7 Cool Food Activations Your Audience Will Love
People have gotta eat, so it’s fairly safe to say that a food activation idea at your next event, program, or opportunity ought to go over big. That’s doubly true if your sponsor is in the food industry. What are my top food activation ideas?
Here are 7 awesome food activations that would wow any audience:
- Food truck giveaways
- Mobile soda kitchens
- Customized candy studios
- Branded photo booth + food sampling station
- Water slides (for beverage brands)
- Portable versions of normally not-portable foods
- 3D printed food
Buckle up! Your taste buds are about to go on a wild, delicious ride as I take you through each of these 7 smart, innovative food activations.
Let’s get started!
Food Truck Giveaways
If you ever have food trucks show up in your area, which is a common sight in populous cities, then you know that people line up in droves for a chance to eat food truck cuisine.
Having a slew of food trucks at your event would be enough to grab your audience’s attention, but why stop there when you can crank things up a notch?
Here’s the activation idea: a sponsored food truck giving out free samples.
It’s simple, but it’s effective, especially if your sponsor is interested in growing brand awareness or introducing its products to a new audience segment.
Make sure that the sponsor brands more than the food truck but the packaging or wrapping of their food as well.
It’s best if they prepare a small menu of up to three items to give out as free samples. This way, people can select what they want based on their preferences, cravings, dietary restrictions, and religious restrictions.
Having a semi-varied menu also gives you backup options in case the activation does well and you run out of a menu item.
A food truck giveaway of this nature keeps your audience fed. If the food is Instagrammable–which it should be–then your audience can do free promotion for the sponsor.
What company doesn’t love that?
Mobile Soda Kitchens
You and I both know that soda is far from the healthiest beverage choice. However, the sugary goodness of pop is caffeinated and addictive, so it’s hard to resist.
When you’re on the go for seven or 10 hours at a conference or convention, caffeination matters. Soda is an alternative to coffee that still produces a crash but maybe not the jitters.
In 2016, soda giant Pepsi unveiled its Pepsi Nspire truck at SXSW.
If you don’t know what SXSW is, it’s a multi-day music festival in sweaty Austin, Texas. If there’s ever a time that an audience can use a caffeinated jolt and refreshment, it’s here.
The mobile kitchen didn’t only have Pepsi drinks, although those were present in droves, but beverages from all of Pepsi’s umbrella brands.
Lucky concertgoers could also try foods made by PepsiCo brands.
Everything was customizable, including what the Trendhunter link above calls “mashup snacks dreamed up by Pepsi” and sodas that were available in 1,000 configurations.
As I’ll talk more about with the next idea, customized options for foods or beverages that you normally cannot customize go over very well with audiences.
It’s fun to create something uniquely theirs, and the customization experience will ensure the attendee spends considerable time at this sponsored booth.
Your sponsor might request an attendee’s email address or phone number to send them a record of their customized product or even for order tracking if there’s a long line for food and drink pickup (which there likely would be with a smash-hit activation idea like this!).
Voila, the sponsor gets more brand awareness as well as lead gen and likely follow-up sales.
Customized Candy Studios
Pop-up custom candy shops at events are all the rage for the reasons I mentioned above.
People love being able to make their own version of an already existing product, especially when it’s a big one such as a Pepsi beverage or, in this example, Kit Kat candy.
We only know Kit Kats as wafers enrobed in chocolate, but all over the world, various Kit Kat flavors abound. A customized candy studio lets you recreate those flavors or invent your own.
Of course, an activation like this is going to beg for photo opportunities aplenty. Your attendees will not be able to help from posting their sugary candy creations all over social media.
Now, imagine that instead of Kit Kat, your sponsor was a smaller confectionary company that put a lot of blood, sweat, and tears (although none literally, of course) into offering custom candy varieties for your event.
Even without the brand recognition, people will still show up in droves to a custom candy studio.
The sponsor should definitely be sure that their name is front and center on the candy packaging as well as prominently displayed on the candy studio booth. Photos and videos will be taken all day, and the free brand recognition will take care of itself.
This activation idea is also, in a way, about giving out free samples, albeit free samples the attendees created themselves.
Once they try their delectable sweets, they’ll surely crave more and begin searching for the sponsor’s products online or in a store near them.
Branded Photobooth/Wall + Food Sampling Station
It’s a proven fact that branded photo booths at an event are going to attract boatloads of attention.
People who attend events are always looking for something to photograph so they can post it on social media and create that feeling of FOMO among their friends. The more photo-worthy something is, the more attention it nabs.
Branded photo booths will certainly do it, but your booth has to stand out from the norm.
In other words, it’s not enough to splash the sponsor’s name all over the booth in a bright, electric color and call it a day.
You need something eye-catching. For a food-themed sponsor, may I recommend a photobooth or photo wall that resembles a giant food like pizza or a donut (or whatever your sponsor specializes in)?
I must also implore you, why simply stop at a branded photo wall or photobooth when you can take things to the next level?
For example, maybe the photo wall consists of real donuts that attendees can take off a hook and eat, as seen here. Or perhaps it’s soft pretzels.
You would have to replace the food contents throughout the day so the photo wall is a viable attraction for new guests.
