News / Events

October 2014
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Brightline Interactive Toasts to 10 Years of Digital Excellence

This October marks Brightline Interactive’s 10-year anniversary as an agency in the experiential, place-based marketing arena. The milestone is fitting, as Brightline looks to finish up what has been its most expansive year to date. Highlighted by the opening of the Marvel Avengers S.T.A.T.I.O.N. in Times Square, New York, 2014 has also seen Brightline install in-venue fan experiences at Super Bowl XLVIII, the NCAA Final Four, and permanent NCAA Athletics installations with the University of Wisconsin and University of Tennessee.

What began as a small interactive shop with an emphasis on DoD strategic communication and BIO tech conferences has evolved into a national leader in place-based experiential marketing, producing digital experiences for a long list of Fortune 100 brands. Now a team of 30, Brightline expanded their office in July to accommodate for the growth and maintains a multipurpose studio called the “Digital Exchange,” used for staging, community events, and as a gallery.

Brightline shows no signs of slowing down, maintaining a full workload – found in tier 1 NFL stadiums and major markets – through the rest of 2014 and continuing on into 2015. CEO and CCO, Erik Muendel, couldn’t be more pleased with the growth and development he’s seen over the years, but particularly the last 12 months. “We’ve made tremendous strides as a company over the past year,” Erik said. “We’ve added internal structure, taken on larger installations, and expanded into even bigger venues and activations.”

Brightline’s work has taken home its fair share of hardware, winning seven awards alone in 2014, including Communicator, ADDY and Telly awards. They were also selected by InTheCapital as one of DC’s 50 on Fire.

Erik Muendel has seen his share of accolades in the past year as well, including a feature in Biz Bash’s 2014 Event Innovators while garnering speaking engagements at several high-profile conferences including EVENTtech, ad:tech and the CSE Sports Marketing Symposium. “It’s an exciting time to be at Brightline,” Erik added. “We’re doing things no one else has done and having a lot of fun in the process. We love that we can participate in major national events but maintain our identity in Alexandria. That’s what makes Brightline great!”

Talk Nerdy To Me

by Erik Muendel for MediaPost

At this week’s Sports Marketing Symposium in New York, where I was a speaker, there were lots of discussions about enhancing fan engagement. How we turn fans into evangelists. How fans can go deeper into the team’s or sponsor’s DNA. How social media can become more impactful for fan and brand value. Cool videos were shown, case histories presented and a panel headlined by Tiki Barber, former New York Giants all-time rushing leader and correspondent for NBC Sports, discussed the integration of pop culture and sports. However, even if attendees spent half their time checking their smart phones, they couldn’t help but connect to a single overarching theme: analytics.

At the conclusion of the two-day event, it was clear: in the world of sports marketing, metrics is the new creative. 

I know we’ve heard many industry variations on that cliché. Account Planning is the new leadership, Media is the new Creative and so on. Based on presentations from a number of industry thought leaders, including Eric Hirschorn from Burger King, Frank Wheeler from SAP and Chris Thorne from EA, a compelling case was made  solidifying a mighty trend.

Here are a few statistics that contextualize their collective point of view. According to the recent Accenture CMO Study, 78% believe marketing is going through its most radical change in history, partially catalyzed by the demand for measurable digital marketing; over 50% expect digital to grow to 75% of marketing budgets in 2015; 52% believe metrics to be a “bigger competency over creative.”  A seismic shift to be sure.

Hirschorn, in partnership with Horizon Media CEO Bill Koenigsberg, made a compelling case that “analysis, more than creative, is our primary focus.” He pointed out the importance of granular detail of every Burger King consumer engagement. “Audience analytics is our sweet spot.” Dynamically, he added: “It’s about matching passions. Passion for the team, the sport, the brand, resulting in a passion for the overall consumer experience.”

This passion matrix, experienced through digital consumer interactivity, can be a critical driver of metrics & analytics and deserves similar examination.  According to Event Marketing Institute: 98% of fans exposed to a brand experience at an event speak positively about that experience; 2/3 of that group will mention that brand experience in conversation and/or social media; 80% believe that experiential marketing is more likely to lead to a sale than other brand-to-consumer touch points.

Connecting consumers with brands through place-based interactivity – stadiums, events, subways and storefronts - is another growing trend. Increasingly, connecting brands with professional sports franchises, on location through the season and engaging fans with a value-add interactive experience, is now part of the consideration set. These experiences need to be dynamic, intuitive, brief and involving, while offering a clear incentive. The brand and team’s reward for that incentive? Richer analytics. 

