When you’re hosting a sponsored event, the key to bringing your audience closer to the brands they love is often something simple. It may be a shockingly good meal or craft beer, a conversation that’s worth the ticket price and beyond, or even a delightful interaction or two with a sponsor.

Knowing how to build brand awareness for online as well as in-person events can be elusive. People might navigate away from too-obvious advertising, and with online events, computer screens might seem to create a barrier. But with the right brand activation strategy, you can encourage memorable brand engagement that makes both your ticket-buyers and your sponsors happy.

What is brand activation?

Brand activation is anything a brand sponsors that adds to an attendee’s experience and helps to build brand awareness in a positive and impactful way. Take music festivals, for example – 82% of music fans who attend four or more festivals a year are actively excited to experience the sponsorship activations there. Brand activations provide better experiences for your fans and help sponsors to create more meaningful connections.

Keep on reading to discover 14 ideas to inspire brand awareness activities at your next event.

1. Let attendees step outside their comfort zone

Your attendees likely have a bucket list of things they’ve always wanted to try but never quite got around to – like eating chocolate-covered crickets or sky diving. By giving them the opportunity to scratch something off their list, you’ll make a lasting connection with them.

Durango Boots opted for a simple, yet effective opportunity, when they gave country music fans at Canada’s Boots and Hearts festival unlimited rides on their mechanical bull, El Diablo.

2. Tell more authentic stories

If you want your brand to make a meaningful connection with attendees, a testimonial from an influential expert or current customer goes a long way to adding credibility. In fact, one Synsethio study showed that 97% of consumers look at online reviews of local businesses, and 85% trust online reviews as much as those of family and friends.

Start by asking your audience what they love about your event, programme, team, space, or festival. You can use their feedback or even their stories about your event to tell a compelling story in turn that reflects how you’re creating more personalised experiences for them. These can work especially well as a means of online brand activation, bringing your remote audience directly into the process and strengthening connections.

3. Immerse people in their favourite worlds

You can provide attendees with a mini-escape from everyday life thanks to your sponsors, like HBO’s Game of Thrones-themed escape room at SXSW 2017. What you do doesn’t have to be as fantastical as SXSW, but it does have to be relevant to your fans. Online events can offer that respite too: the L.A. Times‘ Dinner Event Series joined the stars of Netflix’s Selena: The Series for an online night of Tex-Mex cooking with famed chefs Susan Feniger and May Sue Milliken. Attendees could pick up the ingredients prior to the event, then soak up the culture with recipes for shrimp campechana, chicken poblano enchiladas, and sweet potato flan.

4. Inspire with interactive installations

When your attendees don’t just see a brand, but have an experience with one, that’s a powerful thing. Take Absolut Vodka, who funded a sculpture made entirely of spirit bottles that lit up to the beat of attendees’ hearts. Because it engaged more than one sense, it made an impression.

5. Wow fans with virtual reality

Virtual reality gets a lot of buzz with sponsors because it lets them interact with attendees in a memorable way, thanks to cutting-edge tech. From 360-degree views of concerts or sporting events and beyond, VR can immerse attendees even deeper into experiences.

For example, at SXSW, McDonald’s used VR to transport attendees inside a Happy Meal box. Once inside, they could use virtual paintbrushes, balloons, and lasers to decorate the walls. After they finished, attendees could share their creations on social media – giving McDonald’s exposure on their networks.

Virtual reality works especially well for online events, too. Club Imaginal, which describes itself as a “virtual mosh-pit for Gnostics,” launched its inaugural series of lectures in virtual reality by the “world’s emerging mystics, thinkers, and esotericists,” complete with a cocktail hour and afterparty. By creating a unique event with the latest technology, Club Imaginal was able to make a stronger impression on those who attended.

6. Provide respite from the bustle

A lounge or online space with a focus on quiet and relaxation can help busy attendees at all types of events find a moment of calm. At BottleRock in Napa, winery sponsors arrive every year with pop-up wine bars that give people a place to sit and sip vino in between sets from the bands they love. Even respite from the day-to-day bustle of daily lives can make a lasting impression. Blu Matter Project hosted an online meditation led by a well-known guide, teaching attendees to self-guide future meditations.

7. Make the essentials available, with a twist

Charging stations and free WiFi don’t sound all that exciting, but for attendees who need a faster connection or to charge their phone, these kinds of stations are a godsend. No wonder communications partner EE offers Recharge Tents at Glastonbury to great success!

8. Get them gaming

Table tennis, pool, and even air hockey can be great games for brand activation. At Sound on Sound Fest, held at a Renaissance Faire Park, a cider company took over the axe- and knife-throwing area and gave people an upgrade to VIP tickets if they could hit an apple. Devoting the entire event to games can be effective, too. The Government of Canada sponsored Victoria Pride Society‘s online video game tournament for LGBTQ+ players as a way to build a community.

9. Win attendees over with wellness

Wellness experiences are popular at all types of events, not just at ones with a wellness focus. You can give people a moment to stretch their bodies with a short workout, like Zumba, which gave popular 10- to 15-minute beginner dance sessions at events that anyone could join in on.

10. Get people playing for fun

Games make great brand engagement activities – play makes it easier to absorb new concepts and make new connections in your brain. Google found a playful way to showcase the search capability of its Photos app with a “Pay with a Photo” food truck, where people could pay for their snacks if they found a specific photo on their phone within 20 seconds.

11. Unique giveaways

Another way to connect brands with their customers? Unbelievable giveaways, like online real estate marketplace Ten-X, whose Ten-X Flyaway Contest at SXSW 2016 included roundtrip airfare and hotel accommodations for five winners and their guests to the SXSW Interactive Festival, as well as registrations for the event and tickets to Ten-X’s exclusive launch party. The giveaways don’t need to be outlandish, either. Consider giving away VIP ticket upgrades, brand swag, or food and drink vouchers.

12. Take food and drink to the next level

Food printing (logos printed on edibles), company-branded drinks, pop-up restaurants, even organising a chef’s table or mobile kitchen – there are many different ways to offer a brand activation around food at your event. And attendees of all kinds love free, gourmet snacks. If your event is online, consider brand engagement through the likes of online cooking classes or themed virtual drink festivals.

13. Live it up with live video

Did you know that 30% of people who watch a livestreamed video will attend that same event the following year? Offering a livestream as a sponsorship package can provide brands with the opportunity to engage with audiences in niche markets, which is especially important at business events.

14. Facelift the mundane

Little love is shown to necessities like bathrooms, but brands can take even the most everyday experiences to the next level. Giving away toothbrushes at a dessert festival or placing branded hand sanitisers in the bathrooms at a meet-and-greet elevates your event in an understated yet impactful way.

Amplify your brand impressions

The right brand activation, no matter how perfect, will fall flat if no one is there to experience it. With intuitive event promotion tools and robust analytics, Eventbrite’s ticketing platform can help you spend more time focused on the attendee experience and reach the right audience.

Get the cheat sheet to event branding and activate your brand now.