Over the last few years (and thanks in part to consumer neuroscience) there has been a realisation that marketing is human-to-human
Garry Dods
Garry Dods is founder and MD of WeAreFearless, an award winning integrated sports and entertainment agency with consumer neuroscience and psychology at its heart.
Experiential marketing comes of age
1st June 2017, 15:14

Experiential, it used to be a bit of sampling and handing out leaflets to uninterested consumers at a shopping centre, didn’t it? Or staff wearing ill-fitting t-shirts who weren’t sure why they were there - the brand manager most likely wasn’t either. It was an add-on, a second thought, a tactic, a spend invested without real intent and purpose.

And whilst this method still has its advocates, experiential or live experiences are a far cry from what they once were. Science, strategy and digital now ensure experiential is a much more thoughtful art, amplified to many and a fully integrated part of the marketing mix. It now can often be THE creative idea.

But why? Over the last few years (and thanks in part to consumer neuroscience) there has been a realisation that marketing is human-to-human. Not B2C or B2B, but human-to-human. Marketers now appreciate that their consumers are emotional, thinking, feeling beings. We are driven by our values and sense of personal purpose. We are not a cost-per-engagement figure on a marketing spreadsheet. We are social animals, experiencing life through multiple senses and emotionally driven by the things we really care about. Put simply, humans don’t act if they don’t care. And no caring means no sharing.

With this, brands have become savvier and not just in terms of what they want from an agency. They are more attuned with their audience, their deeper values and needs and the measurement of those outcomes. Genuine planning and brand strategy underpins experiential marketing now.

So where has this taken us? Live experiences have become powerful, immersive multi-sensory campaignable events. They compel us to listen, to take part, to enrich our senses. They are something you’re dying to tell your mates about, something you might eagerly apply for tickets for, somewhere you might queue to go for dinner.


The blur between live experiences and branded events is now so strong that often we don’t even realise, we are being ‘sold to’  

The blur between live experiences and branded events is now so strong that often we don’t even realise, we are being ‘sold to’. The House of Peroni, the Fandome by Hyundai at Uefa Euro 2016 or our own KitKat Chocolatory personalisation experience. All boldly telling their brand stories through brilliant engagement and immersiveness and proving just how effective live experiential marketing can be. 

The purpose and output has also dramatically changed. The opportunity for consumers to really understand a brand’s purpose, distinctiveness and messaging was never greater. Through digital-first, real-time, content-rich experiences that have a buzz and sharability at their heart, marketers can have value-added conversations with fans and consumers in much more persuasive ways now. It gives brands the opportunity to be part of popular culture and enrich people’s lives. Utility and engagement are powerful relationship builders.  

Technology is also rapidly changing the game with the likes of Augmented and Virtual Reality and the way we use it to create emotional connections. Jaguar’s Wimbledon sponsorship campaign #FeelWimbledon is a great example of how combining technology with real human emotions continued the conversation and captured the spirit of the brand and the sponsorship.


Unprepared to take calculated risks, some in the industry fall back on what they already know, and are yet to fully embrace the creativity and immersive possibilities that bold experiential campaigns can bring

However, for all the great advancements in technology, there is still a lot of traditional thinking in the industry. Driven by a fear of failure, marketers are still embracing the known and the safe. Unprepared to take calculated risks, some in the industry fall back on what they already know, and are yet to fully embrace the creativity and immersive possibilities that bold experiential campaigns can bring.

I feel incredibly positive, though. I’ve had the fortune of learning off and working with a number of great brands and leaders at the forefront of sponsorship and experiential thought leadership. They all share a desire to be more human-centric. To be more connected with people’s values and needs and to use these insights to deliver bolder, more emotional  campaigns with brand experience at the heart. It’s a great time to be in our industry.

One final observation. There was an interesting article in the Huffington Post (Canadian version) on why experiential marketing will win in 2017, which stated:

“When used as the core component of a company’s marketing it [experiential marketing] creates more response than other approaches, that its long-term ROI is greater than that of traditional advertising channels.”

Good to hear. And great to see that proven ROI sits at the heart. If we all take a more strategic, scientifically-led approach in sport and think about how we truly engage our fans as human beings through their values and multiple senses then we have a very exciting year ahead. Good luck to everyone.

Sportcal