LIVEWIRE BLOG

This past Saturday, UFC made its New York City debut with the most anticipated card in the history of the sport. The Big Apple meant big opportunity to engage with fight fans for the first time, and IMG LIVE was on the ground to help make it happen for our new partners.

If you’re going to activate and stand out in New York, you have to go big. To hype UFC Fight Week, we installed larger than life 7.5-foot tall UFC dimensional letters and a “UFC Punch Out” game at several different iconic NYC locations, changing spots daily throughout the lead up to event night. We also posted (slightly) smaller 6-foot tall letters outside Reebok and Harley-Davidson locations, both of which are key UFC partners.

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This was no small task. Every experiential event requires careful planning and logistics, but putting something on all over the city of New York requires, as Liam Neeson might say, a special set of (logistical) skills.

The activations ran daily from 10 am – 8 pm at each location. To stretch the budget dollar however, we acquired permits for only 24-hour periods, which meant as soon as the clock struck midnight, our sets were on the move. Any delay could affect the entire schedule.

Hauling 1,200 pound letters around New York City in the middle of the night isn’t easy. The letters had to be easily transported by four people, and with limited load-in time, the teams had to be streamlined and efficient – and that was just getting the letters onto the box truck.

Speaking of the box truck, a 26′ vehicle standing 13’6″ high does not effortlessly get around in a big city. Planning the route is already difficult, but to add to the challenge, both presidential candidates were in town(!), which meant additional road closures and other unforeseen obstacles.

By thoroughly reviewing and mapping out each location, we avoided running into any obstacles during transport, but the planning didn’t end there. Because the smaller letters were placed outside of storefronts, the city requires a 6′ egress in front of the activation on the sidewalk. Had we not taken the time to plan out the letter orientation within these limits, we could have been fined or forced to take the structure down. Knowledge of regulations was not enough, the LIVE crew had to build in adequate time to make sure they were able to adhere to them as well.

Through careful consideration, planning, and attention to detail, the effort paid off and LIVE made it possible for New Yorkers (including ESPN’s Darren Rovell) to interact with the UFC brand in a unique way.

It was quite a whirlwind for our crew, but we did take away some key learnings that can help you succeed in the city that never sleeps (or at least, the city we never sleep in):

  1. Consider form, function and mobility when designing oversized activation elements. If something is gorgeous, but can’t be moved by anything less than a football team or fit in a standard truck, you’re setting yourself up for some heartbreak. (Especially if you want to offset costs for the client later on through reuse.)
  2. Don’t assume anything when it comes to driving big trucks around the city; careful route planning is essential to event success. Let’s be honest, we rarely have any time cushion in this industry and when you do, it’s better spent actually eating lunch than troubleshooting your way around road work.
  3. Visit every event site in person and make a game plan for set-up. Our Brooklyn Bridge location delighted us with a 5% incline we had to accommodate for. Without checking out each location, it’s impossible to know with certainty you’ll be able to execute safely without violating regulations.

The team had a blast engaging New Yorkers throughout the 5 days, bringing them closer to UFC and the title fighters and preparing them for event night. UFC made history at Madison Square Garden Saturday night, and IMG LIVE is both proud and honored to have been a part of it.