Brand Activation extends a brands power to communicate. We add reach and meaning, build visibility and memorability and reinforce key associations. Unlocking the latent potential of sports and entertainment brands.



Hot Zone Heats up Hy-Vee Brand

CHALLENGE. As a key part of the major renovation to Arrowhead Stadium, Populous was challenged to inject brand energy and an improved fan experience into four iconic  entry gates to the revered stadium. Populous worked with regional grocery chain sponsor Hy-Vee to extend their reach into the local market, while also creating a dynamic platform to showcase a one-of-a-kind fan experience.

INNOVATION. The Hy-Vee Hot Zone, located at the northwest entry gate, is a dynamic expression of the store’s brand. Graphically treated walls, video boards and a live band on the Coca Cola stage at the base of the circular ramp help attract fans and generate excitement.

The Hy-Vee brand reach extends to a custom tailgate experience, known as the Ultimate Fan Experience, inside Arrowhead Stadium. Contest winning fans have access to an Airstream trailer loaded with tailgate food, big screen televisions and lounge areas which serve as home to the Hy-Vee promotion.

IMPACT. The Populous Hy-Vee experience weaves the culture of passionate Kansas City Chiefs fans, the famed Arrowhead tailgating experience and the Hy-Vee grocery brand as a prime sports experience that continues to have meaningful fan impact.



Innovation Meets Fan Interaction

CHALLENGE. Pittsburgh is a city deeply rooted in the heritage of the past but with a bright optimism for the rapidly changing future. With this in mind, the Pittsburgh Penguins National Hockey League club made their core market strategy to align the Penguins brand with innovation and a young, progressive fan demographic in their new home, CONSOL Energy Center.

INNOVATION. The All-Time Team Celebration is a technologically innovative fan experience designed to offer a dynamic first impression to the arena. Fans can engage with three life-like interactive Stanley Cups and each of the Penguins all-time inductees through the use of touch screens and highly sophisticated graphic interfaces.

Cutting-edge augmented reality technology is also showcased in the “Put Your Game Face On” interactive experience in which fans can manipulate four fully interactive magic mirrors to playfully transform themselves in a number of fun and entertaining ways. Even young hockey fans are able to participate in the interactive experience in a dedicated kid zone.

IMPACT. Populous was able to bring the Penguin’s brand story to life while enhancing the fan experience. The interactive experiences in CONSOL Energy Center give fans the ability to not only be influenced by their surroundings, but to individually shape their personal venue experience as a valuable and lasting memory.


New Stadium, Old Spirit

CHALLENGE. Our brief was to develop the environmental graphics and to activate the naming rights sponsorship for Arsenal’s new home, Emirates Stadium. Every sign needed to flow and mesh naturally with the architecture, from the car park, to the ticket booth, to the concourse and finally getting fans to their seats. At the same time, the design solution had to combine the corporate presence with a respect for the club’s tradition – a challenge made doubly hard by not actually knowing who the sponsor for the stadium was until well into the design process!

INNOVATION. The solution to maintaining the club’s sense of tradition was to transport certain elements of Highbury, Arsenal’s former home, into the new facility. The prominent entry signage, for example, is a replica of Highbury’s original Gothic Bank typeface and forms a striking focal point at the new ground.

IMPACT. Our branding of the Emirates Stadium has placed Arsenal and its sponsor at the heart of the community. One of the most successful examples of a sports venue branding in the UK, it meets UEFA’s requirements on physical signage while still delivering widespread brand recognition for Emirates. For fans, the entire journey to, and experience at, the ground reinforces the brand in a subtle yet very effective way.


Outfield Experience Invigorates Royals Brand

CHALLENGE. During the renovation to Kauffman Stadium, home of the Kansas City Royals, the Populous design had to meet increasing fan expectations for an exciting game day experience. The renovation goal was to create a 360-degree branded fan experience while integrating some of the ballpark’s most iconic existing features.

INNOVATION. Based on the concept of the ‘three-inning tour’ – creating a new experience every three innings for fans – Populous developed the Kauffman Outfield Experience to enhance the ballpark’s entertainment value and celebrate the history of the team. With something for all ages, the Outfield Experience incorporates everything from a children’s carousel and miniature golf course to a sports bar and party deck. Now the largest in Major league Baseball, the full-bleed LED scoreboard is topped with a sculptural metal crown that modeled after the iconic original. In addition, fans can now take a stroll along the famed stadium fountains for a refreshing view and an up-close encounter with outfield play.

The Outfield Experience features one of Major League Baseball’s largest halls of fame. Fans enter a model dugout space by walking down the player concourse with the sound of metal scraping cement; they then watch a film about the history of baseball in Kansas City while the smell of fresh grass and popcorn is piped into the room. The museum also features a variety of interactive, multi-sensory elements such as a design-your-own-ballpark kiosk and a you-call-the-play broadcast booth overlooking right field.

IMPACT. Populous changed the dynamic of a day at the ballpark through re-activation of Kauffman Stadium. Most notably, Populous maintained the elements most core to the stadium’s brand – its iconic crown scoreboard and outfield water fountains – with a modern twist. The innovative brand activation of Kauffman Stadium offers a renovation model for other MLB ballparks.


Kentucky to the Core

CHALLENGE. With the design of KFC Yum! Center, home court of the University of Louisville Cardinals basketball teams, Populous faced the challenge of embedding the character of both the Cardinals brand and the rich community heritage of Louisville.

