PR know-how: Getting creative to boost visibility at a crowded trade show
Mix one part hockey, one part fund-raising effort, three parts organization and planning, and voila, you have a recipe for a successful effort to stand out as a brand among many others attending the same crowded trade show. Learn how Canada Goose made a name for itself at Winter Market by promoting fun.
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How on earth does a company manage to stand out at an industry trade show like Outdoor Retailer in a way that develops long-term impact and meaningful business relationships? Serve beer? Not likely. Promote tasty espresso shots? Please. No, you need to get creative and connect with attendee desires to have fun while at the same time supporting an industry cause. In the case of Canadian apparel-maker Canada Goose, it turned to hockey and debuted the Canada Goose Cup at Outdoor Retailer Winter Market.
SNEWS® asked company vice president of marketing Kevin Spreekmeester to share his thoughts on what he learned from the first Canada Goose Cup as a way to help others leverage a trade show for maximum visibility and long-term business impact.
“While we have been sold and distributed in the United States for a while, I wanted more than noise about our brand,” Spreekmeester told SNEWS. “And I wanted to show our commitment to the U.S. outdoor community and The Conservation Alliance.
“My challenge was to figure out how I could best utilize Outdoor Retailer Winter Market to shake things up a bit during the show and support the industry.”
Spreekmeester kept coming back to his love for hockey and the fact that Canada Goose had a relationship with The Conservation Alliance he wanted to nurture.
“I decided to host a hockey tournament during the show to raise money for The Conservation Alliance,” said Spreekmeester. “Beyond that? I didn’t know how we would execute it or all of the logistical details. For that, I turned to our internal events team and our PR partner, CGPR.”
A brainstorming session produced an overall plan for the Canada Goose Hockey Tournament that included establishing details around specific goals, measurement, timeline for execution, criteria for success and a marketing plan. Each of those details included steps for execution:
• The first step was to first reach out to The Conservation Alliance to gauge its interest, as our thought was to charge each team an entry fee that would go directly to the Conservation Alliance. John Sterling, the group’s executive director, enthusiastically agreed.
• Next, we connected with Outdoor Retailer show director Kenji Haroutunian and our account manager, Ryan Johnson, to discuss logistics and listen to their expertise. Together, it was decided this event would be part of ORWM’s Industry Party on the first night, of which Canada Goose would be a sponsor. It would run in conjunction with the fashion show, but in such a way as not to interfere with the fashion show.
• We developed a timeline for logistics, marketing, outreach to the industry, development of rules and regulations, and securing equipment. Marketing and PR was crucial for the success of this event, as it was the first time a hockey tournament was hosted.
• We began our work about five months prior to Outdoor Retailer Winter Market, as we knew this would be logistically complicated. We wanted enough time to make sure the event was completely dialed.
• Our Canada Goose internal events staff, CGPR and The Conservation Alliance worked together as one team dividing and conquering the various tasks that had to be accomplished. Canada Goose handled visual branding and brand messaging, while CGPR handled liaison with the Outdoor Retailer staff, the securing of rink/hockey pucks/equipment, the search for a referee, team registration and public relations around the event.
• The economy was still very challenging during the last show, which is why we reached out to industry leaders to solicit their input with regard to an acceptable amount for a charitable/entry fee.
• We had regular calls to discuss all of the various items, as it was critical that the moving pieces jelled.
• A key part of the event was to make sure we had an actual life-size replica of the Stanley Cup that would be presented to the winner of the tournament.
• We had a very detailed plan that focused on keeping the event in the news prior to and during Outdoor Retailer. We worked with the OR Daily editorial team to make sure there was coverage prior to and after the event. We also leveraged this with our Facebook and Twitter accounts, as did participants and our event partners.
Managing team registration
• We were happily overwhelmed by companies that wanted to enter teams. Unfortunately, we could not accommodate everyone who wanted to play.
• Once we had our final team roster, we stayed in regular contact with the team captains via email blasts, ensuring that they were aware of the rules, understood the opportunities for creating a unique uniform and knew when to report to the rink.
• An important part of our planning was the onsite event support two days prior to the event. CGPR arrived in Salt Lake City to make sure that all logistics were completely handled, including the rink, signage, goalie net, the referee and branding. This was really critical and applies to virtually any event planning.
• Prior to the tournament, our teams visited all the participating companies’ team captains at Winter Market to generate excitement and enthusiasm — although everyone was already stoked.
• One lesson we did learn is that having a funny, big personality announcer is key. While we tried to line this up prior to the event, we were not successful. However, Gregg Bagni, an industry marketing consultant, stepped up to the plate and narrated the majority of the tournament. He was terrific.
Spreekmeester told us that many things proved the success of the event:
>> Every team showed up with enthusiasm and a great competitive spirit.
>> Every team sported incredibly creative outfits and uniforms.
>> There were a couple requisite fights and the referee even had to toss out a couple of highly energetic players.
>> In the end, collective efforts resulted in a $4,800 donation to The Conservation Alliance, and new business relationships that Canada Goose previously didn’t have.
“I personally have met and connected with some really inspired industry leaders who have already been a great support in planning the next installation of the Canada Goose Cup,” said Spreekmeester.
He added that his company will be hosting the Canada Goose Cup again at the 2011 Outdoor Retailer Winter Market and expects to be hosting the event for many more years.
“In the end, this is about having a sound concept, enthusiastic partners, a trade show partner willing to play ball and a great cause that can benefit,” said Spreekmeester. “The challenge is how you keep it fresh…and we have some ideas on that.”