Tim Collins

Principal at Grisdale Advisors

After a long career at Wells Fargo leading Sponsorship and Experiential, Brand and Digital Marketing, Tim Collins founded Grisdale Advisors, a boutique social media advisory firm for C-Suite executives.

Sponsorship Strategy Development, Evolution Of Direct Marketing & Internal Acceptance Of Social Media

How did your passion for marketing grow into the industry of sponsorship and experiential marketing?

Early in my marketing career, I was exposed to experiential marketing. Then it evolved to things like event marketing or promotional marketing. As marketing spending continued to expand beyond traditional advertising, the need arose for more discipline in other areas of marketing. Given my prior experience, it was a natural evolution of my career.

For people who see a strong future in this field, what would your best words of advice be?

Agency experience early in your career is crucial. Junior agency folks work incredibly hard and pay is low. But, the experience you will get across multiple industries and brands will pay dividends later. With experience across multiple industries, you will have more career options later.

Where do you see experiential marketing going within the next five years due to the constant innovation of digital and virtual marketing?

I think the lines are blurring, especially from an IMC standpoint. The digitization (and resulting scalability) of experiential has meant that more brands are using experiential in their IMC campaigns. Often, it is the lead element. At some point, does experiential become just marketing?

What are some of the best examples of experiential marketing you’ve seen within the industry today?

That is such a subjective question, as there are so many variables… objective, budget, audience, etc. There are so many interesting seasonal campaigns sprinkled around the calendar for everything from April Fool’s to Halloween.

From a bigger budget standpoint, I thought the holiday focused Cheetos Store was a really fun and playful expression of the brand. It generated great buzz! Many initially thought it was a joke, but many of the items sold out in days.

Cause marketing experiential campaigns can be really powerful. One of the more interesting, powerful, and low budget examples comes from Sweden. An opera house was playing host to its spring show, God Disguised. To promote the show, and illustrate how exposed groups are ignored in society (a theme in the show), a number of homeless people performing in it took to ten different street locations. The performers wrote signs, offering two free tickets to the first people to stop and talk to them. It took 12 hours for the first person to claim two free tickets. Check out the video here.

Why is experiential marketing evolving so quickly today as opposed to 15 years ago?

Fifteen years ago, experiential marketing largely equaled events. Sponsorship marketing was often event and activation focused. They had a huge impact on the consumers that participated, but the scale was relatively small and cost per customer engagement was high, which is why experiential was seen more throughout B2B and affluent audiences. Mobile, social, and video changed everything. Events don’t need to happen in physical space at all, as they can happen in social media or via mobile applications. Consequently, just about every major integrated campaign includes an experiential component.

With the dependence on digital scalability, experiential continues to change as technology changes. Every new technology and social network brings new opportunities. Digital assistants, such as Alexa, could be the latest experiential opportunity.

For people who are unfamiliar with sponsorship marketing, through your own experiences within the industry, how would you describe it?

Sponsorship marketing leverages two attributes. First, marketers borrow the affinity that a particular group of consumers have for sports, entertainment, and more. By closely associating their brand with the sponsored property, they hope that consumers’ affinity rubs off on their brand. Second, brand authenticity is a must; simply slapping a sign in a stadium won’t do. Brands must work hard to add to the fan experience, whether at the venue, in broadcast, or digitally. Research has proven this “brand activation,” if done right, can create brand affinity.

Interview by Lauren Morris, Medill IMC Class Of 2017

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