Experiential Marketing


Diageo, the world’s largest producer of spirits and beers,  spent US $2.5 billion in marketing in 2021, according to Statista. “At Diageo brands lead with culture,” Jennifer Yu,

Before Yu entered her current position at Diageo in August 2021, she worked as Senior Global Events Lead, High Touch Experiences at Apple, Inc. Contrasting the approach to marketing at both companies, Yu asserts that “at Diageo brands lead with culture. At Apple they lead with product.” After her experience at Apple, Yu wanted to go back into cultural marketing, where she had occupied positions prior in her career, as she is very interested in the  “human aspects that drive the connectivity of all the diverse cultures in the United States.”
Cultural Marketing
Diageo’s House of Slay activation brought together fashion, food, design and other cultural partnerships.

Yu’s role at Diageo is new  and, in her words, aims at  “driving a unified platform where all Diageo brands can show up in one cohesive space.” An example of such a platform is the recent partnership between Diageo brands  Johnnie Walker, Tequila Don Julio, Tanqueray, & Smirnoff Pink Lemonade with House of Slay (Phillip Lim, Prabal Gurung, Laura Kim, Ezra J. William, and Tina Leung), an AAPI founded and fashion-forward collective with the mission of stopping Anti-Asian hate and discrimination.

We work on driving a unified  platform where all Diageo brands can show up in one cohesive space.

As the a team of 12 marketers across the portfolio of brands driving experience, influencer and social media. We have a consultative role with brand managers and work hand in hand with them on a strategy for all brands  through one cohesive platform,” Yu says.

How Does Culture Impact Marketing?

Yu notes that each brand at Diageo has a brand purpose. Yu and her team are unifying brand purpose together in order to highlight different cultures. In the case of the AAPI Heritage Month 2022, House of Slay initiative. Diageo wanted to create a platform for underrepresented voices in the AAPI community to show its rich heritage while combating Anti-Asian hate .”We wanted to show rich heritage and culture across the Asian diaspora. We liked the activity component of House of Slay,” she notes. “The Asian diaspora is composed of 40 different communities. we did not want to be monolithic and celebrate all of them. That is why we brought together fashion, food, designers and other unique partnerships that drive the agenda,” says Yu. The House of Slay/Diageo Day Night MRKT was promoted through social media buys as well as earned media PR efforts.

Cultural Marketing Challenges

Diageo's House of Slay Activation
Diageo’s House of Slay Activation

A key challenge in cultural marketing Yu notes is “that each of the micro communities are represented in their authenticity and still can be celebrated through one unique platform.” In order to accomplish this, inclusive messages need to be crafted that touch all of Diageo’s brand portfolio, she asserts.

A key challenge in cultural marketing is that each of the micro communities are represented in their authenticity and unique cultures , and still can be celebrated through one platform.
Asked about which of Diageo beverages index high with particular multicultural groups, Yu notes that Johnnie Walker is huge with the Asian community, while Buchanan and Don Julio have a large Hispanic following.
Note: Portada inteviewed Yu on May 20 during the Diageo and House of Slay Day Night Mrkt event in New York City’s Lower East Side’s The Market Line venue.

Coca-Cola Racing’s Daniel Suarez is the sole Mexican-born driver currently on the NASCAR Cup Series circuit. He is the face of and focal point of an industry-wide initiative that began in 2019, Daniel’s Amigos, to drive awareness and grow the Hispanic and Latino fan base in the sport of NASCAR. Portada talked to Suarez about how he reaches out to the Hispanic sports fan.

As a rising star in the sport that is proud of his Mexican roots, Daniel Suarez has teamed with Coca-Cola racing to plan several special moments throughout Hispanic Heritage Month. First, Daniel raced on September 18 in the Bass Pro Shops night race in Bristol, TN, in a sphecially designed car with a Hispanic Heritage Month commemorative paint scheme.

