Boosting remote engagement at integrated events

Boosting remote engagement at integrated events


Gregory Crandall
Senior Vice President, Global Activation Team


The MICE industry is already on the path of integrated events which seek to equalise the experience between their online and offline audiences. Increasingly, it means that engaging an online audience will no longer be secondary; it will be as much a key to success (or more) as impacting the in-venue audience.

As any experienced event planner knows, there are real challenges involved when boosting online audience engagement:

  • How do you make online participation compact and worthwhile?
  • How do you bring the electricity and immediacy of the in-person experience to audience members that are physically absent from it?
  • How do you build connections between online and in-venue audiences?
  • In the long run, how do you make the online experience similar but ‘equal’ in value to the live experience?

Answers to these and other questions about integrated events have only just begun to be explored by event planners. But the recent Olympics has served up some early pointers on drawing remote audiences into the thick of the action:

Offer unique pre-event engagement opportunities to create ‘stickiness’
An online ecosystem of event-themed games, activities, resources and content-sharing platforms in the run-up to the event (and continuing through and even after) will raise the event’s profile while pre-building an audience community. Whether the members will go on to attend the event in person or choose to attend remotely, they can still share their experiences via the online audience community.

Olympic pointer: Coca-Cola’s Play Nation
This mobile platform was a clever way the beverage giant addressed the Tokyo Olympics’ strict limitations on live spectators. Designed for local market, Play Nation featured mobile-exclusive games such as a virtual torch relay, a paper crane hunt, and a baseball pitching game, each designed around brand attributes to both get users into the Olympic spirit, to share with family and friends, and foster engagement with the Coke brand. The system allowed users to earn points, level up, enjoy rewards and drive purchases. All the activities supported safe distancing.

A recent Pico-facilitated Midea event used similar tactics: the brand used a pop-up store with an ‘Escape Room’ game in a popular Chengdu shopping centre to burnish its brand image among young and trendy consumers. Well before the pop-up’s appearance, audiences engaged with the brand via an online game on a WeChat H5 page, as well as KOLs from tech, gaming and other popular channels. This created an Escape Room fan community, ready to experience the offline pop-up’s various activities. During the livestreamed operation of the actual Escape Room, KOLs enabled the online audience to interact with Escape Room users by voting on their actions.

The whole event gained over 150 million impressions; over 90% of participants said they ‘liked’ or ‘extremely liked’ the overall event design.

Source from Pico Global YouTube channel

‘Compensate’ the online audience with exclusives
Inevitably, online participants will always feel some degree of remoteness or disconnectedness from the ‘full’ live experience. But ‘different’ does not have to mean ‘lesser value’. What online audiences lose in immediacy and sensation, they can gain with access to exclusive content.

Olympic pointer: Airbnb’s special connections
Airbnb brought a huge online audience to its brand through a unique partnership with the International Olympic Committee. The big draw was an exclusive interactive platform that offered Airbnb guests access to more than 200 ‘Olympian and Paralympian Online Experiences’ – and even opportunities to connect directly with competing and retired athletes during the Games. The platform helped initiate entrepreneurship or brand-building for athletes while offering a truly once in a lifetime experiences for guests.

Source from the Olympics YouTube channel

Olympic pointer: Innovative storytelling
Technologies such as multi-camera replay systems, 2D image tracking, 3D athlete tracking and biometric data displays offered storytelling from a god-like perspective feasible only for remote viewing. By taking advantage of technologies, online audiences could engage in events with a level of detail unavailable to the in-venue audience.

Give the online audience a form of offline presence
Remote audience members will feel they are sharing a live experience when they can make an impact on it. Currently, this can be achieved by accompanying an event livestream with live polls or providing live comment boxes – and live responses from the in-venue host. But what if this was used to drive or impact the experience’s whole content direction?

Tokyo 2020 took the idea even further, becoming ‘the first major international athletic event to deploy innovative new ‘virtual fan’ solution’:

Olympic pointer: Share the Passion and Athlete Moment initiatives
Big screens at Olympic venues were harnessed by the Share the Passion campaign to enable fans from around the world to display their text and video messages of support to the athletes. The same campaign also brought the feel of a live audience to otherwise empty stadiums.

Another initiative, the Athlete Moment, provided event winners with a way to interact with loved ones within seconds of their victories at specially placed video call booths.

Teachers Conference and ExCEL Fest 2021 Virtual Conference Virtual Event Management Virtual Event Company Virtual Event Planning Pico 13
Source from the Olympics YouTube channel

With online audiences becoming more and more crucial to the success of live events of all kinds, integrated experiences will soon become an industry norm. Now is the time for planners to engage in the kind of innovative thinking that helped make online audiences for the Tokyo Olympics feel like they were participants, not mere onlookers.

Pico Sports
Managing projects at international events is particularly challenging amid the pandemic – which is why the success of Pico’s project team in Tokyo was especially impressive.

Pico has long been acclaimed for its capabilities in activating mega sporting events. These include a wide range of services, such as digital activations and campaigns, hospitality experiences, venue overlays, sports marketing and torch relay event management, delivered professionally almost anywhere in the world.

With its rich experience, Pico has earned its place as a trusted partner for organizers and brands from across industry. We are well prepared to contribute our expertise to Paris 2024 and other international sporting events.

Pico Sports