What This Online Dance Party Can Tell Us About Sponsors

With social distancing making dancing next to thousands of strangers impossible, here’s how one event company recreated the dance-party experience online — and put their sponsor in the center of the action.

Author: David McMillin       

online dance party

DJ Paco Osuna spins dance music during an elrow livestream experience May 24. The elrow community tuned in on Facebook and Twitch to see three DJ sets live from Barcelona’s Casa Batlló.

In 2019, more than 746,000 people danced and celebrated at more than 150 shows hosted by elrow, a Spanish-based company that bills itself as the host of “the craziest party in the world.” The company’s mission, according to creative director Jo Vidler in a 2018 Forbes article, is rooted in the need to forget the worries and weight of the world. “Now, all societies want to escape from their everyday lives,” Vidler said at the time. “They want to participate in something new. They want to be immersed in fantastical worlds.”

In 2020, that the desire for escapism has never been stronger — and the reality of a massive in-person dance party never more remote. With large gatherings on pause during the COVID-19 crisis, elrow decided not to dim the lights, instead live-streaming a carnival-style experience on May 24. The elrow community tuned in on Facebook and Twitch to see three DJ sets live from Barcelona’s Casa Batlló, an UNESCO World Heritage site.

At the venue, dancers in body paint performed Cirque du Soleil–style acrobatics while DJs spun high-energy music. The program lacked the immersive circus atmosphere of an in-person elrow show, but the community was able to recreate the sense of a global connection by sharing their own footage. “Don’t be shy,” elrow posted on the Facebook stream. “If you want to be featured on the streaming screen, connect to our Zoom room with your webcam to dance and play with us.”

Opening another Zoom window may be the last thing a screen-fatigued audience wants to do, but the event felt a world apart from the tiny windows of speakers in webinars. Some elrow fans danced in living rooms. Some danced in kitchens. Some held up signs. Some wore costumes. Everyone smiled.

online dance party

Dancers perform to music from DJ Paco Osuna during the elrow show online dance party.

Sponsorship Success

While traditional business events may not be able to enjoy the creative freedom of three hours of dancing, they can take some inspiration from the successful sponsor integration at this EDM party. Desperados, a beer brand owned by Heineken, supported the experience, and elrow put the beverage front and center for the at-home audience with a mini-fridge full of bottles next to the turntables. DJs casually sipped Desperados during the stream, too. It was simple and authentic.

“As social-distancing guidelines continue to shape our lives and social adventures, we wanted to offer consumers a platform where they can still experience an epic party while connecting with people from around the world,” Diederik Vos, global brand director of Desperados, said when the show was announced. “Desperados is committed to move the party world forward through creativity and innovation, and so we’ve shifted our strategy to be digital first, connecting partygoers on social channels and unleashing unique experiences with our long-term partner elrow. With partying in our DNA and a shared passion with elrow, together we’re proud to put on interactive live-streamed parties that redefine how parties can be experienced.”

Being a part of the main action seems to be a common goal shared by sponsors of digital events, whether it’s a dance party or a medical congress. In a recent IAPCO webinar, “The Virtual Congress — Is It Really Possible?,” Lavinia Ricci, AIM Group International’s business manager congress division, Milan office, shared feedback from health-care sponsors at the recent event, noting that they would prefer interactions with participants in the symposia program rather than in the virtual exhibit hall. “We keep monitoring this with the companies,” she said, “so that we can understand what they want for the future.” As organizers become more experienced in the digital events space, Ricci said, they will be able to better attract sponsors by meeting their goals.

Interested in more sponsorship lessons for digital events? Check out this PCMA webinar: “Update Your Sponsorship Model: Monetizing Live & Virtual Events.”

David McMillin is an associate editor at Convene.

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