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Though she may not have the brawn of a 250-pound linebacker plowing through bodies toward the end zone, Corri Glydon has the equivalent in trade show brains and creative marketing skills. Having spent two years as the trade show supervisor for Sperian Protection Inc., a maker of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), Glydon developed some pretty fancy footwork on the show floor, moves that included well-received promotions and increased brand awareness. But the pregame challenge set before Glydon for the 2010 National Safety Council's Annual Congress & Expo (NSC) presented a game-changing circumstance: new teammates.

Sperian was being acquired by Honeywell International Inc., a behemoth player in the safety-product manufacturing industry. As if new teammates weren't enough to tackle, Glydon also faced the challenge of coming up with a campaign to educate attendees about Sperian's safety products and its new Enabled Safety Products (ESP), a radio-frequency identification (RFID) technology platform. Juggling all these balls in preparation for NSC would take some pulverizing brainpower.

Corri Glydon, trade show supervisor at Honeywell Safety Products, is an 11-year veteran of the event industry. Before putting her skills to work in the safety-product industry, she was a member of Monster.com's trade show team. Glydon manages more than 130 shows every year.

Scribbling furious notes in her playbook, Glydon formulated the perfect lineup to accomplish her goals. Equipped with an integrated football-themed promotion that she expanded to incorporate Honeywell, Glydon scored a string of touchdowns that included a 75-percent increase in product leads, an average booth visit of 30 to 45 minutes, and one of our 2012 All-Star Awards.

Building Muscle Mass
From its Smithfield, RI, home base, Sperian Protection was building a name for itself as a safety-product manufacturer. Its major brands, Miller, Howard Leight, and Uvex, were well known and respected in the industry. Promising to be "protection's new direction," the six product lines included eyewear and face protection (e.g., safety goggles), fall protection (body harnesses), hand protection (gloves), hearing protection (ear plugs), respiratory protection (self-contained breathing aparati), and handheld gas-detection devices.

Most recently, Sperian had also developed its RFID-enabled ESP products, which allow customers to scan an RFID tag on a safety product and learn the expiration date of an eyewash cartridge, for example, or the life expectancy of a body harness. Because of the high quality of these safety products, Sperian is a brand that end users trust to protect them every time they dance with danger.

During her two years as trade show supervisor, Glydon elevated the company's product lines to successful heights. In 2009, for example, her primary goal was to push brand awareness and increase leads. Literally interpreting the word "safe," she and her team created the slogan, "You will always be safe with the winning combination of PPE" (Personal Protection Equipment). Crafting pre-show mailers that included vault-door graphics beside a combination code that attendees could key into a safe's number dial for a chance to win at the Sperian booth, Glydon and her team drove scads of traffic to their exhibit at NSC 2009, locking down five to 10 minutes of attendees' time and increasing product leads by 38 percent.

The promotion did well enough to turn the head of safety and security industry giant, Honeywell. Sizing up Sperian and liking what it saw, Honeywell was interested in adding Sperian to its Honeywell Safety Products division. As a Fortune 100 company employing 122,000 worldwide, Honeywell cast a large shadow. If Sperian knew one thing, it was safety, and this merger promised to be one heck of a safe bet.

Game Plans
By May of 2010, the Sperian acquisition was a certainty. The details and timelines, however, were still being discussed. And while Glydon was thrilled about the new blitzer of a teammate, she had no time to wait for the Honeywell merger to shake out; she had to create Sperian's new booth promotion for NSC in October.

The RFID badges contained each individual's name and information, so that when he or she arrived at Sperian Protection Inc.'s RFID-enabled Gate A, the technology would trigger unique attendee recognition. After entering the booth, attendees were intercepted by staffers dressed as referees who handed them scorecards with product images corresponding to their appropriate "protection zone" in the booth.

The 2009 promotion that Glydon had executed focused on brand awareness. Now that the Sperian brand was being recognized (and pursued) by companies as big as Honeywell, Glydon had to take her promotion a step further. So she suited up with her creative team to develop a theme that would make learning about safety less like a chore and more like a game.

