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How To Staff A Brand Activation Successfully

September 22, 2021 by Tom Bronock

Whether in a retail environment, on-trade or in the third space (festivals, sporting events and other experience led events), knowing how to staff a brand activation successfully should be a vital part of your drink brand strategy.

The power of engaging with consumers on an inter-personal level cannot be underestimated – it is an opportunity to build lifelong affiliation and loyalty for your brand.

However, we can’t emphasise enough how critical it is to have engaging, well-trained, and knowledgeable brand activation staff representing your brand.

It sounds obvious, doesn’t it?

However, it’s astonishing how often we see brand activation staff who are not right for the brand, lack engagement or are detrimental to the activation.

With over a decade’s experience in running successful activations, we’re going to explore:

Why staffing is so important to brand activations

How to recruit for a brand activation

What to look out for when delivering an activation

Key Takeaway #1

How to Staff a Brand Activation: Create a Process Which Works. Staffing is the key component of any successful brand activation. It is essential that you follow a process when hiring and working with your team to get the most out of them.

Why Is Staffing So Important To Brand Activations?

Brand activation staff member from The Cocktail Service at the Red Bull Lab Bar at Latitude Festival

Pictured: A bartender from The Cocktail Service at the Red Bull Lab Bar activation at Latitude Festival. Photo – Jenna Foxton

Consumer habits are subject to continual change, and in an increasingly digitalised world, potential customers are seeking more personal connections with brands.

Its no wonder that huge marketing budgets are set aside to connect with consumers in live environments.

As we mentioned above, the staff you have on the front line of a brand activation are critical.

A brand activation with huge budget set aside for the production and build, partnership rights, and operational costs can be rendered totally redundant with a poor team in place running it.

Choosing the wrong staff can be hugely damaging for a brand.

Onsite staff can either engage and excite a consumer or in some instances put them off a brand entirely.

Let’s take the example of a restaurant or bar.

If the service is impeccable, and the staff embody the values of the brand, you’re likely to become emotionally engaged with the company’s story. It makes you an instant fan of the venue.

A positive experience leads to you telling friends and colleagues. You visit again and become a net promoter (link here) and a loyal cheerleader of the brand.

Now imagine your experience in the same restaurant was less than enjoyable.

The service was not up to standard, with rude or disengaged servers detracting from the experience. Though the food and drinks were good, all you remember was how the staff presented themselves.

At this point the potential damage is infinite as word of mouth is evergreen.

So, What Does That Mean To Brand Activation Staff?

Brand activation staff have the same power to make or break the reputation of an organisation.

You can hugely build a loyal community of devotees to your brand through a great inter-personal experience with your staff.

These (often) freelance bartenders or promotional staff are the front line – the conduit between your brand and how that is perceived to the consumers at your activation.

When it’s put like that it suddenly takes on a huge importance doesn’t it?

Arguably, they should be the highest paid individuals involved in any brand activation campaign as their role is critical to its success.

Staffing brand activations correctly is hugely important.

If it is not a fundamental component of the brand activation for a brand manager, agency, or PR team then it will 100% risk the success of the experience.


How we did it: Red Bull Lab Bar Activation @ Latitude Festival


Key Takeaway #2

How to Staff a Brand Activation: Nurture Your Staff. Both in the live environment and post activation. Feedback and praise will ensure you maintain a strong relationship with your new brand ambassadors.

How To Recruit for a Brand Activation

A brand ambassador engaging with customers at Imbibe 2018

Engaged and knowledgeable: TCS brand activation staff at Imbibe 2018

This is the tricky part.

There are typically two routes to staffing a drinks brand activation.

The first is to do it yourself. This would apply when budgets are tight, you are a new brand, or a late opportunity has come in that the brand is desperate to do but budgets haven’t been allocated.

The second route is using an agency to deliver and take accountability for your brand activation staffing. This is more typical of bigger brands and budgets and those that want a more specialised staffing solution.

Whichever route you need to take it is essential you think about the below.

Establish The Activation Staff Brief

Brand activation staff at Red Bull Lab Bar activation, Latitude Festival

Whether doing yourself or working through an agency, getting into the habit of creating a staff brief for the activity is very important.

A few questions you need to answer:

What is your budget?

Where you want to activate your brand?

What is your target audience?

What attributes are important for the staff working your activation?

