Event Annual staff reward
Agency The Rouge Partnership
Group size 13,000
Dates 17-18 July 2009
Venue Grasshoppers Rugby Club, London
THE BRIEF When media giant Sky decided to create a new internal event to engage with its teams both in London and at a separate event near Edinburgh to be held later, it took on the enormous challenge of catering to an audience the size of a small town. Amy Watson, internal communications manager, special projects at Sky explains: " This was a brand new event and we've got a fairly diverse organisation with office teams, retail teams, the contact centres, satellite engineers, plus all the teams over at the TV shows."
With employees located predominately in London and close to Edinburgh, those cities were deemed the natural bases for the events. "We wanted to create the same experience in both cities, and open it up to friends and families, running it over two days to give everyone the chance to attend," says Watson. "The key messages were to reward staff for their hard work, motivate them for the year ahead and also simply have fun with them - as fun is one of our core brand values."
Staff were surveyed to gauge requests for the format and timings of the event, and the Sky Forum members - representatives from each department - also provided feedback to the internal communications team. The chief executive recorded a podcast on the intranet to engage stakeholders, thank them and invite them to get together for a staff reward event.
Prior to this, Sky's annual gathering had centred around Christmas, and had been organised by agency The Rouge Partnership. Watson explains that it was "a natural progression" to work with the agency again. She continues: "The brief was to create a festival with a great mix of content - music, comedy and dancers - effectively to entertain an audience the size of a small town. It needed to be very 'Sky' with channel partners like Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network and Disney involved, plus it needed to be 'planet friendly'."
CHALLENGES One of the key challenges was coping with the sheer volume of people. "We considered using Earl's Court but we wanted to be outside and needed space for the funfair, plus we wanted the Friday crowd to be able to leave work and start as soon as possible."
Some of the suppliers also proved challenging for The Rouge Partnership creative director Nathan Homan. "For some of the festival and funfair elements, we were dealing with new suppliers, some of whom weren't used to the rigorous tendering processes required by corporates," he says.
Additionally, holding an event with children among the guests provided a further challenge for the safety and security teams.
SOLUTION Rouge worked with Transport for London to increase the frequency of the local bus service, and liaised with local businesses such as Glaxosmithkline, which lent its car park. The agency also carried out total risk assessment for the funfair and implemented a child-safety system so that if any child was reported lost on site, the whole site was locked down.
For content, Sky's research brought back some interesting results and outlined the timings for the events. Some employees mentioned they wanted to be part of the line up, so Rouge created a Saloon Bar, for Sky employees to showcase their talent. Watson also put out a call to create a Sky choir to get more employees on stage and had 80 responses within 48 hours.
EXECUTION Skyfest kicked off at 6.30pm on the Friday for the kids-free programme, and on stage comperes included Sky News' Kay Burley with entertainment from the Glitter Bandits, Frankie Boyle and Will Young. Sky's newly created choir sang alongside human beatbox Shlomo, while in the Saloon Bar, Sky employees showcased their talent on stage. The funfair added to the festival vibe, and each pod of the Big Wheel displayed messages about Sky's new Harlequin 1 construction project. The downpours ensured Skyfest maintained a classically British festival feel, but didn't dampen the enthusiasm of the 6,000-plus revellers who turned up.
The next day, the site welcomed staff and their families for the daytime event. Rouge was able to turn around the site quickly as the Cartoon Network and Disney areas were pre-rigged and the catering options and funfair were the same.
Many of the activities available on the day related directly to Sky's charity partners and community links, such as English National Ballet (ENB) and Sky's CSR initiative, The Bigger Picture, while entertainment included Bjorn Again. The main afternoon highlight came in the form of a Guinness World Record - Sky employees won their place in the record books for the largest number of people doing "Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes" at any one time.
Branding was evident throughout - from Spongebob on his beach to the Simpsons set, but Watson adds that this wasn't for commercial reasons. "We weren't trying to sell anything, we simply wanted to emphasise that Sky is a great place to work and to let our teams indulge themselves in the entertainment side of the business."
VERDICT Some 98% of attendees said that the event met or exceeded expectations and an added bonus was that the event piqued the interest of other departments, such as Sky Movies, which is keen to be involved in the next event. Focus groups will take place later in the year to build on the success of the inaugural event, and those unable to attend will also be surveyed on their opinions for the 2010 event.
Internally, Skyfest has become a brand in its own right and the chief executive has the Guinness World Record certificate on his wall as a daily reminder of what the teams achieved.
Sky's Watson concludes: "The chief executive was delighted and has already said we are running the event again next year. He is very keen on focusing on the Bigger Picture - Sky's CSR programme - so there will be more of a focus on that next year."