Gear Patrol Event Series Connects Readers & Marketers for Product Experiences
Media companies are increasingly prioritizing readers and seeking new avenues for engagement with niche audiences, which has led many into the events business. For Gear Patrol, a publisher that specializes in product reviews and buying guides, events present a natural opportunity to connect readers with marketers based on their interests.
Earlier this year Gear Patrol launched “In the Field,” a quarterly event series designed to introduce readers to editors and brands through product experiences. The inaugural event in April was a watch preview with Phillips auction house and malt whisky maker The Macallan. The second event in June gathered runners for a Q&A between a Gear Patrol writer and a WHOOP fitness tracker representative, followed by a group run and a sampling of BKLYN CBD products.
“The goal is to bring the website and pages of the magazine to life through in-real-life experiences with a highly targeted and qualified audience,” says Zach Mader, chief commercial officer at Gear Patrol. “Our readers are hard to reach. We know they’re highly sought after, and we know they’re passionate about their pursuits.”
The event series reinforces Gear Patrol’s mission to be “the definitive resource for discovering products,” says Mader, who classifies the brand’s editors as both testers and tastemakers who tell stories about products. In addition to a website and print publication, Gear Patrol has an online store and a branded content studio.
“Our goals are not necessarily limited to specific platforms or mediums,” says Mader. “We know that making essential experiences for product enthusiasts means we need to leverage the best across all mediums including digital, print, social, and events.”
Here’s how Gear Patrol is aiming to serve both readers and sponsors through the new event series, and why it’s focused on becoming a "360 media brand."
Following the Audience Data
Gear Patrol is not new to events. Prior to launching “In the Field” the brand attached itself to existing marketer events in stores and pop-up formats, but this is the first time it is designing owned experiences for its readers.
“For a couple of years it was important for us to explore different ways to engage with our audience and ways to partner with brands so that we could develop learnings,” says Mader. “Now, based on that research, this was the right year to pursue a dedicated event strategy.”
To tailor events to readers, Gear Patrol looked closely at the editorial verticals with the strongest overall performance and engagement across platforms. Watches are not only a top content category for the brand, but also a big revenue generator, says Mader. Those facts, combined with reader enthusiasm for watches expressed via an annual survey, inspired Gear Patrol to launch “In the Field” with a watch preview.
“The same is true for running. That ranks really high in enthusiast content and activities,” says Mader, in reference to the second series event. “We’re really just following the data in terms of the types of experiences that we’re providing.”
Gear Patrol organically promoted sign-up for the first two “In the Field” events through owned-and-operated channels, and there was no registration fee for those interested. The Phillips event drew about 105 attendees, while the running event capped at 20 attendees due to venue capacity, according to Gear Patrol.
“After this run event, we have a nice framework for how we would apply this [model] moving forward, at least at this scale,” says Mader. “Hopefully over the next couple of events we’ll continue to learn more so that going into 2020 we can scale this up either by frequency of events or geographically.”
Providing Value to Sponsors
While Gear Patrol successfully sought out sponsors for the first two events, the team was planning to host each regardless of sponsorship, says Mader. The objective was simply to generate interest and enthusiasm for the event series among both sponsors and attendees.
Mader highlights two key benefits for sponsors: They get to connect in person with a highly curated group of product consumers, plus they generate content opportunities through the event promotion and the event itself.
“We do allow the opportunity to directly engage with the audience at the event,” says Mader. “For example, at the running event we allowed WHOOP, a fitness tracker, to talk about the benefits of the product and how it could be used. Afterwards we had another sponsor talk with the participants about the benefits of using their product for recovery. There’s not only a really qualified and quality audience there, but also the opportunity to directly engage with them and get feedback.”
The publisher’s approach to finding event sponsors echoes its partner targeting for the website and magazine, which is driven primarily by reader service, says Mader. If products synch with the audience’s pursuits – and the message is translated through the Gear Patrol content lens – marketers should see a return on their investment.
“Our reader is our most important client. Our job across all divisions of the company is to serve them,” says Mader. “So [any partnership] has to be on brand, it has to be native, it has to be what they’re coming to expect either through editorial content, through branded content, through advertising, or through events.”
Becoming a ‘360 Media Brand’
As consumer and marketer expectations evolve, Gear Patrol is focused on developing solutions, such as the “In the Field” series, that meet their needs. In turn, these solutions can generate new revenue streams, which Mader says is a high-level priority for the publisher.
“We definitely want to make sure brands see us as a one-stop shop in terms of how to get their message out there and engage with our audience,” says Mader. “Events as a vertical are not just bound to this quarterly series. This is just the start of a larger, more robust way to offer experiences as another option for both readers and marketers.”
Just as marketers can access the Gear Patrol audience across multiple platforms, readers need as many touchpoints as possible to engage with the brand’s editors and product content, says Mader.
“For us it’s about being a 360 media brand and making sure that we’re staying true to our mission and providing solutions for readers wherever they may be within the customer journey,” says Mader. “I think that the marketers and the advertisers will follow based on the quality of that content and the quality of the readers that we’re able to provide.”
Leah Wynalek is the senior editor for Publishing Executive and Book Business. She has worked at national magazine publishing companies including Trusted Media Brands and Rodale, where she assisted in digital content creation and strategy for Prevention.com. More recently, she used her multimedia skillset on behalf of clients as a content specialist for Philadelphia-based marketing agency En Route.