Coca Cola NASCAR

The second event was a Daniel’s Amigos meet-and-greet event with Daniel Suarez before the race in Las Vegas on September 26. This event was also in partnership with Coca-Cola, NASCAR, Las Vegas Motor Speedway, and Trackhouse Racing (Daniel’s racing team). Invitees included Las Vegas Hispanic Chamber of Commerce leaders, local Hispanic College leaders, and students from the Nevada “SLAM” school, a sports leadership-focused charter school. There are several SLAM schools across the country (started in Miami), and Armando “Pitbull” Perez is heavily involved with the SLAM Foundation and the establishment of the schools.

Daniel will wrap up Hispanic Heritage Month in Charlotte, North Carolina on October 9. Coca-Cola and NASCAR will be sponsors of the 9th annual Charlotte Hola Festival, the largest Hispanic Heritage celebration in Charlotte highlighting Latin American culture and all its richness. Daniel will make an appearance, speaking to festival attendees and giving away some tickets to the October 10th race, the Bank of America ROVAL 400, which will happen in Concord, North Carolina, just outside of Charlotte.

Coca Cola NASCAR

Coca-Cola Nascar: Portada interviewed Suarez about his experience as the only Mexican-born driver in the NASCAR Cup Series

Portada: What has your experience been as the only Mexican-born driver in the NASCAR Cup Series and how does it feel to be the face for Hispanics in the sport?

Daniel Suarez: “It’s an honor, privilege, and a responsibility. I’m proud of where I come from and hope I can serve as an inspiration to those kids who want to come to NASCAR someday as drivers, engineers, or whatever they want to do in the sport.”

I’m proud of where I come from and hope I can serve as an inspiration to those kids who want to come to NASCAR someday.

With the Hispanic population growing in the country, do you sense a growing interest in NASCAR from Hispanics, and does it excite you to be someone those Hispanics can look up to and support?

D.S.: “Oh yes, I see more and more Hispanics at the race track every year. We have a strong car culture and family culture that I think fits NASCAR perfectly. I want to show that they are welcome here and that they will have a good time when they visit.”

How do you feel you can help attract your fellow Hispanics to become NASCAR enthusiasts?

D. S.: “I think we can show them they are welcome and this sport’s values are their values. And, just how much fun and cool it is to come to watch the racing. I think if we can get them to the track, they will keep coming back.”

What can NASCAR and the sport do to attract more Hispanics?

D. S.: “We have to keep showing everyone they are welcome and show them a good time with things to do before and after the race.”

Coca Cola NASCAR

How do partnerships – like yours with Coca-Cola Racing – help to appeal more to Hispanics?

D. S.: “Coca-Cola has gone out of its way to help me show the Hispanic community how welcoming NASCAR is to everyone. We ran a special paint scheme honoring National Hispanic Heritage month at Bristol and they were strong supporters of the Daniel’s Amigos program when we brought several hundred Hispanic fans to Las Vegas Motor Speedway. About 70 percent of the people we brought were coming to a NASCAR event for the first time.”

You recently held an event for Daniel’s Amigos at Las Vegas Motor Speedway after a long hiatus due to the pandemic. What is it like to connect with your fans in a city with a large Hispanic population and how do you feel getting to interact with fans again?

D. S.: “The fans are the best part of racing. Getting to meet them, hear their stories, share your story with them. We had a Mariachi Band and gave away a lot of prizes. It was a lot of fun. I hope we can work with Coca-Cola and NASCAR to do more and more events in the future.”

The fans are the best part of racing. Getting to meet them, hear their stories, share your story with them.

What was it like to sport your native Mexican colors on your car to kick off Hispanic Heritage Month? What role did you play in helping design the look of the car?

D. S.: “I loved it. Coca-Cola and Trackhouse designed the paint scheme and it was one of the best I have ever seen. That car just looked fast. I got a ton of compliments on how cool our Chevrolet looked that night in Bristol.”

How Coca-Cola Racing NASCAR Driver Daniel Suarez Inspires Hispanic Sports Fans
How has your partnership with Coca-Cola Racing helped raise your profile as a driver?

D. S.: “Coke has used us in so many different ways. From Daniel’s Amigos to sustainability issues to the whole Coke Family of Drivers. It’s been a lot of fun to be part of the Coca-Cola Racing program and look forward to keeping working with them in the future.”

