How Main Event pivoted in the pandemic, from Instagram Live parties to bowling valets
Main Event, a chain that offers activities such as arcade games, bowling, laser tag and ropes courses, clearly had to rethink its strategy when the coronavirus pandemic hit.
The Dallas-based company soon began offering virtual birthday sing-a-longs on Instagram Live, often led by influencers. It promoted delivery of its food, such as pizza. And it began talking to moms about what measures they would want to see in place before they would feel comfortable returning to massive event spaces, where contact with others and with numerous shared surfaces—bowling balls, gravity ropes, buttons on games, and more—was the norm.
“We reached out to our community of loyal followers and asked for feedback,” said Main Event Chief Brand Officer Sarah Beddoe on the latest episode of Ad Age’s Marketer’s Brief podcast.
Those conversations helped Main Event decide which steps it would take before it began reopening its centers.
“The most scrutinizing, most concerned and conservative mom, if she felt good, then we knew we were far and away over-delivering, and that’s exactly what we did,” said Beddoe. “So, we got incredible feedback from the community and then we put those plans in place.”
Bowling valets, extra hand sanitizer, staffers wearing face masks and spaced out tables are some of the ways Main Event is trying to reassure guests, now that its 50,000-square-foot entertainment centers are beginning to reopen. Laser tag arenas that used to accommodate 40 people simultaneously now offer sessions for eight to 10 people at a time, with zones marked to keep people at least six feet apart.
“We’re trying to reduce the amount of fear that people have,” says Beddoe.
According to Beddoe, Main Event has received a 99 percent favorable rating from those who have come into the centers since they began reopening in certain states. By next week, the company plans to have 25 of its 44 locations reopened.
When it comes to advertising those changes, Main Event is using all-digital marketing. Half of the messages are around the safety precautions and procedures it has implemented, and half are around reminding people about what it offers, says Beddoe.
“Not everyone is ready to come back,” says Beddoe. “But every day gets closer to where we hope to be in the future.”
Like many other marketers, Main Event made a statement about racial injustice days after the killing of George Floyd. On Instagram, a statement from its CEO on June 4 includes that the company is starting an advisory council and a safe space for dialogue within the company, and making donations to local organizations.