That emotional and experiential factor, implemented within the brand platform, inspires fans to participate and share critical data whether it’s a Home Run Derby for Chevrolet at the World Series or a Karaoke Booth for Pepsi at Super Bowl.

Often, I’m asked if we can create something super cool, or can we re-create Minority Report or a Tupac-like holograph. More often, I’m asked how deep we can go in capturing audience metrics. Sharing an interactive experience in various social media channels is the cost of entry. The demand for analytics forces digital creators to be savvier in the broader cultural context, reminding us that metrics don’t end with a post to Facebook or Instagram. For digital marketers across the spectrum, metrics is the end game, interactive technology the means. 

If not the “new creative,” to me it sounds like the new digital imperative.

CEO Erik Muendel to Address Sports Marketing Symposium On the Dynamics of Fan Engagement…

Erik Muendel, CEO and Chief Creative Officer of Brightline Interactive, will take the stage October 15th at 4:00 PM at the CSE Sports Marketing Symposium to speak about in-venue digital experiences and their impact on fan engagement. Having created custom, place-based interactive experiences at the Super Bowl, World Series and NCAA Final Four, Muendel has successfully reimagined technology for fan experiences and is a leader in the growing demand for interactive fan engagement with social and earned media impact.

The conference, in its 13th year, is one of the country’s premier sports marketing events. “We’ve had great success at Brightline Interactive bringing digital experiences to both the collegiate and professional sports domains. This conference is a perfect opportunity to share our unique work with case histories while learning from other leaders in the sports marketing world,” said Muendel.

The presentation will highlight how Brightline connects fans with venues, brands and social media for longer-term engagement and maximum ROI. The World Series installation, through an accelerometer, allowed hundreds of consumers to simulate a live home run derby, ending the interaction with their photo on a baseball card for social media sharing. The Super Bowl experience brought karaoke to the next level, simulating a half-time performance for fans in front of a live-keyed green screen that became instantly shareable YouTube videos.

“The Home Run Derby and Social Karaoke experiences express the future of in-venue, value-add capabilities. Inventive, venue-based interactive technology enhances the fan experience by providing active opportunities that further connects them to the team, as well as sponsors and partners,” added Muendel. “This forum is an opportunity to share and discuss how we can evolve that disruption.”

Brightline Int Touches Down in Knoxville, TN to Bring Interactive Experiences to University of TN

Brightline Interactive, in partnership with Blaine Construction, has brought two new interactive experiences to the University of Tennessee’s Anderson Training Center. The experiences live in the lobby of the newly constructed Anderson Training Center, providing a layer of interaction with all visitors immediately upon entry. The experiences serve to strengthen the university’s recruiting efforts, in addition to acting as a resource for supporters of the UT Football team.

To enhance the training center lobby, Brightline has created and installed both a self-service touchscreen kiosk and a 30’ LED video display ribbon. The kiosk delivers inspiration and information about the football program for potential recruits and fans, with touch-activated media about Tennessee All-Americans, NFL alumni, as well as UT Football traditions and highlights. The large, overhead LED ribbon features customizable content that is updated periodically by the university to highlight relevant news, announcements, and standout moments about the football team.

“By adding high-tech digital experiences to our new training facility, Brightline Interactive and our graphics partner, Ze Design, have taken the Training Center lobby to a new level,” says Chis Spognardi, Director of Football Operations. “The LED ribbon and interactive kiosks not only make the lobby sizzle, they offer a fascinating way for our visitors – potential students, alumni and donors – to engage with the history of our program and stay informed on current activity.”

Brightline Interactive continues to expand their reach into collegiate athletics, building a foundation on which unique interactive experiences can live. Partnering with a school the caliber of University of Tennessee only serves to enhance the credibility of their work. “The University of Tennessee’s new experiences combine Brightline’s creative strengths – integrating technology and sports in an educational environment – to deliver information in a memorable, fun way,” stated Erik Muendel, CEO and CCO of Brightline Interactive. “These experiences are attractive to both potential football recruits as well as existing supporters of the program because they leave a lasting impression about the far-reaching legacy of the university’s football team.”

BLI Brings U of Wisconsin’s Championed Student Athletes Back With Innovative Digital Experiences

Brightline Interactive has partnered with the University of Wisconsin to honor the legacy of current and previous scholar athletes in the Bud Selig Hall of Champions at Camp Randall. The suite of experiences, including two touchscreen kiosks, an interactive projection video wall, and an interactive display case, will encompass the school's rich athletic legacy with history, trivia, and media.

