Grinds Our Gears: Branded VIP Areas

It’s our #1 marketing pet peeve, but we see them everywhere: heavily branded VIP areas.

You’ve probably spotted them at a sporting event or outdoor concert — inviting, branded, roped-off VIP areas that are more often than not guarded by security personnel. It may seem like a move that makes a brand seem special or exclusive, but to us it reads as alienating and exclusionary.

Picture this: It’s a warm summer day, you’re parched, and you see an air-conditioned VIP area sponsored by a national brand you know and love, and maybe even have a relationship with — they have refreshments in there! You walk up to the door ready to sing this brand’s praises for being a part of your event experience, only to be turned away by an intimidating guard. “VIP only, you’re not allowed in here.”

We watched a similar situation unfold recently at the Volvo Ocean Race sponsor village in Miami, where The Santander Group, a Spanish banking collective with international operations, had a guard posted to their VIP area all day. It seemed like his only job was to tell people (potential customers) how unimportant they are to Santander.

We didn’t know that much about Santander at the time, but we walked away from that scene not liking them. And by the chatter we heard from other non-VIP’ers around the area, most attendees shared our distain. Where is the value in that? VIP relations can be an important facet of a marketing strategy, but it doesn’t have to be at the expense of good public relations. There are creative ways brands can execute VIP relations without alienating potential customers. We’re left wondering: why is Santander being so closed minded and frankly, just lazy?