South Beach Wine & Food Festival Preview: How N.F.C. Bands Serve as Digital Mementos

Electronic wristbands are being used to create an ongoing connection among attendees, event sponsors, and participants, as well as to provide real-time feedback.

By Mitra Sorrells February 18, 2014, 7:15 AM EST

Organizers will distribute the silicon SavorBands to all guests attending the tasting events in the North Venue.

Photo: ClearHart Digital

The Food Network South Beach Wine & Food Festival gets underway Thursday with more than 60 events and an expected attendance of more than 65,000 people. New this year, organizers are incorporating near-field communication (N.F.C.) technology into four of the signature tasting events so attendees will take home a digital record of their favorite items—and perks from sponsors. The N.F.C. chip will be embedded in white silicon wristbands dubbed SavorBands and created by ClearHart Digital in partnership with sponsor Esurance.

The bands will be distributed each night to people attending events in the North Venue, which include the popular Amstel Light Burger Bash and Moët Hennessy's the Q. Each chef and sponsor station—more than 40 each night—will have a SavorBand stand that holds a tablet computer. When guests tap their bands on the tablet, the system will store food items in an online account.

“We wanted to make it as active as possible. If people want to engage with it, they have to actively tap their wristband versus them getting some kind of push notification or something happening without their knowledge,” says Clara de Soto, creative director and co-founder of ClearHart Digital. After storing information about the sampled item, the system will invite guests to rate it using a five-star system. “From a data perspective that will be the most interesting piece: real-time audience feedback for what people are enjoying at the festival.”

Each band will contain a unique code that guests will use to log into a dedicated Web site to access what de Soto calls a “digital memory bank.” There they will find a list of items they tasted and the ratings they assigned, as well as perks from chefs and sponsors such as recipes, discounts, and even a list of chef-suggested songs to play while cooking. Guests will be able to share the content on Facebook and access it throughout the year.

“We're essentially creating a digital foodie reference for each attendee,” de Soto says. “That way, the next time they have to pick a restaurant for date night or the perfect recipe for a dinner party, they can use their SavorBand digital memory bank like a Rolodex of their favorites.”

To keep the focus on attendee engagement, festival organizers and SavorBand sponsor Esurance have opted not to collect email addresses or other information from users.

“When someone tells me I can get something for free but I have to give my email, I think twice,” says Ashley Shapiro, the festival’s director of sponsorship and ticketing. “The idea is this is a really a convenient and exciting opportunity for our consumers to walk away with something from the festival that’s valuable to them without having to give up personal information in return for it.”

Shapiro says the bands create a unique opportunity to connect consumers, sponsors, and participants after the festival ends. “From a festival angle, our goal is to have really happy consumers and really happy sponsors and participants. For us it’s a win-win,” she says. “We are getting to give everybody a chance to go beyond the weekend of the festival and engage on another level.”

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