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8 Great Activation Ideas and Examples in 2023 

by | June 22, 2023

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2023 has been an incredible year in sponsorship activations already, and it’s only about halfway over! Being on the cutting edge of activations can set you apart and drive more sponsorship your way, so what kinds of activations are getting all the headlines this year?

Here are some of the most standout activations thus far in 2023 to inspire you:

  • Pop-up cocktail lounges
  • Exclusive commemorative merch
  • Upscale mixers
  • Larger-than-life pop-ups
  • VIP experiences post-event
  • Branded piazzas
  • Live workshops
  • AR technology

Keep reading to see how these activations took center stage and made popular events even more memorable, complete with examples, photos, and tips for implementing these ideas yourself!

1. Pop-up Cocktail Lounges

Photo courtesy of BizBash

New York Fashion Week would feel incomplete without the Kardashians’ presence. Kendall Jenner and her alcohol brand, 818 Tequila, parked outside the festivities at Dante West Village with an Espresso Martini Lounge.

The rustic-looking lounge featured the most famous 818 cocktails, with one called the Runway Paloma that was especially appropriate. 

To foster an even more festive atmosphere, the event featured limited-edition merch, live music, and hors d’oeurves. Oh, and it was impossibly exclusive, with tickets being issued to only 200 people. 


Triggering a sense of FOMO will always be a reliable way to generate interest in a product or service. People want what they can’t have, which is why FOMO is such a powerful psychological sales and marketing tool. 

The 818 Tequila activation welcomed only a select few event attendees. Those who unfortunately weren’t ticket-holders could at least capture photos of the booth and the lucky customers drinking tequila and eating small bites. 

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If your sponsor hands out free samples or product demos during your event, limit the numbers. If they have a ticketed attraction aka 818 Tequila’s, don’t give out an abundance of tickets. 

You will whet attendees’ appetites by how limited the engagement is. However, don’t make it so limited that your audience doesn’t get a chance to experience the activation (and, in turn, the sponsor’s products or services) for themselves. 

That defeats the purpose! 

2. Exclusive Commemorative Merch 

Coachella is always a major, can’t-miss event, and this year proved no different. The activations were almost as big as the stars, including American Express’s activation.

The credit card company has seen a major influx of millennials and Gen Zs among its customer base, so it decided to target that audience (and appropriately so) at Coachella.

Amex partnered with the hit K-pop group BLACKPINK, selling exclusive band merch at its merch tent. Coachella attendees could sign up for an Amex card if they didn’t already have one to beat the lines and get first dibs at the sought-after merch. 

They were also rewarded with a complimentary gift when they did, but that’s not all! Participating in this activation granted attendees access to official event merch at the Kimpton Hotel, one ride on the Coachella Ferris Wheel (for free, might I add), and entry to merch tents during happy hour.


Once again, you can argue that FOMO rules here. BLACKPINK is a massively popular music group, and people would line up in droves for non-exclusive merch. Limiting the access to merch behind an activation guarantees an incredible turnout. 

Here’s another important takeaway: make it worthwhile for attendees to engage in a sponsor’s activation. The Amex activation could have ridden on the coattails of its exclusive BLACKPINK merch, and it would have been fine. 

However, Amex generously rewarded attendees for registering for a card, giving them all sorts of exclusive perks that would have been difficult to impossible for them to obtain on their own. 

Now, granted, opening a credit card is a major financial decision, so when deciding how to reward your attendees for engaging with your sponsor, keep the prizes commensurate with what they’re doing.

3. Upscale Mixers

Photo courtesy of BizBash

That’s right, here’s another alcohol-themed activation that popped up during this year’s New York Fashion Week, but with a completely different spin. 

The Damn Fancy Styling Station was the brainchild of Rachel Zoe (a designer), Tanqueray (an alcohol brand), and Coffee ‘n Clothes. The result was a unique station featuring Zoe styles, snacks like goat cheese crostinis, and Tanqueray alcohol.

Besides filling your belly, the Damn Fancy Styling Station also sent guests home happy with London Dry Gin (a whole bottle!), Tanqueray glassware and recipes, and personalized tote bags.


The Damn Fancy Styling Station wouldn’t have been unique if it had focused on only one element, like food, alcohol, or fashion design. However, by combining them, it became an activation everyone discussed at the fashion event. 

A good activation should always fulfill an audience’s need and a sponsor’s need. Once you’ve got those boxes checked, you can go about creating the activation however you like. Perhaps you also decide to combine disparate elements in a way that no one will forget.

4. Larger-Than-Life Pop-Ups 

Photo courtesy of EventMarketer.com

Bad Bunny made history at 2023’s Coachella as the first solo Latin musician to get the headlining spot. Adidas commemorated the occasion by partnering with the star to create this gargantuan activation called the Campus experience.

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The Campus experience was a pop-up greenhouse. Those flowers you see on the exterior? They were real, with more than 50,000 of them. The wooden bunny-shaped entrance mimics Bad Bunny’s logo and surely had people stopping and gasping in awe all day while snapping away with their phones.

The greenhouse doubled as a store, selling Adidas’ Wild Moss shoes in limited numbers and before the public could get their hands on ‘em. 