INNOVATION. Utilizing a multi-faceted approach to identify cultural brand attributes and also spaces within the building where sponsors’ brands could be brought to life in a three-dimensional way, every facet of the visitor experience originates distinctly from the identity of the people and the place. The arena was designed to be a series of interwoven destinations that resonated from the core of Louisville.

Large-scale graphic elements and iconography create a sense of basketball tradition throughout the interior of the building, while Louisville’s bluegrass and bourbon distillery heritage are manifested through various club spaces where rich materials, dynamic lighting and unique furniture enhance the branded experience. These include premium clubs such as the Evan Williams Bourbon Bar, Burnettes V Lounge and Woodford Reserve Club as well as the public Kentucky Ale bar.

IMPACT. In the KFC Yum! Center Populous achieved an intimidating home court for Louisville Cardinal basketball and powerful sponsor presence designed to appeal to a wide cross-section of fans and potential partners. The new arena embodies the character of the community, the University of Louisville Cardinals brand and creates an emblematic symbol of Louisville’s ongoing urban renaissance.


Turning a White Elephant Blue

CHALLENGE. For a long time, the Millennium Dome was talked about as London’s biggest white elephant. Our challenge was to transform the public perception of it and to make the space into a vibrant, exciting experience for every visitor and fan – and, more importantly, into a branded experience. O2 and AEG, however, didn’t want it to feel like a standard corporate sponsorship. They wanted to express their brand values in a much more organic way.

INNOVATION. Our solution to the problem was what we called ‘the DNA approach’. We took the view that the identity of O2 should flow through the building like blood through a human body. Signs glow blue, subconsciously reminding event-goers of the sponsor. The materials used are consistent with O2’s brand language. The exclusive O2 lounge has blue water tanks with air bubbles rising up through them, just as you see in O2 advertising. The O2 Arena breathes its brand.

IMPACT. The O2’s brand activation, widely regarded as the most successful across any UK venue, has transformed the perception of what corporate sponsorship and branding looks like. O2 is now a global name, indelibly marked in the public’s subconscious. Testament to its success is the Grand Prix awarded to our wayfinding and signage at the 2009 Sign Design Awards, where the judges described it as “coherent and elegant, superbly blending innovative graphics, lighting, product and brand integration” and “a truly worthy scheme which will enhance the experience for people using this most iconic of spaces.”

Concourse totems

Concourse totems

East meets Westfield

CHALLENGE. Westfield Stratford city is so big, it had to be given its own postcode. The centre would be a challenge for anyone to navigate in itself, but it also happens to be the gateway to the 2012 Olympic park, connecting it to a major London transport hub and an international railway station. Making the lie of the land clear would be crucial to the success of the area. For everyone who would use it, whether passing through or staying local, clear routes would be essential.

INNOVATION. We knew that, besides highlighting the functions of Westfield itself, marking the major routes in and around it was critical. To do this something out-of-the-ordinary was necessary. We proposed compact but very visible signs – beacons to light the way through the dazzle of shops. The resulting path cuts a calm, clear, reassuring route through the dizzying kaleidoscope of retail.

IMPACT. Westfield Stratford City opened in September 2011 without a hitch. It attracted 1 million visitors within the first week of opening, with footfall averaging over 900,000 visitors a week in
the first 14 weeks of trading.

Telstra Suite Diagram_Credit Populous

Telstra Connected Suite

CHALLENGE: Populous’ challenge was to showcase the possibilities of a “connected Stadium”. Our client, Telstra, had recently installed Wi-Fi at ANZ Stadium and asked us to showcase this potential within their hospitality suite. The result was “The Connected Lounge” – an imaginative and interactive technology centre delivering content simultaneously using several platforms.

INNOVATION: Populous designed a suite that showcased the latest technology and featured Telstra’s Life of Colours theme throughout.
Some of the features of the Connected Lounge include:

  • A “technology gateway” to transport fans into an immersive, technology rich environment.
  • 2.5m x 6m video wall comprising 18 x HD Monitors with the potential for up to seven sources of different feeds
  • A designated area for NRL’s “Mission Control” team to dissect, create, monitor and then visualize all the real-time social data from the game and the latest stats.
  • A purpose built area for Triple M’s “Grill Team” to conduct a live call from the suite
  • 3D surround sound to provide acoustic environment
  • LED coloured lighting which changes colour according to the teams playing
  • Telstra’s “Life in Colours” theme and branding appears in all the furniture selection and suite objects
  • Sports, figures, celebrities and fans seamlessly interacting in the environment

All of this content – Triple M’s (the local radio station) match call, Mission Control’s digital content and various celebrity interviews – is then made accessible via the ANZ Stadium App over the Stadium’s Wi-Fi.

IMPACT: The suite was revealed during the NRL Grand Finals and is the first such corporate suite of its kind in Asia where a sponsor’s customers, NRL fans and partners all have a chance to be part of a new type of live game experience.
“The Connected Lounge is the blueprint of how we’ll continue to deliver on our Connected Stadium strategy at our other stadiums throughout Australia, and how we’ll engage with customers and fans through digital channels,” said Matt McCann, Telstra’s Group Media Manager.
“We want to connect with our customers on a personal and meaningful level through tailored content, to deliver on Telstra Media’s strategy to create different content experiences anywhere, anytime on any screen.”
At Populous, we do not believe developing digital activations like Telstra’s Connected Lounge is the exclusive domain of the telecommunication or digital companies. With the consumer expecting she or he will always be “on” (and every leading company knowing it must embrace the potential of digital into its business model), we anticipate there will be more and more exploitation of digital infrastructure by brands, both at stadiums and other venues.