Experiential events: 4 wonderful wellness experiences at SXSW 2019

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Attending an event is a fun, positive experience usually packed full of learning and networking with new people. There’s no doubt about it, though – it can also be exhausting. Attendees are outside of their normal routines, and probably over-stimulated from the amount of information on offer. These are some of the reasons for the rise of wellness experiences at events.

Wellness activations at experiential events are known to leave a lasting impression, as well as help attendees experience the overall event more fully. Both of these results will have a positive effect on the feeling around the event and your brand.

SXSW launched their first Wellness Expo in 2018, when it took up about half of the 125,000-square-foot Palmer Events Center. This year, it filled the entire space and brought together more than 170 brands with activations and demonstrations focused on living well and ethically.

Yoga classes were a popular way to unwind at SXSW 2019 (   Source   )

Yoga classes were a popular way to unwind at SXSW 2019 (Source)

There was a stage for positive wellbeing activities such as meditation, as well as panel discussions and even a fitness stage for those in need of an exercise class to let off steam. For the event’s 75,000 attendees, it provided a haven of serenity.

The variety of brands on show at the Wellness Expo ranged from the expected like Lululemon to the unexpected like Michelob Ultra Beer. What these brands have in common is knowing that being associated with wellness makes good business sense. Today’s consumer wants to buy more than just a product – they want a lifestyle. A wellness-focused activation is the perfect way to tell this part of your brand’s story.

“To be interested in wellness is for anyone who cares about their bodies, which is pretty much everyone these days.” – Ronnie Yoked, Experiential Director, Michelob

Michelob tapped into the growing wellness trend

As Ronnie Yoked, Michelob’s experiential director puts it in an interview with Digiday, “We are about creating an unforgettable experience here at SXSW and to be thought of as synonymous with what modern wellness looks like. To be interested in wellness is for anyone who cares about their bodies, which is pretty much everyone these days.”

Beer brand Michelob hosted SXSW’s first mass sunset meditation this year, complete with live music (   Source   )

Beer brand Michelob hosted SXSW’s first mass sunset meditation this year, complete with live music (Source)

Bulletproof coffee offered a novel way to stay healthy

Coffee brand Bulletproof took wellness experiences to an exciting level with their pop-up Oxygen Bar at SXSW this year, offering attendees the opportunity to rest awhile and try out this futuristic piece of tech. Designed to displace harmful free radicals and strengthen the immune system, the Oxygen Bar was the perfect remedy for long and busy days spent at the event.

Offering more than just coffee, Bulletproof provided an interesting and unusual wellness experience at this year’s SXSW (   Source   )

Offering more than just coffee, Bulletproof provided an interesting and unusual wellness experience at this year’s SXSW (Source)

Game of Thrones and the American Red Cross drew the crowds

Social issues are also increasingly important for consumers, with 86 percent in a recent survey reporting that they want brands to take a stand on issues important to them. The causes most relevant to your brand will depend on who you are and what you sell, but when planning how to bring them to life at experiential events we recommend getting creative.

At SXSW this year, HBO teamed up in a novel partnership with the American Red Cross for an aptly-named branded activation called Bleed for the Throne. Anyone who watches Game of Thrones (and that was at least 16.5 million of you during the last episode) will know that there’s no shortage of gore in every episode.

The American Red Cross jumped on this opportunity, using the call to action “join the fight for life” to encourage attendees to donate blood. The activation was blessed with the element of being unexpected, but also with a brand partnership that actually made sense to fans and appealed to attendees wanting to give something back.

It was a hugely successful way of drawing attention to a good cause, contributing to a 40 percent rise in new donors for the American Red Cross. But it couldn’t have been done without the widespread popularity of the television series, and a captive audience at the SXSW Wellness Expo.

Feedback was positive to on-site blood donation offered by the American Red Cross, in collaboration with HBO and Game of Thrones at SXSW 2019 (   Source   )

Feedback was positive to on-site blood donation offered by the American Red Cross, in collaboration with HBO and Game of Thrones at SXSW 2019 (Source)

Amazon kept it simple, but effective

Providing wellness activations during your event provides a multitude of benefits. Done right, they are almost guaranteed to raise overall sentiment as tired attendees seek sanctuary in places outside of the hustle and bustle of the main event.

Wellness experience are also a great way to drive organic traffic to specific areas. Amazon delivered an incredibly simple but effective hair lounge at SXSW this year, giving visitors the chance to sit back, relax, and have their hair styled. The long line ups were testament to just how much buzz it generated, resulting in a rise in a rise in positive sentiment for Amazon.

Wellness activations don’t have to break the bank, but they do need to be different from the main event to enhance the overall attendee experience.

The Amazon hair lounge was a welcome retreat for SXSW 2019 attendees wanting a little pampering

The Amazon hair lounge was a welcome retreat for SXSW 2019 attendees wanting a little pampering

Wellness activations don’t have to break the bank, but they do need to be different from the main event to enhance the overall attendee experience. That is, to be successful they have to offer a space to relax and unwind and it’s up to event organizers to work with brands to ensure these criteria are met. As event organizers follow the lead of SXSW, watch as wellness areas become an integral part of more positive event experiences in the years to come.

To get up to speed on the latest trends in wellness experiences, download our eBook Experiential Marketing Trends from SXSW.