The more collaborative pop ups are, the longer they go, the more difficult they are to execute. At Openhouse Gallery, we’ve been practicing our pop-up skills and wanted to share some experiences. The good and the bad — both learning experiences. Here’s a case study about PlayBeautiful, our pop up in honor of the biggest sports tournament on earth.
For the 2010 World Cup, Openhouse created PlayBeautiful, a public pop up, at its 201 Mulberry Street location. The goal was to mimic a stadium experience within a 4,850 square-foot Nolita event space. The pop up’s focal point was a 70-seat bleacher where New Yorkers could watch the tournament on a six-foot projection screen. Complementing the main feature was an AstroTurf training ground equipped with mini goals where young’ens gathered and professional soccer players from the NY Red Bulls, Sky Blue FC and the Manhattan Kickers development league gave clinics. PlayBeautiful also included a cantina, concession stand, video gaming booths and pop-up retail space for soccer apparel.
Along with partners Upper 90 Soccer + Sport, Football Partnerships consulting and Premier Soccer Shop, Openhouse launched a stand-alone Web site – PlayBeautifulNYC.com – as well as a Facebook page and Twitter feed. PlayBeautiful.com hosted a tournament calendar, a ticket box office and a newsletter signup sheet to keep the public updated on the action. Tickets were booked through Eventbrite.
Pop ups nurture collaboration
Creating a month-long 360-degree pop-up experience meant collaborating with national and local businesses. Openhouse leased the bleachers from Pennsylvania-based Stadium Solutions, which creates grandstands for college and high school stadiums, and partnered with Casa Mezcal, a Lower East Side Oaxacan cultural center, to run the cantina. VitaCoco gifted a line of coconut water for the concession stand and Sony PlayStation sponsored the gaming consoles equipped with FIFA 2011. Kwik provided the mini goals for PlayBeautiful’s training grounds, and Upper 90 filled the retail space with soccer apparel from Adidas, Nike, Puma, Umbro and FIFA’s newly-launched Collections line.
Does a pop up need a unique Web site?
Openhouse, Upper90 and Football Partnerships decided to create a standalone site as a way to attract an overhead sponsor. With only three months lead time, that didn’t happen, and PlayBeautifulNYC.com had the feel of an early-90s Nintendo video game. “If a title sponsor had come in, we would have branded the hell out of everything,” Whitney Shanks of Openhouse says. The site raises an important question, though: When partners create a temporary experience, should they build a Web outpost like PlayBeautifulNYC.com or embed the content into one (or all) of the host sites? Especially considering the Facebook’s centralized outreach.
The site itself was useful. PlayBeautiful’s hosts were able to get a feel for how many guests they should expect, and could get a move on pre-selling the $10 to $30 tickets for bleacher seats. It also enabled them to reach the public through newsletters (yet another touch point) run by Alex Kotler of Football Partnerships. The PlayBeautiful hosts did not sell advertising on the newsletters, which focused on game-related content.
Selling food and getting a liquor license
While the stadium experience was a hit, the concessions stand and cantina did not fulfill expectations. “We hoped that we would make money out of it, but it didn’t end up being profitable,” says Whitney Shanks of Openhouse. Part of the reason is that the World Cup was in South Africa, meaning New Yorkers were up at 10 a.m. to watch games. (Openhouse’s concession stand sold traditional continental breakfast fare like croissants, muffins, tea, coffee, and, creatively, world cupcakes. Throughout the day, they added sandwiches, chips and soda.) Another reason was Manhattan engulfs consumers with food options.
A nice workaround to the liquor question was partnering with Casa Mezcal. Owner Ignacio Carballido applied for daily off-premise permits, offering a convenient solution to the question of how to secure liquor during a pop up event. Openhouse hosted three moderately successful happy hours as well. “I would do happy hours [again], just with more promotion in advance,” Shanks says.
Private events can add revenue for the host and exposure for brands
Though PlayBeautiful was a public pop up, Openhouse also offered private events. Shanks tied in Cape Town-based Nederburg wines for a private cocktail party with food catered by Brooklyn’s Madiba, which serves South African fare. During the cocktail hour, they re-broadcast that day’s South Africa game, providing a good example of how to create unique themes from within a diverse pop up.