Have photo walls had their moment in the sponsorship sphere? Yes and no. They’re not the most innovative idea anymore, but they can still be ultra-effective when done well, as this activation shows.

I know it was a lot more than a photo wall, but what drew people to the Campus experience was its exterior. Between its size, the colors, all those flowers, and the Bad Bunny association, this was one of Coachella’s biggest activations, both literally and figuratively. 

Bigger can be better but remember to keep your audience and sponsor in mind when crafting activation ideas. Besides the looks of your activation, focus on substance too. 

The Campus experience had opportunities at exclusive Adidas kicks, which would have led nearly anyone to walk through. You need something equally compelling.

5. VIP Experiences Post-Event 

Photo courtesy of Cheddar News

On the ground floor of Spring Studios, attendees at 2023’s New York Fashion Week could take some time out of their busy schedule for the Afterpay Xperience. 

The activation featured a RunwayX by Afterpay showcase of up-and-coming fashion design, live DJIs, Bluestone Lane’s fashion café, garment customization, viewing parties, and plenty of photo-ready moments at every turn. 

Guests could even hop into the Hypno Booth, follow some instructions, and get a video taken and sent to them later.


People will jump on top of an opportunity like this during a highly visual, trendy event like New York Fashion Week. The Afterpay Xperience or a spinoff of its basic premise might not work for all sponsors, but when it clicks, it really clicks.

You could try an activation like this if your event is just as visual or if you have a sponsor with a lot of panache.

6. Branded Piazzas 

Photo courtesy of Cosmopolitan

Coachella is one of the most colorful events out there, almost to the point of visual overload. It would take a special kind of activation to be so bright that it would catch your eye, yet that’s exactly what the Aperol Spritz Piazza did.

To say this activation was massive is the understatement of the year. People drank Aperol Spritzes the entire event. 

Part of the attraction was undoubtedly the Italian theming. The influencer-friendly touchpoints and photo ops also helped, as did the Orange Photo Dome. This photo station took images in slow-motion. 

The Aperol Spritz Piazza also featured trivia games testing one’s knowledge of the beautiful country of Italy. It was all in all an ultra-successful activation that didn’t do anything wildly out of the box, and that’s okay!


I just identified the parts of what made the Aperol Spritz Piazza work, but here’s another reason why it was super successful. Coachella happens in the spring in California. It’s extremely hot.

That’s why there was an abundance of hydration stations and sunscreen activations. The piazza also succeeded because it fed into the festive atmosphere of Coachella.

Harnessing your event’s atmosphere and manifesting it through your activation will certainly get curious attendees lining up. If you can give your customers what they want–hydration, in this case–and find a way for your sponsor to be involved, everyone wins.

7. Live Workshops 

Photo courtesy of Cheddar News

Do you know what the worst part of an event is, especially one people are really enjoying? When it ends. That’s why New York Fashion Week had the NYFW Afterclass hosted by Colin LoCascio. 

Zanna Roberts Rassi, an entertainment journalist, was on hand with LoCascio to lead the workshop. New York City fashion students had to design their own looks using deadstock fabric from the Spring/Summer 2023 line LoCascio had created. 


This workshop served several purposes. For one, it extended New York Fashion Week, and who wouldn’t want that? It also had an educational component wrapped up with a fun exterior to increase engagement.

Don’t be afraid to go a more instructional route with your activations as appropriate with the sponsors you’re working with. However, don’t make it feel like work or sitting in the world’s most boring school class. 

Jazz it up with fun objectives, sprightly instructors, and an overall positive and enjoyable vibe, and you should see a good turnout.

8. AR Technology 

Coca-Cola is no stranger to large events, as it’s one of the biggest sports sponsor brands on the planet. When it had an activation at Coachella, you could bet it would be just as ginormous as any of the others.

Coke created a 360-degree AR performance for Yameii Online, a virtual star. The soundproof environment featured large LED screens and NFC technology that attendees had to activate via their phones to see the performance with AR. 

It wasn’t like attendees just watched with their phones up. They would direct their phones at AR markers, where 3D Coke brands bloomed, and Yameii Online characters roamed. 

Check out a video below of what it was like and prepare to be amazed.


Technology is truly incredible, and it’s only getting better. AR is a growing activation trend, and it’s almost always going to be a home run.

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However, unless you’re a huge brand like Coke, obtaining the technology to produce an AR experience, scan smartphones, and connect users can be costly for some sponsorship properties. 

If AR is in your budget at current, feel free to incorporate it into an activation if you think your audience will respond favorably. However, if you have to wait yet due to budgetary concerns, AR is surely only going to become more mainstream and thus more affordable with time. 


Sponsorship activations never cease to amaze me. Partnerships between brands and their sponsors yield some great outcomes, and attendees get to benefit from it.

These ideas should help you feel readier to brainstorm activations with your team or sponsor. However, I want to make one point clear. As cool as these activations are, that’s not why I talked about them. 

They fulfilled sponsor and audience needs, and that’s why they work above all else. You don’t have to make like these brands and create larger-than-life activations just for the sake of it. 

Your activations must fit your brand. That doesn’t always require a budget of several thousand dollars or tens of thousands. You don’t have to create the tallest activation, or the largest, or the flashiest. If it makes your audience happy and your sponsor benefits, your activation is a success.