In June, Rachel Havner jetted directly from MTV’s Movie & TV Awards in L.A. to San Francisco’s Bill Graham Auditorium to prepare for another of Viacom’s big tentpoles: Comedy Central’s Clusterfest.
Havner, who serves as VP of events, tentpoles, and experimental for Viacom Velocity’s global entertainment group, would have preferred the scenic drive up the California coast. But there just wasn’t enough time to accomplish all the work that needed to be done for just two of the many back-to-back live events in June, which also included Nickelodeon’s SlimeFest, CMT’s Music Awards, the BET Experience and BET Awards, and VidCon.
The Florida native, who is celebrating her 12th year at Viacom this month, made the pilgrimage to her current role in New York from Viacom's London office, where, as part of the VH1 UK production team, she had put together a live concert tribute to Princess Diana hosted by her sons, William and Harry. She ultimately made the move to VH1’s tentpoles, including the brand’s Hip Hop Honors.
“I ended up being the one who actually vetted all of the integrated marketing pieces into the shows and figuring out how they'd work together in addition to my other producing,” Havner said of her time at VH1.
“It was funny,” she added. “On the Viacom Velocity team all those years ago, they were like, ‘We need one of you on our side,’ in an effort to figure out how to actually understand how live production works and also being able to seamlessly integrate products and brands in a fun, cool, engaging way.”
Now, Havner does exactly that, by working with the Velocity team to integrate brand sponsorships across live experiences, such as the MTV VMAs, Clusterfest, and the upcoming RealityCon.
Here’s how Havner’s team is working with partners to help them connect with audiences from Viacom’s many live events:
Viacom: How do you describe your job to your friends?
Rachel Havner: Not everyone quite understands what integrated marketing is. I try to say something like, "You know that when you see that brand integrated into a show?" I start there and then kind of back-up and take more of a 360 approach. It's like, "Oh, we make custom content for our brands, as well as digital and social content, and make a cohesive package and program for them." And then they nod along half understanding still, but it's funny. That's the way I tell it to my friends, and most importantly, my parents.
V: How is Velocity growing Viacom’s presence in the experiential space?
RH: It's really interesting to see the shift that we're able to all make together for still keeping our live TV-driven broadcast events, but also really stepping into this experiential space. It's nothing that we haven't done before. Now that live events are popping up more and more, it's really exciting to be a part of this shift along with Viacom, where we're looking to develop what additional on-the-ground space looks like.
V: Why are businesses leaning more into live events?
RH: Companies and brands are getting more into experiential than ever before. I think it's part trend, as we see trends come and go. From the consumer experience, from the research that we've had from our great team, people like these on-the-ground, tactile experiences. So I think why not lean into them even heavier where there's opportunity to both create new and exciting events and brand integrations?