What do you look for when considering a sponsorship like Coca-Cola? Do you look for sponsors that are aligned with your values and mission?

D. S.: “Of course. Coca-Cola has been a huge supporter of mine and I feel like we have been a great team for several years now. They are very good friends. Daniels Amigos would not have happened without a lot of hard work by Coca-Cola. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate what they have done for me.“

A question that is keeping experiential marketers up at night is what form events and experiential marketing will have once the world returns to normal. Michael Goldstein, VP and Head of Sponsorships North America, Mastercard  and Michael Tasevski, VP, Global Sponsorship at Scotiabank provide their points of view. KPIs to measure virtual events success and more….


How will experiential marketing evolve in a post Covid world?  Will events be virtual, hybrid or in-person? The answer to this question has very wide implications. Not only is the answer highly relevant to the US $325 billion a year event industry, but also to the media industry as live sports events ratings dropped by as much as 50% during the pandemic (e.g. a decline of 49% in NBA finals and 61% in NHL finals) as the absence or scarcity of fans in the stands may have dulled the excitement around watching events. (Sports betting operator DraftKings, who is a big sports ad spender, had to shift budgets out of TV as live sports has lost some of its allure).

Michael Goldstein Vice President – Head of Sponsorships, North America, Mastercard
Michael Goldstein, Vice President – Head of Sponsorships, North America, Mastercard

What do experiential brand marketers belonging to Portada’s knowledge-sharing system think about the mix of live and in-person events in a post-covid world?
“My thinking is as follows – you will definitely see more of a mix as the world returns to normal of virtual vs. in-person events relative to how things worked prior to Covid,” Michael Goldstein, VP and Head of sponsorships North America, at Mastercard tells Portada.
“Beforehand it was almost all in-person but we have learned that virtual events really do bring something to the table and consumers and customers like them.  In-person events will still be there and be a big focus, but it will be more of a mix between the two in my POV,” Goldstein adds.

You will definitely see more of a mix as the world returns to normal of virtual vs. in-person events relative to how things worked prior to Covid.

Another experiential brand marketer in the Portada network says that “Everybody is clamoring to go back to in-person, but virtual events will maintain an important role after the pandemic. Overall, we think the whole balance between sports events, consumer interactions and brands will change substantially and will be more based on digital communication than before COVID.  For now, lots of brands don’t want to overstep. No one wants to be the first one out there to be doing something unsafe. e.g. build a big stadium.”

Opportunities in VR and AR….

Experiential Marketing
Mike Tasevski, Vice President, Global Sponsorship at Scotiabank

Mike Tasevski, who manages global sponsorships at Scotiabank,  seems to agree: “We dont see affinity, engagement  and passion towards sports and soccer changing, it will always be there. What we do see is a continued shift in how people consume sports and soccer and how properties and brands interact with their fans. We need to continue to create new innovative ways to provide experiences and  see opportunities in virtual and augmented reality.”

We need to continue to create new innovative ways to provide experiences and see opportunities in virtual and augmented reality.

Tasevski, whose main responsibilities at Scotiabank include experiential  marketing, adds that he is using  “loyalty programs targeted on customer offers and growing benefits along with technology like virtual reality and augmented reality. When we look at virtual and augmented there is an opportunity from a revenue stream where you can purchase products branded products and so forth.”

Virtual Events are Here to Stay

For most experiential brand marketers consulted by Portada virtual events are here to stay. Virtual event attendees seem to agree: according to a just released survey by Eventbrite called 2020 “Inside Look Report” which analyzes more than one million global virtual experiences, “for the foreseeable future, virtual events are highly likely to remain both necessary and popular. Across the board, half of the respondents in the survey said they plan to attend both virtual and in-person events when it is safe to gather again.” Nearly one in five men (19%) went as far as to say that online events and social platforms have allowed them to forge social connections better than they would have made in real life.
“Perhaps the silver lining of this pandemic is that online events have the power to globally engage communities in new ways, helping creators bring people together from small town America to far reaching corners of the world,” says Julia Hartz, co-founder and CEO of Eventbrite. “That’s something to celebrate as we continue to work toward the safe return of in-person events,” she adds.

