As the UK hurtles down Boris’ lockdown roadmap, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the British live experience industry is as it was in March 2020. There is the familiar ‘buzz’ in London and other major cities as brands try to reunite their audiences with the power of experiential activations and brand pop-ups. We’ve noticed a strong theme that ties all of these experiential plans together; unification.

Marketing Assistant, Hattie, lists her top 5 favourite brand activations that are going off around the end of lockdown in summer 2021.

Emerging after lockdown: How experiences will capture the theme of unification

In lockdown, one thing we’ve learned to love is board games. The endless supply of spare time compelled many of us to dust off the Monopoly board, and so I was personally thrilled to learn that Hasbro are launching an immersive life-sized game in London’s West End this summer. In an ‘escape room’ style activation, you have 75 minutes to buy properties across the ‘board’ (each room in the venue is a different location), and generally to avoid going to jail. Literal jail – with bars and everything.

This compelling activation will bring people together for a fun, gamified experience, incorporating some of the latest tech and giving families an excuse to play games together again (outside of their living rooms!) A true unifying experience and a clever way to get Hasbro’s audience re-engaged with their brand after lockdown ends and the board games go back on the shelf until Christmas.

The postponed Euros are going to be a hoot this year, and that’s largely due to the ‘village’ of activations happening across London during the course of the games. Heavyweight brands like Coca Cola, Just Eat and Heinken will host various interactive pop-ups across the city of London, and Adidas will even host an inflatable football match for people to get involved in the footie fun. 

Each fanzone promotes a different fun and engaging experience, with capacity for nearly 10,000 in an attempt to get Londoners out in the sunshine and kickstart the economy. The Mayor of London has even reserved a number of tickets for key workers in the police and ambulance service, saying, “I cannot think of anything more exciting than thousands of people coming together to cheer the England team on to glory. Londoners have sacrificed so much during the pandemic and I am in no doubt that Uefa Euro 2020 can act as a real springboard for the capital’s recovery.”

On 21st June – the proposed date for lifting all lockdown restrictions – Nando’s will transform five of their restaurants across the UK into clubs specifically for millennials and Gen-Zs (essentially the bulk of their audience). And it’s clever because in theory, what kind of millennial won’t enjoy a disco and some spicy chicken? 

Interestingly, the brand took to Twitter to get people to vote on which cities they think should host the five exclusive parties, and as it’s going off on the exact date of the proposed end to lockdown, it marries up with the theme of unification and reemergence perfectly. All in all, it’s a great way to get their audience back into the restaurants and promotes more connection and conversation as opposed to sitting at individual tables and eating.

We were all, obviously, devastated when Eurovision was cancelled in 2020… Luckily, they came up with a new way to engage their international audience in May 2021 by building a virtual village where fans could connect and network in a fun and safe way. The platform was a 3D model of the actual Eurovision Village in Rotterdam, hosting a programme of entertainment and behind the scenes content for visitors to interact with. 

This is an example of Covid-fuelled technology prevailing over live experiences, and I think ultimately there will be more of this in years to come as the world adapts to living with the threat of another pandemic. What we’re hoping to see at Marble is neither physical nor virtual prevailing over one another, but existing in harmony as a hybrid event. Check out our work with Henkel dX Ventures as an example of how this can work. 

Renske Satijn, Director of Rotterdam Festivals, said: “We are extremely proud of the very first online Eurovision Village and the versatile programme. Everyone is welcome, and we are open 24/7, free of charge.” It unified the people of the world for one of the most notorious events in the calendar year – no matter how embarrassing it is that we got zero points.

Finally we have ice cream legends Haagen-Dazs, a brand already at the forefront of live experiences: their ‘Secret Sofa’ partnership with Secret Cinema in 2020 being a particularly popular event. Now they’ll be picking up where they left off pre-pandemic and bringing their floating cinema back to Regent Canal. 

Londoners can hire individual boats and make their way leisurely up the Thames to a floating cinema, with a big screen playing cult classics such as Pulp Fiction, and all-star entertainment like Bohemian Rhapsody. What I love about this activation is that with individual boats people can still feel safe and socially distant, but the cinema screen will unite audiences in a fun and creative way. Plus you can order Haagen-Dazs ice cream to your boat by QR code so really, does it get better than that? 

It’s clear from looking at each of these activations, and many of the others in the calendar for summer 2021, that brands want audiences to get back out there and unite again. We’ve had a year of staying at home, so any excuse to sit in the sun with our pals will be accepted gratefully. What marks these particular brands out from the crowd is their versatility and ability to adapt, using virtual technology from the pandemic and taking it to new heights with a physical activation incorporated into live experience.