What are they required to do? For example, sampling or data capture.

What are your measures for success? For example, sign ups to mailing lists or a share on social media.

Alongside a detailed brief should sit the brand guidelines and any other relevant information to the campaign.

Remember most do not understand your brand the way you do so treat all agencies and staff as if you are introducing them to the brand for the first time.

Staff Profiling

A brand ambassador from The Cocktail Service at the Crown Royal Stand at Imbibe live 2018

The cut above the rest: The Cocktail Service staff fit the brief perfectly for the barber themed Crown Royal stand at Imbibe Live 2018

When working with an agency you should receive staff profiles which will usually include a brief bio and an image of the proposed staff.

If you are staffing in house and not using an agency, building these profiles is a good habit to get into. It will ensure the staff you are hiring have the correct personalities, skills, and experience for your activation and to make it a success.

There is no such thing as too much detail when it comes to these bios! You never know when that third language or unusual skill will be required for an event.

Build a Relationship

Gaining a sense of the candidate’s personality, experiences, values – can tell us a lot about their ability to fit and best represent the brand.

Asking candidates for videos, holding casting events with multiple staff, specific lines of questioning within a face to face ‘catch up’ all aid as very useful resources.

In essence: know your staff and build relationships with them. Keep the gap between field staff and head office as small as possible and invest time in getting to know them.

Effective Briefing & Training

Establishing how the briefing and pre-activation training will be delivered is vital. Properly onboarding your chosen team is so important and they must be fluent in the brand identity as well as knowing what their objectives are.

Aside from that, a clear plan for meeting times, activation timings, uniforms and onsite contacts is important to ensure there are no administrative issues.

Feedback & Rewards

Rewarding brand activation staff for a job well done has always been a key focus for us. This should be an essential part of your process, not a bonus. A simple explanation of what they did well and what the client was pleased with goes a long way to building morale. It will ensure staff are satisfied with their work and motivated to improve on their service in the future. This goes a long way to nurturing and retaining talent.

What To Look Out For When Delivering An Activation?

Two brand ambassadors serving at the launch of a a zero sugar energy drink by Grenade

Pictured: Two of The Cocktail Service team in action at an activation for a zero sugar energy drink by Grenade

Get References

Staff make or break activations. Just because a potential member of the activation team has presented well, looks the part, and says all the right things in an interview does not mean they will be reliable. References when hiring anyone are essential. For brand activations even more so.

Ensure you or your agency have reserves

The Cocktail Service Operations Director Cyrus staffing a brand activation on his computer

Pictured: The Cocktail Service Operations Director Cyrus finalising staffing options and reserves

Having a list of reserves to sub in at the last minute if there are any issues with staff such as sickness is vital.

On average, for every 75 staff we place, we will have a staff member call in sick or not be able to attend the shift. The risk is there at any event or activation, so you must ensure you have reserves in pace to keep your brand activation on track.

Aside from no shows, sometimes a team member doesn’t fit the mould you need in the live environment.

When this happens, you need to act swiftly and decisively and pull them from the activation (not doing so can be very damaging). Having reserves make this transition a whole lot easier and stress free.

Brief and train your staff correctly so they have a great experience working for you.

Two female brand activation staff at Goodwood Festival, for Bloom

The Cocktail Service brand activation staff at Goodwood Festival

Brand activations that are run by happy and engaged staff get the best results. Activations usually entail long days, with lots of time on your feet, constantly engaging with the public. It’s key to look after your staff and build a strong relationship with them.

That rapport will serve you very well if any of the difficulties that live activations bring occur for your brand.

Ensuring that the teams are robustly briefed, have all the information needed and are looked after with breaks and refreshments during the event will ensure the teams have a great experience working with your brand.


Key Takeaway #3

How to Staff a Brand Activation: Get References. Often overlooked as its can be time consuming. References will give a true picture of potential brand activation staff.

Staffing A Brand Activation: Conclusions

It’s clear that staffing an activation with the best talent, that is matched well to your brand will supercharge your activation results.

However, many brands simply do not put the effort into the recruitment, training and nurturing of their activation staff.

We urge independent owners, brand managers, PR Teams and any other agency delivering staffing for brand activations to make the staffing process one that is front and centre of your experience.

Doing this will elevate your brand activation to the next level and create lifetime loyalty with consumers.


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