Half of the respondents, said they plan to attend both virtual and in-person events when it is safe to gather again.

Experiential Marketing: KPIs to Measure Virtual Event Success

A key question in experiential marketing that has arisen during the COVID pandemic is how  key performance Indicators related to engagement, awareness and conversion should be measured at virtual events (vs. in-person events). Of course,  as Juhi Purswani Content Developer at Event Management Company Hubilo notes: “unless the audience feels engaged, your virtual conference is a big FAIL.”

The overall approach to virtual event KPIs,  according to event marketing experts in the Portada network, is to look at it across the full funnel from awareness down to trial. While awareness is always a primary metric and objective, savvy experiential marketers are equally interested in measuring the consideration and conversation aspects of the program or promotion.
Additionally, whereas awareness at in-person events was once measured by attendance figures, now it’s a matter of how long you are keeping them engaged and what actions the consumer is willing to take based on this experience.

We need to continue to create new innovative ways to provide experiences and  see opportunities in virtual and augmented reality.

The measurement of conversion (e.g. product sales online and in-store) has also shifted with the preponderance of virtual events.  Metrics are no longer about the consumer on-site or at the event, but rather the actions they are re taking during or, in many more cases, before the experience.

COVID-19 is already having a huge impact on marketing, advertising and media.  How are advertisers reacting to COVID-19? How will different media types ad revenues be impacted by the coronavirus health crisis? Portada got insights from brand and media agencies of the Portada Council System in order to gain some clarity. The answers to 7 crucial questions.

1. How are advertisers reacting to COVID-19?

“In this period, we know that consumers focus on basic needs and expect brands to supply and deliver them reliably. Consumers don’t want brands to stop advertising, but it must not be exploitative or insensitive,” Joseph Kiwanuka, Senior Manager, Cross-Cultural Connections, at UM tells Portada.  A CPG brand marketer in the Portada network says that since the start of the coronavirus crisis, “marketing practices have remained consistent, one insight consistently being practiced is empathy. Messaging reinforces reassurance and value,” he adds.

2. How are brand marketers adjusting marketing expenditures?

Some corporations are freezing or postponing their plans  (e.g. Turbotax as the tax deadline has been postponed to July 15). UM’s Kiwanuka notes that,some of our clients are being tasked with pausing media campaigns and/or turning back media dollars to their corporations to help alleviate the impact to sales. Many matters regarding media budgets are still up in the air and it is still unclear as to the direction that media budgeting for the rest of the year will go. We are taking things a day at a time.”

Many matters regarding media budgets are still up in the air and it is still unclear as to the direction that media budgeting for the rest of the year will go.

3. How are different ad-categories being impacted?

The impact on business and marketing activity will vary across industries, depending on how much demand How are Advertisers Reacting to COVID-19?and investment will be delayed as opposed to destroyed during this crisis. MAGNA, a centralized IPG Mediabrands resource that develops intelligence,  expects the impact to be severe for the travel, restaurant, and the theatrical movie industry, significant for retail (check out Macy’s announcement to furlough 130,000 employees), finance and automotive, moderate for packaged food, drinks, personal care, insurance and pharma, and potentially positive for e-commerce and home entertainment. While the overall impact of the coronavirus on advertising will undoubtedly be negative (more details below), some sectors are actually starting to profit from the increased demand of families for home entertainment.  “We are in a unique position during this crisis since we are the market leader in providing families online education at home. Day to day efforts include accelerating campaigns/creative to be in market sooner and even revising some original copy to align with current events,” a brand marketer in the online education sector tells Portada.

We’re in a unique position during this crisis since we’re the market leader in providing families online education at home. Day to day efforts include accelerating campaigns/creative to be in market sooner.

4. Advertiser COVID-19 Reaction

MAGNA released its revised March 2020 Ad Forecast last Friday and expects all-media full year ad sales to decrease by -2.8% this year as the spending cut from most industry verticals will be mitigated by the incremental political spend ($4.9 billion, up +26% vs 2016), and a V-shaped rebound in the second half (Magna). It remains to be seen if this forecast is realistic, as there is a significant downside risk (see question 7 below).

