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How Ocean Spray Helped First-Timers Get Ready for Thanksgiving

The beverage brand's activation—which included serving dinner in a bog filled with a million cranberries—was designed like a Thanksgiving boot camp.

By Jim Shi November 20, 2017, 7:30 AM EST

Photo: Will Star Photography

Ocean Spray's Thanksgiving With CranMa
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With nearly 20 million Americans preparing to deliver a Thanksgiving feast for the first time this year, Ocean Spray did its part to help advise them with an activation at Rockefeller Center. The festive, multi-generational event on November 1 whisked first-timers into holiday-hosting shape at a Thanksgiving-theme boot camp with CranMas (that's grandmas, Ocean Spray style) and celebrity chef Curtis Stone providing instruction.

“Since so much of cranberry sales happen around the holiday season, we always want to serve up a new message and reinvent the position that OceanSpray takes,” said John Raftery, senior vice president and director of brand experience at Arnold Worldwide. “This is literally about advice from your grandmother on how to serve Thanksgiving dinner—targeting millennials.”

To create the perfect autumnal experience for the holiday-entertaining boot camp, Arnold Worldwide—Ocean Spray’s long-time brand experience agency—enlisted design and production partner Tyger Productions. Led by Ty Kuppig, Tyger has partnered with Arnold and Ocean Spray on numerous projects across the country, including the Thanksgiving Then & Now event for Ocean Spray at Rockefeller Center in 2015.

“The event was really about hosting your first Thanksgiving … and the best expert is your grandmother, or CranMa, naturally,” said Kuppig. “This year was about taking tradition in the sense of grandma and infusing it with someone entertaining for the first time.”

Before press and influencer invitees entered the 20- by 60-foot cranberry bog, they first visited four stations where they learned a different skill for the Thanksgiving holiday. These included how to welcome guests with a crafted cocktail, hacks for impressive side dishes, techniques for preparing the turkey, and “Setting the Scene”—how to set the perfect table.

After making their way through the stations, guests were invited to join Ocean Spray’s CranMas and Stone to sit down for an early Thanksgiving meal in the cranberry bog.

To create a more intimate experience and suggest a dinner under the canopy of a fall forest, Tyger Productions constructed a 12-foot-tall by 36-foot-long arbor covered in autumn foliage surrounded by live cranberry turf installed by a professional horticulturalist. In addition to creating a cozy cocoon for the press and influencers while they dined, the arbor created a social media-friendly statement that could easily be seen over the heads of the crowd, adding further excitement and inviting passersby to watch from the sidelines.

The venue itself was a custom-designed rubber membrane with bases that were leveled in the bog against the slope of the site and built by Sonalysts with bases weighed down by sandbags.

Tyger pulled inspiration from Arnold’s CranMa concept to design an environment that elicited a sense of nostalgia, juxtaposing traditional elements that evoked grandmothers with more contemporary touches that a first-time holiday host might incorporate from their own home. Mismatched vintage china was paired with modern rose-gold flatware. Cut crystal stemware was mixed with vintage embossed glass and new cranberry-red goblets. Handmade crocheted table runners were paired with rose-gold glass candleholders. The 32-foot-long dining table in the center of the bog was anchored by oversize autumnal floral arrangements of lush blossoms, greens, and fruits.

Despite the cozy quarters, bystanders—including the 350,000 passersby that come through Rockefeller Center each day—were also able to glimpse the vignette thanks to its impressive height and volume. “From a branding perspective, it’s not heavy on visual branding, with only two logos,” noted Kuppig. “What it was about was the experience and people being there to experience the product rather than stamping a logo on everything. This interaction is what makes the brand connection.”

The build required an overnight load-in with the bog built the day before, while the breakdown took about five hours. “The trick and the challenge is being beyond prepared because when you’re working through the night, there’s no room for error,” said Kuppig.

Following the lunch, and to emphasize the health benefits of the cranberry, yoga was held at the bog the next day, as well as a spin class with Vitamix blenders attached to each bike to blend a cranberry smoothie. In addition, Ocean Spray team members handed out samples of its various cranberry products.

The New York activation was part of a five-city “Bogs Across America” tour. Tyger Productions created three different-sized bogs that were featured in Hollywood (at an indoor venue), Washington, Chicago, and New York, and culminated outside the Prudential Center in Boston. Only the New York location served lunch.

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