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January 2024’s Coolest Activations – Inspiration for Ideation 

by | February 28, 2024

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As 2024 continues chugging along, events haven’t slowed down one bit. Almost all events are back to being in person unless companies have developed a preference for hybrid or entirely virtual events. 

Do you have an event, program, or opportunity on the horizon but are struggling with activations? Let me help you by showing you what’s already emerged in 2024 on the sponsorship activation horizon. 

As always, let me present a caveat. An activation that works for one business or brand might not work for another. Your activation should fulfill the needs of your audience and sponsor, and that’s achievable in many ways. 

Rather, I’m sharing these examples to help grease up those mental wheels and get them spinning. 

The DinkDunk Pickleball Spa

You’ll recall in my sports sponsorship trends list that pickleball is the fastest-rising sport in America, but that’s not the only country that’s been taken by storm by this racquetball-like game. Pickleball is having a moment right now, as it’s also Canada’s fastest-growing sport.

That’s why my native Canada is the home of The DinkDunk Pickleball Spa sponsored by government organization Destination Canada. The Quebec spa, which Destination Canada has touted is the first of its kind, is a dream come true for pickleball fanatics. 

The backdrop of the resort is the snowy forest deep in the country’s wilderness. Between the beautiful views and bitter cold, you’ll play pickleball like never before. 

Of course, it’s not all about playing here. You can also get some R&R at DinkDunk, with amenities available like Quebec-based snacks and charcuterie (a huge trend nowadays), an outdoor hot tub, a sauna, massages, and a cold plunge station with river water. 

This was a smart idea on the part of Destination Canada. Creating a pickleball spa is a way to revolutionize the game. Rather than build new pickleball courts and call it good, Destination Canada gave people a reason to visit this Quebec spot specifically to relax and play. 

Walmart at CES

The Consumer Electronics Show or CES is the penultimate tech event, so of course, the hugest brands clamber to be there. When they show up, they show up big, debuting some of the most substantial activations you’ve ever seen.

You needn’t look further than Walmart for an example of that. 2024 was Walmart’s first year at CES, and the retail giant did not hold back. 

Walmart had an entire structure dedicated to it for CES that measured 50 by 140 feet. Doug McMillon, the current Walmart CEO, presented a keynote speech there, and attendees at the Las Vegas Convention Center could watch a life-sized screen of what a day at the Walmart distribution center is like.

Of course, this two-story activation was more than an oversized movie theater. It also featured a 4D ride that guided riders through the Walmart supply chain. 

Walmart’s mere presence at CES was enough to attract attention. That the company had an entire building dedicated to it on the convention grounds was sure to captivate even more attendees and guide them toward it. 

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Now, unlike smaller brands, which would have sought to spread awareness and sell products and services, Walmart’s goal wasn’t any of the above. Simply, they strove to showcase the inner workings of their business, and they were quite successful at it.

The Vulture Spot 2024 Sundance Film Festival

Another major event transpired in January, the 2024 Sundance Film Festival. This has become such a marquee event that sponsorship activations have begun popping up left and right. 

One of the more experimental opportunities on the grounds was called The Vulture Spot presented by New York Magazine. This Main Street studio was for showcasing art, photography, and maybe a little fashion.

Free People had a space at The Vulture Spot that it used to showcase its upcoming winter clothing line. More so than looking at the clothes, attendees could try on outfits and complete purchases. 

The overall vibe of The Vulture Spot was bespoke and a little too cool for school while still remaining accessible. It presented a nice opportunity outside of mingling and viewing screenings. 

Better You by Lana

How about an example of influencer sponsorship? In January, Lana Condor, an actress, and KIND Snacks teamed up for the Better You by Lana experience. The pop-up shop was around for a single day, on January 12th, in the popular Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica. 

Better You by Lana looked like a wellness store, but it wasn’t selling supplements or green juices. Here’s how Lana explained it: “Each and every January, we all feel like we should be changing our daily routines to become better versions of ourselves. It’s time to ask ourselves how well these resolutions are serving us…Better You by Lana certainly sounds like a wellness store in name, but the experience KIND and I teamed up to create is anything but. We will empower consumers to shut out the noise that comes with the new year.”

That’s why the pop-up’s date was January 12th, which was anything but random. It coincided with Quitter’s Day, a January holiday when most people put their New Year’s resolutions in the rear view. 

Better You by Lana featured a full-sized wall calendar for the month of January with sticky notes empowering those who saw the experience. For example, the sticky notes on January 13th read, “You cannot quit” and “You must keep going.” 

KIND and Lana had custom gifts to give to the first 100 people who lined up for Better You by Lana. 

ESPN at the College Football Playoff National Championship Game 

January is an exciting time for football fans, as the NFL playoff picture begins taking shape and the college football season comes to an exciting conclusion. ESPN’s sponsorship activation at the College Football Playoff National Championship Game was a match made in heaven, ensuring audience engagement.

