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How to win the Labatt Games & other brand activations

August 2 2016

Sara Frey

Just a few days ago, I was crowned a winner of the Labatt Undomesticated Games.

If you know anything about the event, you probably want to hear my team’s strategies for dominating the oversized slingshot. But that’s a secret I’ll never tell. Instead I want to share my thoughts on the event as a millennial attendee and a brand strategist – meaning I have an opinion or two about every marketing event I attend.

Well, today is Labatt’s lucky day. I am giving some unsolicited feedback about their event in the hope that it will help them, their future attendees, and every other brand that wants to please my generation.

As a millennial, it’s not all that unusual for brands to try to earn my love – and to fail miserably. I’m not easily won over. I’m discerning and discriminating because I can be. Everywhere I turn, there is a brand trying to win my affections with an outrageous scheme. Fortunately for them, I love outrageous schemes and by extension, brand activations. What I don’t love is a brand experience that is ordinary or misleading or disappointing.

I may have only paid $20 to participate in your event, but dammit, I expect the best.

The Labatt Games had a lot going for them (did I mention I have a trophy that says “Champion”?), but there were also a few things that could have been improved. And since a better activation for you is a better experience for me, I’m sharing my top 5 tips.

First, the wins:

Get ridiculous

I mentioned the oversized slingshot, but that was probably the most normal event at the Games. Over the course of two hours, I climbed inside a giant inflatable and acted as a human bowling ball, I lay on a cart and played the role of a hungry, hungry hippo, and I pulled a keg on a sled at top speed. I’ve never done any of these activities, and that novelty alone went a long way with me.

Be a culture creator

One of the best things about the games was Labatt’s insistence that every team member must participate in every event. It would have been easy to relegate all the difficult tasks to the strongest or fastest member of the team, but this approach created a vibe of camaraderie rather than competition. And winning isn’t everything, right?

Diversify the fun

While most of the event was filled with activities, there was a bit of downtime during those unscheduled moments when teams were finishing up or scores were being tabulated. It could have gotten really boring really fast, but there was a variety of things to do. From giant Jenga to cornhole, Labatt did a good job of providing additional ways to interact with your team and enjoy the day.

Now, the opportunities:

Anticipate my needs

You know that feeling when you go to an event and you realize that everything is taken care of? Snacks, drinks, water, CHAIRS. Well, turns out – millennials expect the same kind of consideration at branded events. When you don’t provide the items we deem customary, we’re annoyed. For example: If you’re hosting an active event, you’ve gotta give us chairs to relax between sets. And if you’re holding your event on an open field during a heat advisory, put up a sunshade and provide copious amounts of water. Any time you hold a large group of potential customers hostage inside a fenced-in area, you have to hook them up with supplies.

Help me keep my phone close

In order for millennials to feel connected, and for a UGC strategy to work, you need to make sure the people at your event have their phones with them. While I understand why Labatt recommended against bringing phones (it would be unwise to hit a Slip’N Slide with a phone in your pocket), it was a shame that there were so few cameras at such a highly photographable event. So few, in fact, that more than 500 participants produced fewer than 100 posts on social media. As one of those participants, I can’t even count the number of times I wished I had my phone. If me (and everyone else in attendance) would have had their phones, I can guarantee we would have seen that number multiply. Brands that want to win over digital natives need to find a way to make this happen – regardless of the challenges. After all, if I didn’t post a picture about it on Instagram, was I really there?

Make me a winner

After reading my thoughts, you may assume that I didn’t enjoy the Labatt Games. Not true. I LOVED the Labatt games. Wanna know why? I won. Even after I was immensely dehydrated and physically depleted, I still declared Saturday the best day of my life. (Millennials are prone to hyperbole.)
I walked out of that event as a brand advocate. I took my trophy to the bar, I ordered only Labatt for days, and I vowed to wear my awesome Labatt Blue shades ’til the day I die. Why? Because Labatt made me a winner. And I will NEVER forget that.
How many times in your adult life are you declared a winner? Answer: Not enough.
Sara_Labatt