The event: a high-profile celebrity bash for client Reebok in conjunction with the 2002 American Black Film Festival in Miami. The setting: the ultra-chic Shore Club hotel in balmy South Beach. The big question: "How to brand, but without hitting guests over the head," says John McPhee, marketing director of Miami-based A Joy Wallace Catering Production, which designed the summer event. The answer: blocks of solid color, candlelight and...shoe trees? Read on
During the two-week lead time, McPhee says, decorator Vivian Gonzalez focused on playing up the region's sultry vibe to appeal to Reebok's target market of young, hip, urban tastemakers. “The same words kept coming up — sexy, sensual, South Beach,” he says. “But done very tastefully. This was not an event where you thought of sex, but sexiness. There's definitely a difference.”
With its chaise longues and reflective surfaces, the Shore Club's pool patio offered a naturally sexy event atmosphere, McPhee says. But his staff still faced the challenge of using its $44,000 decor budget to create intimacy in the extensive outdoor space. To reduce the sense of sprawl and bring in Reebok's red and white logo colors, the crew installed two 10-foot-tall white Lycra panels at one end of the pool, positioning a white canopied DJ booth in between. Staff covered poolside chairs with white fabric, accenting each with custom-made red and black cushions bearing names of pro athletes sponsored by the sports apparel manufacturer.
No element was more important to the event atmosphere than lighting, according to McPhee. Crediting expert lighting coordinator Steve O'Connor of Boca Raton, Fla.-based Frost Lighting, McPhee explains that a no-spots approach did the trick. “You can do lighting and make something feel really stark,” he says. “Our lighting had to be subtle.” In addition to uplighting on palm trees and around the pool, McPhee cites the nearly 100 white paper lanterns dappling the patio and adjoining veranda.
The event's 600-plus guests — a star-studded group that included Denzel Washington, Halle Berry and Eriq LaSalle — were immersed in the Reebok brand from the moment they arrived. A hallway lined with glass cases featuring artfully displayed Reebok footwear led revelers to the patio, where gobos marked dance areas and Reebok Fitness Water accompanied a menu of tropical treats. Brand-color elements included arrangements of simple red roses, wicker baskets of ripe Red Delicious apples and white floating candles in hurricane lamps.
Interactivity came in the form of white-bikini-clad models who greeted guests and mingled throughout the evening. Again, insists McPhee, tasteful titillation was the goal. “The models didn't get up and dance — they didn't permeate sex,” he says.
While rustic touches blended well with more-modern branding, such as columns wrapped in 20-foot scrim images of athletes Allen Iverson and Venus Williams, foliage stole the show, according to Monique Ware Robinson. “The single most creative use of Reebok product was the ‘sneaker tree’ created by the Joy Wallace team,” says the independent producer who hired McPhee's operation to design the event for client Reebok. She explains that the team attached white Reebok sneakers to tree limbs, which hung low over inviting arrangements of white down comforters and huge white pillows sprinkled with rose petals. “Attendees couldn't get enough of it, and the client loved it,” Robinson says.
McPhee points to the Reebok event's restrained branding as an example of a growing trend. “Often, corporate clients don't want a lot of people to know how much they're spending on events,” he says. “They have to get the word out, but it's tending to be a lot more subtle. We're not going to get the Goodyear blimp and have Reebok's name on it.”
Forgoing flash for elegant ambience was the right choice, Robinson agrees. She praises the Joy Wallace crew for its willingness to “roll with it” through last-minute changes, including a switch of venue two weeks out. “The icing on the cake was their ability to execute as planned, on time, within budget and with a smile,” she adds.
McPhee enjoyed a different flavor of icing. “The hotel just opened a new bar in the same area where we did our event,” he says. “Very coincidentally, it has the same kind of lighting we used at our event, hanging lanterns, everything. They seem to have liked what we did.”
A Joy Wallace Catering Production 8501 S.W. 129th Terrace, Miami, FL 33156; 305/252-0020; www.joycater.com
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