ESPN and Triton Productions treated 1,200 attendees to an exclusive, incredible experience, a VIP tailgate. ESPN tied the event to its football slogan, which is “The Greatest Story Ever Played.”

The bar area featured football green, and the food stations were designed after football playbooks, including Xs and Os. There were even endzone lounges and a bar with a scoreboard, so it was thematic all the way. 

VIP experiences always go over like gangbusters no matter the type of festival or event, and ESPN’s lounge was no exception. The theming and limited-edition status of the VIP tailgate made it one of the hottest parts of the event. 

Ketel One Vodka at Sundance Film Festival

Alcohol sponsorships are coming into their own lately, as evidenced by Ketel One’s presence at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival. It was the festival’s official vodka, providing guests of legal drinking age with cocktails at its prominent spot on the festival grounds across the 10 days of Sundance.

They weren’t just any cocktails, but those with cinema themes prepared by master mixologist Charles Joly, a Diageo Reserve World Class-awarded talent. 

The 2024 film festival was Ketel One’s first appearance at the show, but it didn’t work alone. It also had partnerships with MACRO and Audible to create more immersive, innovative experiences. 

 After all, it’s not enough to merely serve customers something delicious. You also have to give them a reason to cement your brand in their brain, and introducing immersive experiences is a great way to do that.

Pinterest Zenius Bar at CES

Pinterest has become the patron saint for unique activations, with its Zenius Bar at CES grabbing a lot of attention. It wasn’t only because of the size of this activation or its eye-catching displays, although those certainly helped.

It also boiled down to the interactivity the activation offered, but let’s start from the beginning. 

The Zenius Bar, named in honor of Gen Z, introduced Pinterest’s latest service called Collages. Attendees could see how the technology determines the placement of objects in real time, then how the Collages neatly trim selected items and put them into a layout of your choosing. 

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Pinterest Predicts trends were on full display, including Hot Metals with silvery fashion and makeup, Blue Beauty, and Be Jelly (you know, like jelly shoes and other soft fashion in that style). QR codes were available throughout this part of the display, so that if attendees saw anything they liked, they could buy it on the spot through a Pinterest merchant. 

Then, attendees could treat themselves to a manicure with either a Hot Metals or Blue Beauty finish, adding stickers and decals. 

More so, the activation featured custom bag-making with Pinterest Predicts pins and Bow Stacking styling led by Tay Pac, an LA creator. 

Saint James Iced Tea at the X Games

Aspen, Colorado was the site for this year’s X Games, a high-octane action sports event. Saint James Iced Tea was one of the games’ sponsors, and it proves that you don’t need a huge activation to make an impact.

The ice teas, which are ready-to-drink right out of the can and are also sustainable and organic, kept thirsts quenched during Bob Moses and Tinx’s DJ sets. 

Also, Saint James worked with ENTER to make an ice wall that had fresh fruits and iced teas embedded inside.

I’d say it was a hot photo spot, but given its temperature, that wouldn’t quite be accurate. Besides the great photo op and providing people with product samples, Saint James also had custom branded earmuffs, beanies, sweatshirts, and jackets.

In other words, it combined several activations into one and was the talk of the X Games. 

Netflix 3 Body Problem Experience at CES 

Netflix could have advertised its upcoming program, 3 Body Problem, in so many ways, but this is CES we’re talking about. As I said, it’s go big or go home. 

That’s the only way to explain why Netflix went all-in on its promotion of the show. Attendees could learn about the mystery drama in a large, reflective structure with double mirrors. 

Once inside, attendees were asked to wear video game headsets and sit wraparound-style while watching the trailer to match the wraparound screen. The headsets weren’t just to immerse attendees in the experience, even though they did that phenomenally. They were also reflective of the show’s characters.

While watching the trailer with their headsets on, attendees would feel wind and heat at random intervals to bring a more lifelike experience to the trailer. 

Now that’s how you make an impact when screening a show!


Okay, so one more activation example from CES, and boy, did I save the best for last. Tech brand LG had quite an explosive entrance with its activation showcasing its OLED technology. Attendees oohed and ahhed as they walked through a tunnel covered all the way through with LED lights.

The 40-foot tunnel was only one feature LG had in store for CES attendees at this year’s event. Its large swath of event space featured a brand-conscious oversized LG wall, a large display of its Signature OLED TVs, and a showcase of its LG-able vehicle. 

Overall, LED had a huge swath of space with which to work, and it made the most of it. Its display was simply awesome, and although it had a lot of products and services it was activating all at once, the symmetry from one section to another was refreshing.

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Wrapping Up

So, there you have it, January’s most captivating activation ideas as 2024 has gotten rolling. Whether it was the appropriately avant-garde offerings at the Sundance Film Festival, larger-than-life displays at CES, or unique one-offs, brands are continually improving their activation ideas, and I love to see it! 

Did any of these activation ideas jump out at you? Have the cogs begun spinning in your mind, but you’re unsure where to take your sponsorship goals next? Schedule a call with the team at Sponsorship Collective and make this the year your sponsorship plans take flight.