5. Which media types will be particularly hard hit?

How are Advertisers Reacting to COVID-19?Linear ad sales will suffer the most.  MAGNA released its revised March 2020 Ad Forecast last Friday and it expects media suppliers’ total linear (National and Local TV, Radio, Print and OOH) ad sales to decline by -12% (-20% in the first half, -2.5% in the second half). The decline forecasted by MAGNA would be larger were it not for the political advertising revenues (2020 elections) to be obtained by linear TV, radio and print outlets later this year. Media vendors’ linear ad sales will shrink by -12% (incl. political) this year compared to approx. -4% per year in recent years. The decrease in advertising sales will reach -13% for national TV, -12% for OOH, -25% for print and -14% for radio. The outlook will be slightly more positive for broadcasters and publishers when including digital ad sales. Local TV’s non-political ad sales will also decline massively but political spending (almost US $5 billion, +26% vs 2016) will stabilize full year revenues (+1%).
The sharp decline in ad dollars is not necessarily a reflection of lower linear media usage in the last few weeks. In fact, the opposite is true: for instance in the multicultural space, Spanish-language news viewing increased as much as 50 percent last week among Hispanic adults 18-34 compared to the week prior and 123 percent versus last year. Hispanics over the age of 50 are already heavy news consumers, but their viewing has increased as well (29 and 46 percent, respectively). In addition, for the week of 3/16 -3/22 linear TV usage had as much as 182 percent increase among Asian American teens, compared to the same day the prior week.

The other major loser is experiential marketing as mass gatherings are out of the picture in the next few months. One brand marketer interviewed by Portada who wanted to remain anonymous told us that  “investment is mantained in all channels except experiential.”

Investment is mantained in all channels except experiential.

6. Digital Advertising: More Resilient

How are Advertisers Reacting to COVID-19?At this stage, the total market decline anticipated (-3% or -$6.2bn vs 2019) remains less severe than the decline experienced in 2008-2009 (-20% or -$33bn vs 2007), mostly because of the weight and resilience of digital advertising today. Magna expects digital advertising to be more resilient at +4% (-2% in the first half, +10% in the second half). Digital media ad sales will grow by +4% this year and re-accelerate to +7% next year. Search will slow down to +4.5% growth while social and digital video (including Connected TV) will continue to grow by high-single digits. 

It has to be said that at least in the short term digital advertising, see above  -2% in the first half of 2020,  will be negatively impacted. Third party revenue generating platforms have begun altering their payment processes. Altice-owned Teads and ad tech company GumGum Inc have sought changes to their payment arrangements with publishers, with Teads invoking force majeure on contractual arrangements and GumGum proposing extended payment terms.

Search will slow down to +4.5% while social and digital video (including Connected TV) will continue to grow by high-single digits.

7. Is the advertising forecast realistic? “V” vs “U” shaped recovery

According to Magna, “at this stage, both the macro-economic outlook and the corresponding advertising forecast present a high degree of uncertainty and significant downside risk for 2020. The key question is how long the social distancing imposed demand shutdown will be. The U.S. economy has never been through a period like this in modern economic times. Right now, governments are substantially repressing economic demand through social distancing rules.

Right now, governments are substantially repressing economic demand through social distancing rules. The key question is how long the social distancing imposed demand shutdown will be.

While in Europe substantial efforts are being made to make sure  that companies don’t go bust and employees don’t lose their jobs, that is not true for the U.S. despite the recently signed U.S. 2 trillion fiscal plan. This will become even more of an issue should the shutdown be expanded beyond April 30. Should the social shutdown be expanded to the late spring and summer, the economic and advertising recovery will be U shaped rather than V shaped. Therefore, the 2020 decline in advertising will be larger than the one in the Magna forecast.

Once the virus  is under control the economy needs to be available to hit the ground running and that means that most employees need to remain employed to keep processes and know-how at their companies.
Another caveat poised by analysts is about the quality of the data regarding economic activity (and advertising demand). Most economic data is based on surveys. Are consumers and businesses going to be filling out surveys in this environment? Will data be reflecting accurate information or meaningless noise?


