12 PR stunts that won summer

Published on 8 June 2017

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UBER Ice Cream summer stunt

Just like the British summer, a PR stunt can be unpredictable, but done right it’ll stop people in their tracks and deliver a ton of coverage. PR stunts can be a risk for any brand, but the powerful marketing potential that’s up for grabs is hard to resist. And they don’t need to be big and expensive – sometimes a small but brilliant idea, perfectly executed, can have more impact. So if you’re bouncing around ideas for your own PR stunt, here are 12 of our favourite summer publicity stunts to inspire you…

Shadow Wi-Fi

A fun campaign with a serious message: free Wi-Fi on the beach – but only when you’re in the shade. On the Playa Agua Dulce in Peru, a ‘shadow Wi-Fi’ network was set up that only works in the shade, encouraging beach-goers to stay safe in the midday sun. The stunt was designed to raise awareness of and help prevent skin cancer; the campaign and technology were created by Happiness Brussels, with the support of the Peruvian League Against Cancer. How did it work? A big blue structure (scaffolding wrapped in fabric) provides Wi-Fi access for up to 250 people on one side only, thanks to a directional Wi-Fi antenna that follows the movement of the sun.

Nestle Naked Baristas

To promote its ‘all natural’ Coffee-Mate creamer, Nestle went ‘au naturel’ for 1-day pop-up shop in New York. The brand set up shop in the basement of the Natural Bliss Coffee Shop while naked models, covered only in body paint, served free coffee – and of course pushed Coffee-Mate creamer – to surprised customers. Additional models and actors in body paint sat in the cafe among the regular customers to add to the gag.

Nestle Naked Cafe

Havaianas Thong Challenge

No Aussie Day would be complete without the Havaianas Thong Challenge. The Brazilian thong (or flip-flop to us Brits) company gets thousands of Aussies on beaches around the country to attempt to set a new record for the longest line of giant inflatable Havaianas in the water. Started in 2005, the annual challenge takes place at five of the country’s most iconic beaches including Cottesloe, North Bondi, Mooloolaba, Glenelg and Torquay, as well as a number of in-land “backyard” challenges, in an PR activation designed by URBAN and Havaianas.

Kong: Skull Island

We love a good beach activation and this one to promote the premiere of Kong: Skull Island is no exception. Experiential agency Grandesign created a trail of giant footprints across Los Angeles: five executions over a week, featuring giant ape footprints strategically placed around the city, simulating a destructive journey around town by the titular oversized beast. The execution at Dockweiler Beach, using sculpted sand to produce 25ft x 12ft footprints, had no additional promotional activity so it was crucial that the stunt delivered something really epic that the media would cover.

Kong Skull Island footprints

Virgin Atlantic Dubai Beach

To celebrate the launch of its London Heathrow-Dubai route, Virgin Atlantic held a photo call on the United Kingdom artificial ‘island’ in Dubai’s The World luxury development. The brand played up the British angle, including a traditional phone box planted on the beach and Richard Branson in full Union Jack suit.

Virgin Atlantic Dubai Beach launch

New York City Surprise Bouquets

New Yorkers were made to stop and smell the flowers with sculptural ‘surprise bouquets’ that popped up around the city earlier this summer. Lewis Miller Designs, the company responsible for what has been described as ‘random acts of flowers’, is beautifying seemingly random areas of the city by artfully placing large bouquets of flowers in unexpected places – including rubbish bins, subway stations and on historic sculptures. In this marketing stunt, Miller and his team attempted to brighten people’s day – and raise brand awareness – by providing a free and visually stimulating experience.

NYC Surprise Bouquets

Sprite Shower

Sprite markets itself as a refreshing way to keep cool – but sometimes you need to quench more than your thirst. Say hello to the Sprite Shower: a giant promotional beach shower that looks like a Sprite machine. The company has taken these showers to popular beaches around the world, including Brazil, Israel and Bondi Beach in Australia.

Game of Thrones Dragon Skull

How do you promote one of the biggest show’s on TV? With a giant PR stunt! To promote the 3rd Season of Game of Thrones on Blinkbox, Sketch Events worked with Taylor Herring to design and build a giant dragon skull. Taking three sculptors over two months to make, it measured 40ft long by 8ft wide and stood over 9ft tall. The skull appeared at various locations around the country – initially ‘washed up’ on Dorset’s Jurassic Coast, before arriving at the Blinkbox premiere screening at the Tower of London. As well as considerable press coverage and social media exposure, the stunt won “Best Spectacular” for Blinkbox at The Drum’s Creative Out of Home Awards with commendations for “Innovation” and “Experiential/Ambient”.

Game of Thrones Dragon Skull

Burger King Sand Restaurant PR Stunt

Burger King opened its first ever outlet made out of sand on the beach at Weston-Super-Mare. The 9×9 metre “restaurant” was built out of 30 tonnes of sand to celebrate the launch of the company’s new Fusion range of frozen treats – the only item on the menu.

Burger King Sand Restaurant
Picture: Flickr

Facebook Face to Face at Cannes

Facebook hosts its annual interactive Facebook Face to Face (formerly Facebook Beach) event at the International Festival of Creativity in Cannes, at the Hôtel Barrière Le Majestic Beach & Pier.

The activation provides a place for attendees to connect with Facebook products, as well as engage with a range of programming and activities. Events include everything from yoga to ‘Face-boule’, cheese and wine tastings, as well as 360-degree video workshops, exclusive content and live tips and tricks.

Facebook's Face to Face at Cannes
Picture: innovision

adidas Boost Your Summer

adidas ran a “Boost Your Summer” PR stunt in 2015 and 2016 to increase sports participation with a series of activities and competitions – and help strengthen the brand’s leadership in the sports category. A 6-week pop-up “adidas sports base” was built in Hong Kong’s Central Harbour. Open from June to August, it boasted facilities for football, basketball, running, fitness training and yoga, plus a photo gallery and pop-up store.

UBER Ice Cream

When it launched, UBER won hearts and minds with a series of fun tactical stunts. In 2012 the company identified the hottest day of the year in New York and announced it would do door-to-door ice cream delivery – and in the process create headlines and lots of Instagram noise. Now in its 5th year, the PR stunt is now offered in over 400 cities around the world!

UBER Ice Cream summer PR stunt