Case Study: Sport Activations

Our goal was to partner with the Detroit Tigers to sponsor their Bark in the Park events, where we would create an inviting and pet-friendly activation environment for fans and their pets. Event sponsorship expanded to collaborations with the Detroit Pistons and University of Michigan.

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The Problem

Pet Supplies Plus was awarded the opportunity to partner with the Detroit Tigers for their Bark at the Park event. Approximately 500 tickets were sold for fans to bring their dog into the stadium and watch a game from the upper bowl seats. We had two large activation zones to fill with human and dog activities for the pregame and during gameplay as well.

An amazing opportunity it was, the only caveat was that we had less than four weeks to pull everything together. The scope of work included coordinating the activation zones, find partners to enhance the fan experience, animate LED signage throughout the stadium and sign the activation zones for a full Pet Supplies Plus takeover.

Users & Audience

The target audience were the 500+ fans and their pets in attendance, as well as Tigers fans watching the game on broadcast television. This was an opportunity for us to capture the attention of people who may have never heard of the company before. Additionally, we were able to promote the event to our customer base which would help cross-promotion for the Tigers as well. 

Team & Role

The team responsible for executing the event consisted of myself, the art director, social media manager, and a handful of other key integrated marketing team members. I contributed to the brainstorming of the activation zones and overall concept, however my main focus was on designing the signage in the activation zones and supporting collateral, designing the animated LED ribbons in the stadium as well as photographing the event itself. 

Planning & Preparation

In mid-May, the integrated marketing team had finally completed the contract negotiations and the partnership became official. Even though the event wasn't until the end of June, we had only two weeks to finalize the plan and turn it over for the Tigers' approval by June 1st. 

We began with a large brainstorming session with the team that quickly lead to the art director compiling a list of all the must-have assets.

Designing Signage

I spent the next few weeks focusing mainly on the LED ribbons and the signage that would be displayed throughout the activation zones and stadium concourse. I began to work through signage concepts with the art director, landing on a cohesive concept that fits our existing brand standards but also coordinates directly with the event itself. 

I began with the logo for Bark at the Park. The Tigers did not have anything formal, so that allowed us to make it fit our brand standards. We did not have rights to the logo besides in the social post, email and t-shirts. Although we used supporting "fluff" signage from previous events, there was a large majority created specifically for this event. Below is a breakdown of the assets I was directly responsible for designing, ordering and executing the day of the event.

At the same time I was working on the printed signs, I started working on the digital assets. The biggest challenge for me going into the event was the designing of the animated LED ribbons; I had not flexed my animation skills since I learned Flash in school in 2006. It was the first time I used Adobe After Effects and I had two weeks to learn enough to be dangerous. 

My work was cut out for me, but I eagerly took on the challenge and began to throw myself into as much free online learning as I could come across. After a little bit of trials and tribulations – and a few too many Google searches – I had the three final :30 animations over to the Tigers for final approval.       

Day of Event

After all the hard work that led up to the event, we still had the actual event itself to execute. I worked with the team – plus many volunteers from the corporate office – to set up the activation zones, establish a proper flow for fans and and begin photographing the event, from setup to teardown.

It was an exciting day filled with over 500 puppies of all shapes, sizes, breeds and barks. We had cooling stations in the form of kiddie pools, a treat bar with make-you-own bags, caricature artists, photobooth, vendor tables with giveaways as well as plenty of water stations for the pups to stay hydrated. Oh, how could I forget the giant swatches of tarp that turned into makeshift potty zones for the dogs. 

The proud feeling of success was in the air as we torn down that night. Despite having plenty of first-time hiccups, we had a very smooth experience and knew we could take what we learned to improve upon when we would be back in September and again two more times in the summer of 2019.

Improvement over the Years

We signed on for another year of partnership with the Tigers for the 2019 season. It allowed me and the team an opportunity to take what we learned in 2017 and improve upon it as much as possible. I was given the chance to redesign the animated LEDs and was eager for the chance to improve them. Through continued education with tutorials and free online sessions, I applied what I learned and updated the design to better suit a sports event. Yes, the first iteration was acceptable, but this second attempt was more successful in capturing the attention of the fans in the stands. 

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Executing Activations at Other Events

The partnership with the Detroit Tigers was not the only opportunity we pursued. Our reach stretched into a movie night with the Detroit Pistons along with season-long arena signage as well as basketball game day sponsorship with the University of Michigan and an internal company-wide summit conferences.

After the initial Bark at the Park event was completed, I began to take a more prominent role in spearheading the signage from coordination through design and event execution. I took what I learned from the art director and continued to expand upon previous experiences. 

After a few events of customizing the signage, we began it realize it was probably best to begin to design the signage more generic, when applicable. With budgets always at an absolute minimum, it was important for me and the team to find ways to save money as we became more involved in sponsorships throughout the community. Not only did we want to make genuine connections with our neighbors, we wanted to also find ways to do it with little impact on our bottom dollar. Between a minimal approach to the signage and our own partnerships with vendors, we kept as much of the event cost off of our books as much as possible. 

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As the events progressed over the years, we continued to develop activations that are simple, effective and can easily be reproduced on a smaller scale for our franchise stores to execute on their own. We have completed four Bark at the Park eventss and were slated for 4 more in 2020. Although the plans for the year were thwarted with the rest of the world, I am excited to see that we have an effective process in place for when events pick back up again. The response from the community has been hugely positive and I am proud to have played a role in creating fun, family and pet-oriented experiences for everyone involved. I look forward to the world getting back to normal to see what myself and the Pet Supplies Plus team can continue to provide to the community.

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