Duracell Lights Up New Year Sign With Tourist-Powered Battery in Times Square

Duracell staged a return to experiential marketing with a pop-up lodge in Times Square and a plan to light up the New Year's "2009" sign with a pedal-powered battery.

By Michael O'Connell December 18, 2008, 3:31 PM EST

Duracell's "snowmobikes"

Photo: Stuart Ramson

Battery giant Duracell jumped back into the pop-up store ring on December 2 with its Duracell Power Lodge, an interactive lounge in Times Square for consumers to relax and provide the green energy needed to light the “2009” sign on New Year's Eve. Open from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., Sunday through Wednesday, and as late as 11 p.m., Thursday through Saturday, producers expect the space will see upwards of 400,000 guests by month's end.

Duracell has long been absent from the world of experiential marketing, but as Procter & Gamble assistant brand manager Scott W. Popham explained, it's a niche the brand decided to move back to. The perennial media attention from sister brand Charmin's stay in Times Square seemed enough to convince the company that the holiday pop-up concept might work for another brand on its roster, so it opened the Duracell space directly above Charmin's. 

“We wanted to show consumers what we do every day—capture, store, and release energy—and show them on a larger scale,” said Popham. “So Duracell thought, what a better way than the New Years Eve ball drop?”

That requires a bit of scientific explanation. Duracell’s Power Lodge has six pedal-powered “snowmobikes” on the main floor. Each is attached to a battery center, and the power generated by cycling on those bikes is transferred and stored to the battery. Guests create varying amounts of energy based on the power, speed, and length of their cycling stint. On New Year’s Eve, Duracell will transfer that stored power to One Times Square, where it will be used to light the “2009” sign at midnight. The company estimates more than 200 pedal hours and 400,000 cyclists are needed to do the job.

The ball drop is just one aspect of the pop-up. It also provides an opportunity for weary guests to charge cell phones, iPods, and other personal electronics, play with Duracell-powered toys, and just escape from the crowds outside. “We're more than halfway through the goal of consumers coming through the space,” Popham told us earlier in the week, “and we've already surpassed our expectations of media impressions.”

For Procter & Gamble, the biggest surprise of all has been the amount of time consumers spend inside the two-story structure. Staffers estimate that people are spending an average of 20 to 25 minutes in both the Charmin and Duracell environments. More exposure means more retention—and a higher likelihood that Duracell might consider other initiatives like this in the future.

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