Short term it will likely have an impact and it may also  accelerate trends that are already under way. How will the coronavirus impact marketing? Four things to take into account.

1. Short term: Uncertainty and Risk Aversion…

The coronavirus may soon be contained and ultimately not have a major impact on economic activity levels, similarly to the 2003 SARS outbreak and the 2014-2016 Ebola outbreak. In the short term, however, things are likely going to get worse before they stabilize. That’s because virus outbreaks, by definition, initially have a very high growth rate of positive cases.  Uncertainty rules.  “I think the reason we were not specific was just because I think at the moment, it’s really just unknowable,WPP CEO Mark Read, said during the company’s earnings call last Thursday February 27, when asked about the business impact of coronavirus on WPP’s China business. “It’s more unknowable today than probably it was Friday, if we had this meeting Friday of last week, we may [have] given you a different answer then we give you today.” As COVID 19 cases grow outside of China, the uncertainty is also increasing in the rest of the World, including the rest of Asia, North America and Europe (the main marketing hubs).
Not surprisingly, all major agency holding stocks have taken hits along with the broader market last week. With WPP’s shares falling 15%; IPG is down 5%; Omnicom is down nearly 4%; Dentsu Aegis fell 2.5%; and Publicis Groupe down 5.6%. In the real economy,  global tourism and retail have been hit particularly hard, as Chinese tourists provide a major source of income for many markets.

2. Coronavirus Impact on Marketing: More emphasis on Virtual – Digital Marketing

In the short term companies are starting to restrict travel and encouraging remote work (e.g. Amazon told its employees to avoid all non essential travel for now including within the U.S.) Facebook, on its part,  last week cancelled a global marketing conference in San Francisco’s Moscone Center. Activations and sponsorships at live events may be impacted negatively as marketing, including event marketing will become more virtual. This is not good news in a year where analysts were expecting to see an uptick in media investments from marketers eager to capitalize on events like the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

The virus may also accelerate a trend that was happening anyway. Executive meetings and virtual events over hangouts will increase. For an example check out Portada’s Council System of brand marketers, which conducts 12 brand decision maker virtual workshops a year.

3. Driver for E-Commerce…

In parts of China, major retailers like Starbucks, Uniqlo, Nike and Apple have temporarily shuttered their stores, while small and medium-size retailers are being hit particularly hard as foot traffic dwindles. This may happen in the U.S. in areas that have been particularly negatively affected by the outbreak. Reduced in-store activity will be a driver for increased e-commerce activity and e-commerce marketing. The big caveat here is if the outbreak creates serious supply chain issues (at producers, shipping and overall logistics e.g. Apple and Microsoft warning of supply chain problems last week), therefore limiting the amount of goods that can be purchased by online buyers.

…particularly Online Grocery…

Housebound consumers in China are turning to online groceries for their daily food supply. According to French retailer Carrefour, vegetable deliveries increased by 600% year over year during the Lunar New Year period. Chinese online retailer JD.com reported that its online grocery sales grew 215% year over year to 15,000 tons during a 10-day period between late January and early February. Concerns about food delivery due to possible food contamination have spurred recent innovation in contactless pickup and delivery services by companies such as McDonald’s and Starbucks. McDonald’s has implemented contactless pickup and delivery of Big Macs, fries and other menu items across China as the outbreak has unfolded. Customers order remotely – on mobile phones or by computers in store – and employees seal the meals in bags and put them in a special spot for pickup without human contact, McDonald’s says on its website.

4. Coronavirus Impact on Marketing: Boost to At-Home Entertainment, Video Streaming and Gaming

If employees are forced to stay at home more, it will also impact how consumers spend their leisure time as they may have to avoid public gathering spaces, like movie theatres, concerts and gyms, leaving more time for them to binge on home entertainment and video services. Advertising revenues of companies that heavily bet on video content and advertising ,e.g. Roku, Youtube, Netflix and others should benefit from a public that’s stuck at home.

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