Pokerstars Branding of Vegas Concert

A Brand New Year

How to make 2015 the best year yet – Part One

The operative word here is brand. Specifically, your company’s brand. But what does this really mean?

More than a buzzword or simply a trademark, your brand is a sort of visual and linguistic one-two punch that either goes the champion distance or wilts in round one.

Put simply: your brand is everything, rolled into one thing. Jerry McLaughlin, a Forbes contributor and CEO of, the world’s largest and lowest-priced promotional products distributor, puts it this way: “Your ‘brand,’” he says, “is what your prospect thinks of when he or she hears your name.”

So, what do your customers think of when they hear your company name or see your logo?… Hello?!… Was that a pin dropping?

Full disclosure: We are not in the business of branding per se, we are in the business of events and motivation. However, branding opportunities abound with incentives, conferences, galas, and we know how to work them to advantage.

Since we’re kicking off a new year, let’s look at an all-that-glitters branding effort, where the budget was as loose as a belt after Christmas dinner.

Chris, who was the lead on this account, will tell you all about it:

“It was 2005 and I had just landed in the Las Vegas airport on route to The World Series of Poker. With 8,000 players, it was the largest poker event in the world, and at the time our client, PokerStars, was the largest online poker company on the planet. As soon as I stepped off the plane I was surrounded by a crush of ads promoting the event. In the cab ride to the Palms Hotel I saw billboard after billboard splashed with the World Series of Poker logo, plus loads of ads for PokerStars’ competitors on buses, banners, even decals on cabs. The only problem was, there was nothing for PokerStars.”

Chris doesn’t consider himself “a branding guy,” but he recognized that something had to be done. Throughout early 2006 he quietly looked into various branding opportunities, the primary one being the Palms Hotel. “I presented a bunch of different brand ideas,” Chris recalls, adding “The hotel said yes to everything.”

Next step was to broach the topic with the owner of PokerStars. Here’s Chris again.

“I explained what I had seen when I landed in the Vegas airport that day, and rifled off all the potential scenarios: ‘We can hang the PokerStars logo on the back wall of the reception area so anyone who walks inside will see it right away. Or we can project the logo on the outside of the building or wrap the pillars inside and out. We can brand the felting on the tables, outfit the Palms staff in PokerStars’ branded shirts, print PokerStars on the keycards or wrap all of our buses with full PokerStars branding.’”

Palms Hotel with Pokerstars BrandingThen Chris asked: “What do you think?”
“I like it,” said the owner. “Let’s do it”
“Which part?”
“All of it.”

And so, two years later (2008), the Palms Hotel was turned into the PokerStars Hotel. We organized a party with 2,300 guests that featured cirque dancers and fire; our headliner was the incomparable Dita Von Teese. The next day we read about our party on the front page of a local paper.

Year over year the branding takeover grew, and our A-Lister acts—Nelly (2009) and Snoop Dogg (2010)—were just as impressive as our first. Our aggressive strategy made a lasting impression, helping PokerStars stand out even amongst a flashy crowd. In fact, we believe our branding takeovers played a part in PokerStars’ growth over the subsequent years as they ballooned to three times the size of their next biggest competition.

Alas, not all of our clients have limitless budgets. But all of them do hold events, and whether large or small, all need to be branded. Which begs the question: Can you go big with branding when your funds are few? (Quick answer: You sure can!)


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