Get Real: What Marketers Can Learn from an Event Like BravoCon

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If you’re one of the few people who aren’t obsessed with reality TV, you might not be aware that NBC Universal just held its annual BravoCon event. For its part, NBCU knows very well how powerful a draw reality TV is and launched BravoCon in 2019. The annual event is dedicated to all things Bravo and offers reality-TV enthusiasts a chance to celebrate their favorite shows, meet their beloved stars, and bask in the glory of celebrity culture.

Comic cons have been pretty big for a decade now, a passionate fanbase growing thanks to an expanding universe of content driven by the likes of Marvel and others. In an entertainment world overwhelmed with content, live events seem to capture a need for community and a means to connect. So a reality conference seems like a no-brainer, especially for a reality powerhouse like Bravo. And we thought this year’s BravoCon would be an excellent opportunity for a couple of experiential and content experts from Wavemaker to check it out and see what we could learn.

Give the Fans What They Want: Access to Talent
Yes, fans attend these events to meet other fans and to buy gear they might not be able to get elsewhere. In fact, there is a merchant village that serves as a place for fans to collect branded merchandise and celebrity swag. This area drove wild foot traffic and hype throughout the course of the weekend. Individual merchant areas had hour-long lines. Some smaller brands – such as LoverBoy Sparkling Hard Tea, Cozy Earth, and Ninja Drink System – took advantage of this merchant village area to drive product sales. These spaces were embedded amongst more endemic brands to capitalize on the fan buying power and drive commerce for the brand.

But there is no doubt that fans’ unwavering obsession with the Bravo stars – Bravolebrities in Bravo parlance – takes priority over all other aspects of the experience on site.

In the realm of reality television, where fans follow the personal and professional lives of their favorite stars with unwavering dedication, talent interaction and intimate one-on-one moments are the top priority for fans attending BravoCon 2023.

The fans' intense desire to connect with their beloved stars was palpable, as they eagerly attended panels and waited in long lines for photo ops. The joy on their faces when they had a few moments to engage with their favorite Bravo personalities was immeasurable.

This sort of unalloyed passion is something that brands can capitalize on at these events. Indeed, a number of brands were on hand to do just that.

DoorDash (full disclosure: a client of ours) sponsored private Bravopalooza events in which fans were given exclusive access to talent in an intimate happy-hour setting. State Farm and Lays also had activations on-site that tapped into talent in some capacity. State Farm had reality celebrities filming within their activation footprint, which garnered a ton of fan attention. Lays drew a noticeably large crowd by hosting Ariana Madix from “Vanderpump Rules.

Less Is More
One noteworthy aspect of BravoCon 2023 was the event's "less-is-more" mentality when it came to brand sponsorships. Because of the passionate fan base, Bravo likely has no shortage of sponsor interest, but this "fewer, bigger, better" approach allowed brands on site to have a larger share of voice.

By focusing on fewer, carefully selected sponsors, BravoCon created more meaningful and immersive experiences for fans. This approach demonstrated the potential for a win-win scenario, where brands achieved increased visibility and fans enjoyed a more personalized and engaging experience.

Three Key Lessons
At conventions with this many touchpoints and stimuli, consumer attention is constantly being pulled in multiple directions. For brands to succeed, it’s important to keep a few key factors in mind.

  1. Stickiness. Brand footprints should have moments that naturally encourage extended time spent. Whether it’s activities where attendees are creating a personalized takeaway or intimate events and experiences during blocked times each day, brands not only need the pull to grab attention, but the intrigue to sustain it.
  2. Exclusive talent experiences. It’s crucial that brands leverage talent relationships in addition to their event sponsorship to provide attendees with surprise moments with talent on site that are intimate and extremely valuable. Fans want to feel like they have exclusive opportunity to connect with their favorite personalities in a wayothers cannot, so these personal moments made possible by brands leave a lasting impression.
  3. Valuable takeaways. Brands should consider that fans are collecting merchandise and freebies throughout the event, so marketers looking to stand out should consider giveaways that are valuable and serve a purpose. This could be tote bags for carrying swag or signed merch from the reality stars.

BravoCon 2023 showcased the evolving nature of fandom and the paramount importance of talent interaction. Brands can incorporate lessons from BravoCon for any live event or conference they participate in. Marketers who create unforgettable experiences can use the bond between fans and their favorite celebrities to potentially create – and cement – brand love.

This article was co-written byMaggie Jones, Experiential Vertical Lead for Wavemaker U.S. Content & Brand Experiences and Lucas Vaughan, Associate Director for Wavemaker U.S. Content & Brand Experiences. Wavemaker is a GroupM agency.

Posted at MediaVillage through the Thought Leadership self-publishing platform.

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