle of the beach! Thankfully, it turned out to be fake. To raise awareness for poor waste management in the country, Greenpeace created this installation, complete with plastic dyed red coming out of the whale’s “stomach”. It received widespread attention and the campaign even took home numerous awards.

Key Takeaway: Go for the shock factor, tastefully.

This campaign made a statement by presenting the core issue right in front of the audience’s eyes. The shock factor effectively communicates the gravity of the problem and prompted beachgoers, along with the rest of the world, to consider it.

13. Kyrö Distillery -- Professional Queuers 

Kyrö stepped away from traditional festival activations and attempted something different. They gathered a group of staff and made them “professional queuers” - they helped festival goers wait in line for food, bathrooms and more so that people could focus on enjoying themselves and having fun. This move was a resounding success both on-site and online. It had a total reach of about half the Finnish population!

Key Takeaway: Make sure your audience has a good time.

Like Kyro, which took their audience’s worries out of their hands. It didn’t matter that the activation didn’t directly promote their products - it left a positive and long-lasting impression that is sure to drive sales in the future.

14. Hunter -- Hot Air Boot

To celebrate the brand’s 162th birthday, Hunter built a 120-foot hot air balloon that resembled the brand’s classic boot design. In an ambitious experiential campaign, the hot air boot began its journey in Scotland, then traveled to England, Spain, Italy, and even the United States. During its travels, it stopped at various festivals and events. The campaign also involved a social media element: anyone who spotted the boot could upload a picture onto social media with the hashtag #HunterOriginal for a chance to win a prize.

Key Takeaway: Emphasize the brand's origins.

No, Hunter never manufactured hot air balloons. But by incorporating their original boot design from over a hundred years ago into the hot air balloon, Hunter allowed consumers to see the rich history and tradition behind the boots, strengthening brand identity.

15. Deliveroo -- Friends Meat Trifle

Fans of the classic sitcom Friends were definitely delighted to find an unusual offering on the delivery service, right around the anniversary of when the last episode was aired: the iconic (and possibly inedible) “Meat and Sweet Trifle” that Rachel served up in one of the episodes, made of lady fingers, jam, custard, fruit and...sauteed beef and peas. Along with being able to have it delivered to your doorstep, Deliveroo also launched a pop-up serving only this dish. There was even a vegetarian option that swapped out the beef for tofu.

Key Takeaway: Put collective memories to your advantage.

This mess of a dish is one of the most memorable moments from Friends. By creating an experience around this culinary faux pas, Deliveroo successfully brought its platform a lot of publicity. Just think about how many people watched the show growing up!

Launch a highly impactful summer campaign for your brand! 

We hope that these fun and creative activations have gotten you to think about what is possible for your brand. From pop-ups to O2O marketing, Catalyst has ample experience in helping our clients launch campaigns that drive maximum, visible results. Summer isn’t over yet! Reach out to our team today to get started.