What does ESPN’s mobile products team do for a little fun at its off-site? Run around with their mobile phones, of course.
In January about 60 attendees at a New York City meeting for ESPN Mobile scoured the city on a high-tech scavenger hunt produced by Boston-based SCVNGR. The fast-growing, two-year-old company, which received $4 million in venture funding from Google in December, has been most active creating mobile scavenger hunts as college orientation activities and custom museum tours, but six months ago it dove into the meeting and event space.
SCVNGR meeting clients have included large events like PAX East, a 50,000-attendee gaming conference; SIGGRAPH 2009 in New Orleans; and the Los Angeles Times Travel and Adventure Show, where the mobile games have kept attendees engaged with exhibitors and, in some cases, directed them to game sponsors’ booths. But smaller corporate events are on the books as well, with a focus on team building.
For ESPN Mobile, the SCVNGR event in New York got attendees up and moving after an afternoon of meetings. It was the division’s first meeting under a new senior vice president, says Pam Ogonowski, an administrative assistant at ESPN Mobile, who helped organize the 90-minute event. “We wanted a bonding experience,” she explains, adding that attendees were able to participate using any type of cell phone.
ESPN Mobile attendees—everyone from product development to marketing to video professionals—competed in teams, following clues delivered to their mobile phones. Clues led the teams to a specific location within a mile radius of their Columbus Circle meeting location. Then each team received a challenge related to that location. For example, here’s one of their 14 clues: “Find the store in the Time Warner Center that has a TV made up of 16 separate screens and send in the store's name.” When teams texted in the answer, they then received their challenge: “Take a picture of your team next to the largest camera in the store. Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.” Once completed, teams received a clue that would lead them to their next location.
Players earned points for solving the puzzles (with deductions for texting for hints), and everyone followed the last clue to a pub where the group had dinner and team prizes were awarded.
John Valentine, SCVNGR’s conference and event specialist, says clues and challenges are customized to the audience, with many organizations selling sponsorships that allow exhibitors to create questions that require attendees to interact with them about a product or service. The cost of creating an event for a large conference is typically $10,000 to $15,000, says Valentine, though a smallerevent might be in the range of $3,000.