"The University of Wisconsin recognized the value of adding experiential engagement to its already robust, student-focused presence at Camp Randall," said Erik Muendel, CEO and CCO of Brightline Interactive, adding, "these interactives are not only providing a wow-factor for student recruitment and fan engagement, they provide unique, high-quality systems to educate Badger fans, athletes, and students about University of Wisconsin history and pride."

Bud Selig Hall of Champions digital experiences combine Brightline's expertise in both academic campuses and museums, while incorporating the consumer engagement and entertainment elements that have made their experiences so engaging at places like the Super Bowl and Final Four NCAA Tournament.


Avengers Land In Times Square With Marvel Exhibition

Marvel's Avengers are in New York's Times Square. A new pop-up exhibition and store, at the Discovery Times Square Center, is Marvel's way of touting its Avenger series with a pop-up presence and point of retail for licensed merchandise. The walk-in, 10,000-square-foot storefront digital exercise is an interactive gesture, touch and immersion gallery comprising rooms devoted to four of Stan Lee's iconic cartoon characters: the Incredible Hulk, Captain America, Iron Man and Thor.

Visitors start at an "Official Avenger Recruiting S.T.A.T.I.O.N." where they get a card with a QR code. They then go into an "Induction Room" to view an introductory video and tour a curated display of Avenger memorabilia. The QR-coded card allows the fan to initiate all of the subsequent experiences and learn more about the superheroes' "genesis of protection."

The interactive elements include a Captain America pod, where you can see his godlike emergence from wherever he comes from; an Avenger performance endurance test with biometric feedback, where one, if so inclined, can compare results with the uber patriot's. There is an interactive screen to "witness the Incredible Hulk's brain," and how the grey matter changes -- or probably shrinks -- from Bruce Banner's to the Hulk's. At the end of the experience, visitor traffic flows into a retail space.

The space, developed by Brightline Interactive, which created interactive/digital elements, and exhibit design firm Victory Hill, has been open for just over a week and will remain open for the next six months. Erik Muendel, CEO and CCO of the Alexandria, Va.-based Brightline (which has done work for brands like Pepsi, HTC, Sprint, and the U.S. Army) tells Marketing Daily that the program benefits from a licensing agreement with Marvel, which is involved in the experience's look and feel. "Because it's so media-heavy, everything we do has been reviewed by Marvel."

The relationship with Discovery is evinced by the educational elements within the exhibit, notes Muendel. For example, the Thor exhibit -- in a separate room that sports a hologram of the character's hammer, his suits and other gear -- has NASA-centric screens dealing with time travel, the concept of wormholes and theoretical physics in general, he says.

Marvel and Discovery Times Square Center anticipate that it will bring in an average of 3,000 fans per day through its Jan. 5 end date.


Brightline Interactive Joins DC’s Unity Meetup to Talk Gaming, Advertising Monday Night

Brightline Interactive's Senior Developer Andrew Otey and Game Designer William Jones will address Washington Area Unity3D User's Group Monday, April 21st at American University. The Meetup will begin at 5:30 PM, with educational panels and mingling lasting until 8:30 before members head out for further networking.

The WAUUG Meetup was created for people interested in learning Unity3D, helping others learn Unity3D, sharing Unity3D best practices, and game development. Meetup members help others become better Unity3D users and game developers through face-to-face meetings, round tables, and lectures. The group is open to all creative minds interested in learning about Unity3D, not just developers.

Andrew is Brightline's Senior Developer, with a focus on interactive development and user experience design. He works in a variety of platforms, including touchscreen, gesture, sensor, and touchfoil. He has a B.A. in Journalism with a focus on Multimedia from University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. Andrew has been working in Unity for the majority of his professional career.

Andrew will be joined by designer William Jones. The native Washingtonian specializes in prototyping and concepting, working with creative and development teams to bring new ideas to life. William, who has been using Unity3D for almost five years, has a background in CGI and design.

The development duo will be discussing Unity3D integration into digital experiences for major brands to be used at large sporting and entertainment events. Specifically, they will discuss the workflow between graphic development and production. Lead Evangelist of Unity Carl Callewaert will also give remarks about the features of Unity 4.6 and the upcoming public release of Unity 5.


