Best of 2010: New Event Launches

Establishing new events in an uncertain economy can be risky. These gambles paid off.

December 1, 2010, 9:00 AM EST

Photo: Curt Littlecot

Manhattan Cocktail Classic For the first local festival exclusively dedicated to libations and the people who make them, Manhattan Cocktail Classic founder Lesley Townsend avoided juggling too much and limited her overhead by allowing the in-house marketing and event departments of large spirits companies to take creative control of their setups at various events. Townsend took a crowdsourcing approach, which gave independent producers and companies the license to conceive events and pitch the ideas to brands. The Cocktail Classic saw more than 4,000 attendees at 70-plus events over a four-day run.

Amfar’s Inspiration Gala Series As a way to extend its footprint around the globe and boost its fund-raising efforts, the HIV and AIDS nonprofit launched a new event series in 2010, a concept dubbed the Inspiration Gala that traveled to New York, Paris, and Los Angeles in its inaugural year. With men’s style as the inspirational focus, each city’s event was hosted by Kylie Minogue, held at iconic locations, and tweaked to the local audience. New York’s 400-person gala at the New York Public Library on June 3 included a 52-model runway show and raised more than $400,000, while the more intimate 150-guest dinner at Maxim’s de Paris in Paris on June 25 involved a performance by famed chanteuse Arielle Dombasle and brought in $175,000.

Pepsi’s Idea Seminar Tour and Refresh Project Marketing Initiative In February, Pepsi unexpectedly opted to forgo a Super Bowl commercial, choosing to allocate funds to the Refresh Project, a marketing platform to boost its commitment to sustainable growth. This experimental consumer program awards more than $20 million in grants to consumers with ideas about how to improve their communities and the world. To generate awareness of the online program, Pepsi hosted a six-city seminar tour for students between February and April. Pepsi succeeded in mobilizing thousands of customers through social media and the offline gatherings: As of September 1,  42 million votes had been cast online for more than 7,500 ideas, and the 256 ideas that received the grant are estimated to have influenced more than 200,000 people across the U.S.

Life Is Good Festival Boston-based apparel company Life Is Good joined forces with Superfly Presents, the minds behind the Bonnaroo and Outside Lands, to introduce a new family-focused music festival in September. The two-day event brought 30,000 people—including 5,000 kids—to Canton’s Prowse Farm and raised $600,000 for the Life Is Good Kids Foundation. The roster of performers included kid-centric artists such as Dan Zanes & Friends, as well as headliners Ben Harper, Guster, Corinne Bailey Ray, and Jason Mraz. “In the past we always tailored our [smaller] festivals to be family-friendly, and this year was no different, but we also targeted young, single music fans,” said Bert Jacobs, Life Is Good’s chief executive optimist. “Many people in the music industry told us we wouldn’t be able to mix tattoos with toddlers. But we did just that, and there were no problems.”

Taste of Beverly Hills
The date on September 2 of this year matched Beverly Hills’ famous ZIP code—as in 9-02-10—and this inaugural epicurean festival capitalized on the extra attention, as well as the long Labor Day weekend. The Taste of Beverly Hills offered samples from a broad array of the region’s top restaurants, cooking demonstrations from local and widely known chefs, wine tastings from more than 80 California vintners, and live music. The event took place on a three-plus-acre site with two 100- by 140-foot tasting pavilions. A 60- by 80-foot cooking demo tent had fully functional LG appliances. Best Events produced the programming, which drew an estimated 10,000 visitors, who scooped up an estimated 500,000 tastes. In a far-reaching marketing approach, organizers implemented a multimedia campaign that strategically aligned traditional media with targeted online partners and social media outlets, and worked with participating restaurants to develop custom incentive programs each could use to promote the festival.

Hispanic Leadership Summit
The Southern California-based Center for Hispanic Leadership hosted its inaugural summit in September in the Junior Achievement Finance Park Mike Curb Center for Free Enterprise. More than 200 corporate leaders and brands participated—beating organizers’ goal of 120. With big-name sponsors such as IBM, Xerox, Toyota, State Farm, and AOL on board, the summit doubled its sponsorship goal. Attendees came from organizations like Pepsi, American Express, Coke, Aetna, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and Ernest & Young, with more than 20 corporations each sending more than five representatives from all over the country. A social media campaign was a driving force behind the turnout.

Taking note of research that says more than half of Facebook activity is conducted via mobile phones, Nokia hosted its first social media conference May 24 to 26 in Miami’s design district. The company brought 100 bloggers, Web developers, and industry specialists from 12 countries in Latin America to the city for interactive speaker panels and collaborative sessions, which had attendees working together to create new industry standards and documents such as “The 10 Rules of Social Media.” “We didn’t want it to just be one-way communication, so we made it interactive by inviting a lot of the bloggers to be speakers as well,” said Nokia social media communications manager Saulo Passos, who organized the event along with local event planning firm Siinc Agency. “It’s not just us telling them what to do; we are really engaging with them to tell us what to do.”

Bandwagon Roadshow After nearly 18 months of planning, this combined live music festival and car show debuted September 4 at Festival Field at the Orlando Citrus Bowl. Created by Jimi Beach, executive producer at entertainment company Top Speed Adventures and a former producer on the Vans Warped Tour, the event attracted an audience of 5,500 to its launch before being fine-tuned and starting an eight-city cross-country tour in April. “Some of the largest single-day events in the world are classic-car gatherings, but they don’t have much entertainment, so we decided to create a new touring property that brings out top headliners with top cars,” Beach said. Snoop Dogg headlined the kickoff.

Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo The Reed Exhibitions Pop Culture Group launched the Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo in April. Held at McCormick Place, the three-day affair boasted 200 exhibitors, 175 panels and screenings, and appearances from industry heavyweights such as Neil Gaiman. Producer Lance Fensterman said that although Chicago has a strong community of comic-book enthusiasts, it was challenging to build market awareness for the unprecedented event. Reed’s strategy, he said, was to begin promotional efforts two years in advance in order to “motivate the hard-core fans to come interact with us,” by advertising the event “through the channels where the fans live and breathe,” including blogs, podcasts, comic books, and movie theaters. The event ultimately drew 27,500 attendees, which Fensterman said was about “5 percent short of a very aggressive goal. This is the second-best performing launch we’ve ever had.”

Patrón Tequila Epicurean Express
After sending all of its executives to New Orleans to volunteer with the St. Bernard Project, a nonprofit organization dedicated to rebuilding homes and providing mental health support for people affected by Hurricane Katrina and the recent oil spill, Patrón teamed up with the project for a five-city, cocktail- and 
food-focused fund-raising tour. With Patrón’s 1927 antique railcar serving as the backdrop, each of the two-night stops was held on the tracks and featured New Orleans-based chefs serving hors d’oeuvres paired with Patrón cocktails. The tour attracted more than 700 people in Chicago, Philadelphia, Washington, Los Angeles, and New Orleans, and raised $125,000 for the project.

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