If not a photo wall and you like the photo booth idea better for your activation, then perhaps the photo booth also offers free samples.
Here’s a way to make this activation idea worth your sponsor’s while. Attendees can use the photo booth freely, but they have to provide their email address or phone number to get their photos sent to them.
It’s only after they take photos that they receive their freebie.
The food is still free because it’s not like the attendees paid for it with money. They just provided some basic contact info. They would have wanted to do that anyway to get their photo.
If you’re looking for a food-themed activation that will get people talking about your event, program, or opportunity for years to come, then this is it.
You’d build a water slide.
This idea comes from Lipton, the makers of iced tea. Back in 2015, the brand had a pop-up installment called Rise & Slide.
As that name implies, it was a giant water slide that people could enjoy in London. And before you ask, no, the slide wasn’t filled with iced tea but water.
What made the activation distinct was the branding, of course. The entire slide as well as the inner tubes that people rode on were Lipton yellow. The slide was also brand-labeled appropriately.
The slide was installed outdoors near a station in an area that naturally attracted a lot of traffic. Unsurprisingly, the Rise & Slide, as short-lived as it was, was a ginormous success.
How could you replicate that success for your own event?
Well, a water slide doesn’t work for every type of event in the slightest.
If yours is a corporate expo, then you’re out of luck. Actually, any indoor event is a poor candidate unless you want to deal with all the cleanup.
For outdoor festivals or sports games, a water slide is the perfect activation. Any type of beverage sponsor you can make a killing when it comes to brand awareness, signups, or lead generation with an activation like this!
Portable Versions of Normally Not-Portable Foods
When you think of portable foods, I’m sure that plenty come to mind immediately, right? Maybe you’re thinking nuts and seeds, yogurt and granola cups, fruit, or anything on a stick.
When you ponder portable foods, what probably does not come to mind is a milkshake, correct?
You don’t want any spillage, nor are you interested in developing a bad case of brain freeze on the go. You save your milkshakes for at home or at a restaurant.
Well, for a little while in 2016, milkshakes were portable thanks to restaurant chain Sonic.
As described in a Social Media Today article from the same year, Sonic showed up to the 2016 Coachella music festival with square-shaped milkshakes.
The goal was to make food that was literally Instagrammable, right down to matching the size and shape of an Instagram photo in a feed.
Sonic even went so far as to allow for free delivery of the shakes to the Coachella audience as long as they posted a photo on their Instagram feeds.
That’s pretty clever, right? Rather than pay an exorbitant delivery fee, you could enjoy free shakes all concert long by posting them on your Instagram feed.
That’s free promotion for Sonic and refreshment for you at a multi-day outdoor event in which attendees are always seeking refreshments.
You don’t necessarily have to go the ultra-Instagrammable route with your activation. What you should do is try to think outside the box and make food that’s not normally portable much easier to carry and eat on the go.
Maybe you change the food’s size or shape like Sonic did or perhaps you put it on a stick.
If you have your sponsor give out this unique food for free, you can bet it’s going to create a buzz. People in the crowds will wonder what this food is and how they can get some.
Those audience members who were lucky enough to score one will want to eagerly post to social media to show off this unique way of eating their favorite food.
3D Printed Foods
In the 2020s, 3D-printed goods are becoming more commonplace. Back in 2014 though, it was a novel concept.
What’s still novel about 3D printing is that it hasn’t largely been used in the world of food. That’s why Oreo’s 2014 activation at SXSW was so groundbreaking.
You can check out a video here courtesy of First We Feast that showcases Oreo’s 3D-printing vending machine. It’s pretty mesmerizing if I do say so myself.
Users could select a custom Oreo cream flavor in what was termed the Trending Vending machine.
Unlike the other custom options I’ve discussed, this one came down to a vote. SXSW attendees chose between Oreo cream flavors like lime, birthday cake, mint, and banana. The winning flavor was added to all 3D-printed cookies.
The entire process of getting your custom cookie took only two minutes, so it was time-effective. Anyone who wanted to try the machine should have had enough time to do so
How do you take an activation idea like this and run with it? You could have your sponsor 3D-print their name on the food.
Also, it might help to print food that’s a little bigger than one Oreo cookie (nope, despite the video, these cookies were no larger than usual Oreos). This way, people don’t stuff it into their mouths in one bite.
They’ll carry it around and advertise it for the sponsor company.
There you go, 7 epic food activation ideas to get you started planning for your own upcoming festival or event.
Remember, these ideas are just that, ideas. You’re free to take from them, upgrade them, twist them, turn them, and innovate them to make them even better. Good luck!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Chris Baylis is the President and CEO of The Sponsorship Collective and a self-confessed sponsorship geek.
After several years as a sponsor (that’s right, the one investing the money!) Chris decided to cross over to the sponsorship sales side where he has personally closed tens of millions of dollars in sponsorship deals. Chris has been on the front lines of multi-million dollar sponsorship agreements and has built and coached teams to do the same.
Chris now spends his time working with clients to value their assets and build strategies that drive sales. An accomplished speaker and international consultant, Chris has helped his clients raise millions in sponsorship dollars.