"We figured everyone likes sports, so it would make a great promotion," Glydon says. Thus, she beefed up her promotion by taking a seasonally apt football slant bearing the slogan, "Safety: Get in the game." But before the warm-up could begin, Honeywell alerted Sperian that the two companies' booths had better have parallel promotions because the date was determined: Honeywell would be officially acquiring Sperian on Sept. 15, 2010, a mere two and a half weeks before NSC. It was go time - Glydon had to stitch Honeywell into the game plan.

Trade Show Tailgating
For starters, Glydon gave Honeywell the design template for Sperian's football-themed pre-show mailers. By simply adding its name to the flier, Honeywell could send its customers a pre-game indication that the two companies were linked.

Sperian's fliers, meanwhile, had already been sent sans Honeywell logos. The pre-show mailers hit 1,633 attendees' mailboxes, and Glydon figured she'd wait until the show to get her customers up to speed about the Honeywell merger. In the meantime, her customers' curiosity would be piqued by the creative 8.5-by-11-inch mailer and RFID-coded badge.

The mailers featured images of the foam fingers that fans wave at games alongside the image of a referee clad in iconic black and white stripes. The slogan "Safety: Get in the Game" was scrawled across the top of the flier beside a lineup of Sperian's products and an invitation to "earn points for a touchdown" at NSC. Messages emblazoned inside each foam-finger image promised attendees multiple chances to win cash prizes by playing Sperian's safety game at booth 4307.

The badges were affixed to blue lanyards and bore images of a smiling referee and foam fingers reminding attendees to enter the Sperian booth through the RFID-enabled "Gate A" to find out if they were an instant winner. Adhered to the back of a 4-by-6-inch badge, the RFID tag contained each individual attendee's name and information, triggering unique attendee recognition at the gate.

Malcontent to be on the bench during pre-show marketing, Honeywell came to Glydon with another opportunity to expose attendees to joint Sperian-Honeywell branding. Together, the two companies decided on the tagline, "We're transforming the safety industry," which would be printed alongside the Honeywell and Sperian brands on sponsored materials that Honeywell had purchased: head rests on the shuttles from the airport to attendees' hotels and branded hotel key cards.

Set . Hut!
Finally, it was time to play ball. The doors to the San Diego Convention Center opened, and Sperian's 40-by-50-foot booth was one of the first that attendees saw. The booth announced itself with tiered banners: Honeywell's 180-by-48-inch banner acted as an umbrella over the 144-by-48-inch Sperian banner, which made an immediate statement about the acquisition. Offering an entry unique to the Sperian booth, Gate A stood 10 feet tall and had a 30-inch-wide graphic above it repeating Sperian's sporty slogan: "Safety: Get in the Game."

Weaving through the various protection zones, attendees absorbed safety-product information. At the "respiratory protection zone," attendees could speak with a staffer about gas masks and examine breathing aparati modeled on mannequins. Attendees were "getting into the game" by collecting barcodes to complete their scorecards.

As attendees passed under the gate into the territory where sports and safety equipment collide, the tag on the RFID badge was read by shoulder- or knee-level sensors, triggering a 42-inch plasma screen mounted 8 feet high to flash a personalized welcome using the attendee's name. For 25 lucky attendees, the screen also announced that they were an instant gift-card winner.

A total of 769 attendees experienced this RFID technology; of these, 376 used the badge they had received in the pre-show mailer, and the other 393 were provided a "welcome badge" on site. "The entry gate gave us the perfect opportunity to show off our RFID technology," Glydon says.
Immediately after entering the booth, attendees were intercepted by a Sperian staffer dressed in a referee uniform who invited them to play the safety game and learn about the company's six safety product lines and its ESP technology platform. The referee then handed each attendee a 9-by-4.5-inch scorecard with seven product images corresponding to their appropriate "protection zone" in the booth. The "zones" were actually kiosks and demonstration areas manned by 40 Sperian product managers and sales representatives.

Each of the seven stations, or "protection zones," served as an educational hub where attendees could speak with a staffer and learn about individual lines of safety products. To identify one protection zone from another, and to touch again on the football theme, Glydon mounted 14-by-16-inch blue and orange down markers 8 feet above all of the seven product stations, each marker portraying a different graphic. The "face and eye protection zone" marker, for example, bore the image of safety glasses, the "hand and arm protection zone," a glove. These graphics, in turn, matched the images on attendees' scorecards for easy booth navigation.

