When I go to other events I always look for marketing ideas. I can’t help it, and just can’t turn it off. Recently, I attended the P&G Gymnastics National Championships hosted by USA Gymnastics in Pittsburgh. And there were a lot of great examples that made the event exciting as a marketer and as a fan.
I got to attend as a guest of my wife Michelle Dusserre, who was on the Olympic silver-medal winning gymnastics team in 1984. USA Gymnastics did a wonderfully-appropriate honoring of the team. More on that below.
While my main mission for the weekend was to be a supportive husband, I did manage to sneak some pictures and find 10 marketing takeaways. I can’t help it. The list is below:
10. Taste of Championships
The 1984 team experienced the “Taste of Championships” and the local fare of Pittsburgh. The group loaded up on a bus provided by USA Gymnastics went on a tour of two local restaurants to get to taste test of their specialties with gymnastics themes to the food. Then the group rated the food for creativity, taste and gymnastics tie-ins. (Note: Definitely try the salmon at Nola in downtown Pittsburgh).
9. The Welcome Committee
Anyone coming into Pittsburgh knew this event was going on with airport signage and greeters. As soon as you walk into baggage claim there was a welcome desk with information about the event. There are also info desks in the lobby of multiple event hotels staffed daily by volunteers. Visitors could get event information, local restaurant recommendations and more. Even hotel keys were branded with the event across most local properties and there were information packets waiting in the room upon arrival.
8. Industry Expo and Congress
The Nationals is more than an elite competition, it is the gathering place for the industry. A trade show (USA Gymnastics Congress) runs with the event as well as educational sessions. The expo attracts more than 2,000 participants alone and those same folks buy tickets to watch the competition in the evenings and fill more hotels, restaurants, etc.
7. Sport Demonstrations
In conjunction with the Congress sport demonstrations are run by experts focusing on performance and grassroots development. This attracts coaches from all over the country looking to attend the event by night and learn by day.
6. Juniors Event
A separate session is held for the top Junior gymnasts, some of whom are age eligible to be in contention for the Olympic Team in Rio. This session brought in avid fans and even national media to get a sneak peek at the depth of the bench for USA Gymnastics’ future. The event also gives younger athletes the chance to compete on the big stage in the large arena.
5. Sponsor Activation
Of course, I am going to pay attention to what the sponsors are doing. Two great activations stand out:
This 360-degree photo technology gives fans a chance to do the same technology seen on Hollywood Red Carpet shows. I shamelessly jumped on the #streamlining bandwagon as it was a lot less messy than the ALS ice bucket challenge.
Fans could “get a free new face” thanks to P&G and its line of make-up and personal care products. Make-up experts created a line down the concourse to done up. Male-targeted Gillette also gave out free razors.
4. Big Event Feel
The event was held in the Consol Energy Center, the home to the Pittsburgh Penguins. It would be easy to get lost in Penguins signage, but the venue stood out. There were also signage and sidewalk stickers throughout the downtown area.
After finals each evening they even lit fireworks for fans departing the arena (or those still hanging around).
3. Local Gymnastics Clubs Sell Tickets
This isn’t readily seen by fans in attendance, but USA Gymnastics runs an effective program that encourages and provides incentives for local gymnastics clubs to help sell tickets.
2. Prime Time
1. Honoring Olympic Teams
The real reason we were there was for the reunion of the ’84 and ’04 Olympic Gymnastics teams. USA Gymnastics does a great job honoring its Olympic heroes. The team was honored on the floor during finals and was part of the NBC broadcast. It was a touching tribute that opened with a historic video look back at the ’84 competition which gave people chills.
It made me so proud of my wife – Michelle Dusserre, but honestly that is a daily occurrence of being so proud of her as a wife, mother and phenomenal gymnast.
The 1984 Olympic Gymnastics Team (left to right) Mary Lou Retton, Julianne McNamara, Kathy Johnson, Marie Roethlesberger, Pam Bileck, Michelle Dusserre, Tracee Talavera, Lucy Weiner, Bart Conner, Tim Daggett, Scott Johnson and Jim Hartung.
Bonus (Not Really)
(L to R): Daniel Bennett (Lucy Weiner); Brian Patrick Clarke (Kathy Johnson); Hans Herweijer (Marie Roethlesberger); Ronen Flat (Pam Bileck); Mike Lynch (Tracee Talavera); Matt Farrell (Michelle Dusserre). Ok technically not all husbands, but you get the gist.