Brightline’s Erik Muendel to talk Converged Media, Corporate Communications at JMU’s SMAD Day 2014

Erik Muendel, CEO and CCO of Brightline Interactive, will deliver remarks to James Madison University (JMU) students during SMAD Day 2014. Erik will speak during the Converged Media panel for the school of Corporate Communications, In addition to reviewing students' resumes for summer employment opportunities.

SMAD Day is an all-day event that invites students to explore opportunities following college. The day features careers sessions for each concentration of the school, as well as sessions on resume reviews, interviewing tips, and portfolio reviews. Led by SMAD alumni and other working professionals, these sessions are important in developing networking connections that may one day lead to internships or jobs.

"Brightline has attended SMAD Day for several years now, and each event, we are blown away by the future generations of talent in the digital space," stated Erik, adding, "I'm a proud JMU alum, and thrilled to see such creative and passionate minds to watch for as technology continues to expand as an opportunity for professional and community growth."

Erik has been a national leader in the digital marketing industry for over 17 years. Since founding Brightline Interactive, Erik has provided the creative direction and technical understanding that has established Brightline as a national leader in the digital and experiential marketing space. Erik's leadership and vision spans across multiple platforms, including digital experiences and custom applications for major events, providing award-winning solutions for clients and brands like 5-hour ENERGY, the National Guard, AT&T, Pepsi, and the National Park Service.

Erik's panel will begin at 10:30 AM in Harrison Hall 0118. Brightline Interactive is currently filling positions for summer internships. For more information, see their website.


Brightline Interactive Sponsors First-Ever DC Ops Meetup

Brightline Interactive has partnered with members of DC's vibrant tech community to sponsor the DC Ops Meetup. The first of its kind, this networking and educational event will feature remarks from Michelle Hoffman, CEO of Hoffman CFO Consulting, about common financial missteps that small businesses take that hinder their ability to grow during periods of growth or hiring.

DC Ops was started by Joe Corbett, COO of nclud and DC tech advocate. The meetup will also be a partnership with fedscoop's Greg Poersch to leverage expertise in events catering to programming professionals and their career development.

"The reason I started the DC Ops Meetup is rather simple: Wanting to be the best COO and all-around "ops guy" I can be, I decided I needed to meet more COOs so I could readily draw on them for advice and guidance," stated Joe, adding, "I started a meetup where operations-minded people could meet and learn from each other."

The event is targeted to those interested in learning how to operate a small- to medium-sized businesses, though it is open to people of all titles and industries. Sponsorships and donations will benefit Byte Back, a nonprofit computer and job training center that serves over a thousand low-income adults each year.

"We're proud supporters of Joe's endeavors to grow the operations side of the thriving DC tech community," stated Curt Seiss, VP of Operations at Brightline Interactive. "As businesses expand and grow at the rapid pace of our industry, Operations professionals benefit greatly from hearing from others' ideas and educating themselves on best practices."

For more information about the DC Ops meetup, RSVP here.


Alessandro “Sam” Santarelli Fully Intends to Drop It Like It’s Hot at ad:tech

Sam Santarelli, EVP at Brightline Interactive, will speak at ad:tech in San Francisco on March 27th. In "Overstimulated: Winning over the Jaded Audience," the seasoned advertising and digital expert will advise attendees about integrating advanced technology to create lasting brand impressions. The session will take place at 1:15 PM at Moscone Center West.

All marketers today face a common concern: how to capture the attention of a consumer increasingly bombarded with messages and images. So many brands leverage social media and digital strategy to attract users, but what makes an event or experience truly memorable? Sam will present case studies that outline the impact of experiences that engage users both on and offsite. Brightline layers in advanced technology like networked touch, sensor integration, and custom game apps to provide an integrated marketing experience that has helped brands remain relevant in the fast-changing world of technology, social engagement, and advertising.

Following the session, attendees will know how to outshine competitors, dominating heavily-attended events with unique and impactful branding and messaging. Through this process, a brand cultivates brand evangelists, who then carry that message beyond the footprint.

"Audiences like ad:tech's are the some of the brightest and most inventive minds in the industry," stated Sam, who previously spoke at ad:tech in New York last year. "The questions and sessions presented there inform the future of digital marketing and advertising, bringing to life advanced ideas and creative concepts."

Sam has been a player in the digital marketing industry for over 12 years. Since joining Brightline Interactive in 2007, he has provided creative direction and established business relationships that have helped cement Brightline Interactive as a national leader in the digital event marketing space. In his previous life, Sam produced historical documentary films, including the Emmy Award Winning PBS documentary, "The Cultivated Life: Thomas Jefferson and Wine." He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in history from the University of Virginia.