Go bigger and bolder with the BizBash Buzz.
The BizBash Buzz newsletter delivers inspiration, innovative ideas, and expert insight to event profs around the world.
Subscribe now!

Most Innovative Brands in Events 2020: American Express

The financial services company rethought its signature cardmember experiences for the virtual space and hosted safe drive-in events.

American Express, Resy Drive-Thru, Hollywood Palladium
The Resy Drive-Thru, which was sponsored by American Express, took over L.A.'s Hollywood Palladium in October.
Photo: Courtesy of American Express

The Basics: American Express is known for creating unique fan experiences and activations, especially for its cardmembers, at major live events including Coachella, the U.S. Open, Austin City Limits, Wimbledon, and more. But what happens when the usual IRL events aren’t an option? Like most brands, in 2020, the financial services company pivoted toward virtual events—but it didn’t go completely online.

Since March, American Express has created around 100 cardmember experiences around the globe and introduced several new events. Plus, it fully embraced the drive-in trend, hosting safe, socially distant in-person events for cardmembers, including the recent American Express Platinum Winter Lights at Moorland Farm in Far Hills, N.J., The Resy Drive-Thru, and the American Express Platinum Drive-In. The company also launched the next iteration of its popular digital music experience platform, American Express UNSTAGED, hosting virtual experiences with artists such as Alicia Keys, Sam Smith, Dua Lipa, and Shawn Mendes that featured enhanced streaming packages.

American Express Platinum Winter Lights at Moorland FarmIn December, American Express Platinum Winter Lights at Moorland Farm in Far Hills, N.J., offered a safe and immersive drive-thru experience for card members. The two-mile journey featured lights, whimsical wintry sculptures, and larger-than-life magical scenes, including a modern interpretation of American Ballet Theatre’s The Nutcracker and a drive-thru snow globe.Photo: Courtesy of American ExpressMost Innovative Event: “With the ambitious goal of creating an exciting—but safe—multi-restaurant event, we worked with Resy to partner with 10 of L.A.'s most sought-after restaurants and chefs to create never-before-seen dishes, served to diners in a drive-thru format at The Hollywood Palladium,” said Rachel Stocks, executive vice president of global premium products and benefits at American Express. “Guests loved going from ‘restaurant’ to ‘restaurant,’ each represented by a tent, and sampling the chef’s transformative dishes through their car windows. It was a unique way to provide a tasting menu in a place beyond a restaurant's dining room but outside of diners’ homes.”

Lessons Learned: “We’ve learned that what makes for an engaging virtual and/or in-person experience is ever-changing,” Stocks said. “We feel that the merge of the physical with the virtual experience is here to stay, and customers have come to expect and appreciate a multitude of options to satisfy their comfort level in the channel of their choice.”

American Express, The Yurt Villages, Amex Winter PatiosAmerican Express recently partnered with Resy again to introduce heated outdoor dining spaces across 13 cities called The Yurt Villages and Amex Winter Patios, which will be available through the end of February.Photo: Courtesy of American ExpressWhat’s Next: American Express recently partnered with Resy again to introduce heated outdoor dining spaces across 13 cities called The Yurt Villages and Amex Winter Patios, which will be available through the end of February. The Yurt Villages are available at restaurants including Lilia in Brooklyn; The Grey in Savannah, Ga.; and Canlis in Seattle; and the Amex Winter Patios, created with Major Food Group, are available at two New York City restaurants: Carbone and Sadelle’s.

American Express UNSTAGED, Alicia KeysFor “American Express UNSTAGED,” cardmembers could tune into an interview with Alicia Keys where she discussed the inspiration for her new album.Photo: Theo Wargo/Getty Images for American Express

American Express Platinum Drive-InIn September, the American Express Platinum Drive-In movie experience transported cardmembers back to the golden era of movie drive-ins.Photo: Courtesy of American Express