EXCLUSIVE: Events are being completely redefined during COVID-19, with the word “virtual” becoming the driving concept at a time when physical gatherings are not possible.
Navigating this 2020 landscape, Michael Sugar’s Sugar23 has teamed up with experiential agency Blue Revolver to bring to market new virtual event technology. The companies tell Deadline they envision it having dramatic potential for brands, entertainment companies and consumers during the pandemic and beyond.
Details are being kept somewhat under wraps, but the companies cite the April concert by platinum-selling rapper Travis Scott held inside the videogame Fortnite as clear evidence of the evolution now under way. That show was hailed as a game-changing success because it broke through traditional media boundaries to create a new, native environment teeming with young audiences coveted by advertisers.
Sugar23 and Blue Revolver say their technology has some conceptual aspects in common with the Scott show, except they say it is more accessible to average consumers and has greater potency for concerts or in-store experiences. Through nothing more than a smartphone app, it brings multi-sensory moments into consumers’ homes without the need for virtual reality headsets or expensive equipment.
Sugar is known as a producer and talent manager whose credits include Spotlight, The OA and The Knick. In 2017, he founded Sugar23. The firm works across many fields, including content creation, books, podcasts and e-gaming, with projects including Dickinson for Apple TV+. Blue Revolver, founded by Bree McAlister, works with clients such as Netflix, Disney, Nike, AT&T, Disney, Apple/Beats and Live Nation, specializing in activating the five human senses.
The partnership was cemented during the coronavirus lockdowns and the isolation and challenges to communicate began to hit with full force. They were seeking a way to combat Zoom fatigue and deliver more interaction and immersion, building community and connection among consumers.
One scenario for the new technology is a pop-up shop, with customers opening an app, which then scans the room for an open space and instantly fills it with the entrance to the shop. They would then walk in and engage with a familiar branded retail environment, only elevated in ways made possible by the virtual nature of the venue.
“Despite the ever-changing nature of our zeitgeist, Blue Revolver has managed to find a way to help brands connect to the masses in the most unconventional ways by creating real, tangible experiences,” Sugar said. “Bree and her team are not only brilliant, creative minds, but are also phenomenal business people. We are incredibly excited by the dynamic possibilities Blue Revolver brings to the table, and partnering together will only further bolster our strategic branding ecosystem, and allow us to be storytellers in any medium, and in any space.”
Added McAlister, “Looking at recent virtual events, we are inspired by some truly innovative moments. The technology that Sugar23 and Blue Revolver are releasing today parallels existing technology at a similar or higher quality, with the added benefit of it being easily usable by the masses. Currently, virtual events are limited to niche platforms that typically require expensive equipment and/or a high level of technical know-how. This new app exponentially broadens the potential audience to anybody that owns a smartphone, allowing companies and brands to create a similar level of wonder and entertainment that all consumers can enjoy.”