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South Beach Wine & Food Festival 2016: How to Make an Event Fresh for Returning Sponsors

How Coca-Cola, Goya Foods, Royal Caribbean, and other brands engaged fans with new activations.

By Tracy Block March 1, 2016, 7:15 AM EST

Photo: Neilson Barnard/Getty Images for SOBEWFF

From a robotic bartending machine to upside-down photo vignettes, brands found ways to reinvigorate their sponsorships at this year’s South Beach Wine & Food Festival, which wrapped up its 15th edition on Sunday.

Returning sponsors relish the opportunity to reach thousands of guests and consumers at the five-day gathering. “Groupon was thrilled to be a returning, diamond-level sponsor,” said Kelly Evans, Groupon’s senior manager for experiential marketing and events. Groupon’s four-day photo booth activation located in the north tent engaged guests during several events: Italian Bites on the Beach, Burger Bash, Meatopia, and Lucky Chopsticks. It invited festival attendees to “Discover your city from top to bottom,” posing with props that were anchored to the ceiling. There were two vignettes, one with a music theme and the other a food theme. The playful activation was meant to provide a platform to promote Groupon as a source of city discovery. This year, guests took home photo prints and emailed digital photos, along with exclusive Groupon deals.

Royal Caribbean’s sponsorship had a futuristic theme. It showed off the Bionic Bar, a robotic bartending system from Makr Shakr, which will soon debut on two of the cruise line’s ships. The robotic mechanism used 21 mixers to create endless combinations of cocktails, which could be ordered via an app, muddled, stirred, shaken, or strained, and served robotically, or by a human server clad in futuristic garb.

Third-year returning sponsor Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Hollywood participated as both a host venue and as an exhibitor at the Grand Tasting Village. “Over the past few years, the Seminole Hard Rock Hollywood tries to raise the bar each time by amping up the entertainment factor while still providing unique culinary bites and craft cocktails,” said Jeremy Weinstein, the resort’s vice president of marketing. Seminole Hard Rock hosted Saturday night’s New Style Remix Dinner and late-night event at Kuro, part of the festival’s expansion into Broward County this year. At the Grand Tasting Village, Hard Rock transitioned its indoor rock club from 2014 and 2015 to an outdoor beachside oasis in 2016. “Over the years, we have steadily enhanced our activation, and this year we decided to capitalize on the weather by removing the walls and focusing on our signature bites and cocktails,” Weinstein said.

Another notable brand presence at both the north tent and the Grand Tasting Village was Smartwater. At its pop-up bar, the brand distributed first tastes of Sparkling Smartwater, which debuts next week, as well as water bottle straps for a hands-free experience.

In addition to familiar sponsors, there were new sponsorships as well. The Bulleit Woody Tailgate Trailer was a Grand Tasting Village favorite, where guests stopped by for frozen and mixed cocktails. Tervis, which debuted its new wine glass line at an unofficial Spike the Pool party hosted by chef Spike Mendelsohn Friday afternoon at the Hall hotel, also hosted an air-conditioned media lounge on site at the Grand Tasting Village. “Being the only product of its kind, the wine glass deserved a stage like SoBe to be introduced,” said Nick Riegal, senior director of brand and marketing communications Tervis. Of the media lounge, he added, “The idea of a getaway among the hustle and bustle of the event matched the vibe of the Tervis brand nicely.”
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