Attendees were instructed to visit any of the product stations that interested them. As soon as they'd learned about the Sperian products at the protection zone of their choice, staffers would slap a barcode sticker beside that marker on their scorecard, which served as a point successfully scored.

Weaving through the exhibit's protection zones, attendees interacted with Sperian staffers, absorbing copious amounts of safety-product info. At the "hearing protection zone," for example, curious attendees could test out VeriPRO, a system formatted to test if ear plugs work correctly. At the
"respiratory protection zone," they could speak with a staffer about the gas masks and examine breathing aparati modeled on mannequins.

Double Teaming
While Glydon's promotional slogan had urged attendees to "get in the game," she hadn't anticipated just how into the game they would actually get. Out of the nearly 450 attendees who entered the Sperian booth to play, a jaw-dropping 93 percent of them visited all seven safety-product stations, filling every zone on their scorecard. Having a full card meant a higher probability of winning a prize in the Sperian "end zone," which consisted of an 8-by-4-foot goal post beside the prize machine. Each of the barcodes was a chance for the attendee to win one of 38 prizes (gift cards of different denominations up to $500). While there were not enough gift cards for every attendee to win, all who visited the prize machine were given a miniature Sperian-Honeywell co-branded foam football.

A full card meant a greater chance of winning in the Sperian "end zone," which comprised a goal post beside a prize machine. Each of the barcodes was a chance for the attendee to win one of 38 gift cards of different denominations up to $500. While there were not enough gift cards for every attendee to win, those who visited the prize machine were given a miniature Sperian-Honeywell co-branded foam football.

"We didn't really think attendees would go to all the areas," Glydon says. "I was really impressed. The line to the end zone started to get long because the prize machine required seven scans per person, but the attendees didn't mind waiting. They were so excited about the booth. There were many positive compliments about the whole promotion."

Not only did attendees have seven opportunities to win at the Sperian booth, but they were informed by Sperian staff that if they visited the Honeywell booth, a short 20-yard dash down the main aisle, they could score yet another chance to win. The 50-by-50-foot Honeywell exhibit didn't feature the same safety game and scorecards, but it did reflect Sperian's theme by displaying a down marker with an image of the Honeywell "H" as well as showing off 9-by-20-inch foam finger cutouts. Honeywell staffers, eager to engage in conversation about their products and expound upon the acquisition of Sperian, interacted with attendees before handing off a 5-by-10-inch card (intended to boost traffic), which attendees could scan at the Sperian booth to try to win yet again. A notable 267 attendees returned to the Sperian booth a second time - after their visit to the Honeywell exhibit - with the traffic-builder card.

Final Score
In the closing scene of countless sports films, the hero is hoisted above the heads of teammates while spectators rush the field. Considering the success of her sporty promotion, Glydon ought to have been lifted high on the shoulders of her staffers with "Chariots of Fire" booming from loudspeakers during booth dismantle after the three days of NSC. Accolades and recognition were doled out instead by our All-Star Awards judges.

"Glydon was faced with one of the most daunting events in a trade show marketer's career: a major acquisition," said one judge. "She handled it in a professional manner to truly integrate the two businesses with a creative promotional program."

Indeed, Glydon handled the acquisition without a single fumble. The football promotion proved that the old pigskin doesn't just attract dumb jocks; it's for brainiac attendees looking to bone up on product knowledge, too - evidenced by the fact that 75 percent of the leads captured were product specific. The RFID technology platform was another touchdown; instead of the 25 qualified leads Sperian had hoped to bring in for its ESP products, the company collected 58.

The crowning achievement, of course, was that attendees lingered in the booth for an average of 30 to 45 minutes. The numbers impressed judges as well, who said, "It's rare for attendees to give you that much time. But they stayed in the booth because the promotion was engaging."
It all goes to show what a solid promotion under the tutelage of a laudable trade show coach will lead to: a victory dance in the exhibit's end zone - and a spike in leads.  E

Kelli Billstein, staff writer; kbillstein@exhibitormagazine.com

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