There are a number of challenges designers face when creating event environments for mall venues; from mall ownership approvals and footprint concerns to modularity and power hook-ups, mall projects can get tricky. We asked mall program veteran and Intersport associate vp/sponsorship and marketing Drew Russell for a few tips on how best to handle the potential pitfalls, as well as a peek inside Intersport’s award-winning Cadillac Culinary Challenge mall program.
Challenges up front
Footprint flexibility is the biggest design challenge that a designer will face when creating mall experiences, as available footprints can vary wildly from one mall to the next. If the project has special needs like power, water or A/V, the challenge is even greater. Design for flexibility from the start and your project will hit fewer roadblocks.
Getting all the proper permits for local municipalities and mall owners is also critical, and should be done as early as possible in a project’s timeline.
“The permitting process has to be conducted early. That depends on all the different activities that may be tied into the experience or display—things like electrical permits, tent permits in addition to health permits for food production,” Russell says.
The mall properties and ownership groups are usually willing to work with event designers, because they bring value and target specific consumer groups.
“It’s all about communication with the mall up front and letting them understand what we’re trying to get out of it and what they can receive as well,” Russell says.
“If you’re going to do a mall program and you want to be a part of that footprint in an open air setting, it’s incumbent upon the designer and the event company to make sure that the event can be modular and you can work in different scenarios,” Russell says.
Intersport did 14 activations and tour stops for the Cadillac Culinary Challenge last summer, and the footprint had 14 different setups.
The Challenge traveled to malls across the country, bringing together test drives, vehicle and technology displays, and onsite chef challenges featuring local culinary stars.
The footprint featured multiple tents and was modular, but Russell and his team needed to work hard to make sure everything fit and was not interrupting the traffic flow of everyday business at the mall.
“We like to be in high-end open-air locations, so that there is a lot of crowd interaction with passers-by. We target through direct mail and invite Cadillac and like vehicle owners but we also want to reap the benefits of being in a public space,” Russell says.
Keys to success
Anytime you can create a unique experience that people haven’t seen before and that they can receive some value from, you’re in great shape.
“For Cadillac, we’re bringing premier chefs from around the country that people can experience the food and set foot in a luxury vehicle at the same place. We were apprehensive, not sure if the offerings were there. Most of all, the people are there to see those vehicles. The culinary aspect is a nice little nugget that teases them—it’s a unique event for a mall environment,” Russell says.
The most important aspect of successful mall events is communicating with mall owners and managers appropriately, making sure they know exactly what you’re bringing to the table so they can get all of their constituents involved—whether that’s the local government, operations manager, or marketing manager so that everyone is on the same page well in advance.
“There are always hurdles along the way, but if you’re prepared in advance there shouldn’t be anything that stands in your way from having a successful event,” Russell says.