The New Frontier of Experiential

Mitch explores key macro influences that will shape consumer behaviour in 2021.



Mitch CroweHardy


The New Frontier of Experiential

1 Feb 2021. Written by Mitch Crowe-Hardy, Senior Creative Strategist, Bastion EBA.

This article first appeared in AdNews here.

How brands can interact with consumers in a new frontier of experiential marketing.  

2020 was a year of turmoil, but it was also a year that made people think about what is truly important to them. Conscious consumption came to the fore and beyond the new digital shopping behaviours and consumer price sensitivities that have become a norm, three key macro drivers have become major influences in people’s purchasing decisions and brand affinity.


Driven by the Australian general public’s awareness of the economic effect of COVID-19 on local small to medium businesses (SMB)’s,  the focus has grown significantly from a general, back of mind thought to a leading front of mind consideration. Kantar’s COVID-19 barometer revealed 7/10 Australians are actively buying locally to rally support for SMBs and it’s here to stay moving forward.

Supporting local, whether it be through small decisions like supplier choices through to collaborations and talent, is a new expectation of all brands. Two examples exemplifying this surge in SMB support were the massively popular and positively received AirBnb ‘The Country Pub Project’ and Carlton & United Breweries’ ‘For the Love of Your Local’.


In a new normal where over half of all consumers globally will continue to buy from new brands, McKinsey’s field surveys in 45 countries discovered one of the biggest decision makers in choosing who people purchase from is a brand’s alignment with their personal values.

Accentuated by the early environmental issues, political and racial disruption and pandemic in 2020; seventy percent of consumers now consider buying from brands that represent their personal values. And as 2021 continues this pandemic, political, environmental and social disruption that punctuated 2020 – tangible, authentic CSR initiatives have never been more important. Shifting from a consumer nice to have, to a necessity and core focus.

In 2021 brands must have genuine social responsibility as a core aspect of the customer’s experience. Whether it’s sustainable packaging, supporting social issue groups with purchase donations, or all the way through to an event being carbon neutral.

Identifying key consumer groups’ personal values and having organisations and initiatives aligning to them is the key.


As people were forced indoors during the lockdown, aspects of life that were replicated at home from exercise, to WFH, self-care  and entertainment have created long term changes in the way we live. The home has become a new venue and experiential moment that gives brands great opportunities to bring the brand world and moments into at-home rituals.

The beauty and wellness category changed dramatically. WIth less need to dress up and more importance placed on staying healthy in the convenience of your own home, skin care and mental wellbeing have become major priorities, whilst exercise and the role of gyms and fitness classes will continue to be a mainstay at home.

Beauty and wellness trends of note:

HOME GYMS ARE IN: The brands that can provide goods or services to elevate the home gym experience will reap the benefit of consumers looking to find efficiencies in their daily routine.

LIFE IN THE SLOW LANE:  It’s important for brands to find ways they can contribute to down time and create ownable brand moments throughout the day.

At the end of 2020 online fitness company Peloton inked a multi-year agreement with Beyonce Knowles, their most requested workout music artist. Curating a series of themed classes and content for at home spin based workouts.

The fashion and retail category saw a significant uplift in new ways people are purchasing and owning goods.  Fashion has been leading the charge focusing on ecologically minded and seasonless collections, eliminating runway shows, adopting augmented reality collection displays and shopping experiences, and seemingly out of place brand collaborations are driving new, exciting ways for consumers to experience their brands.

Key fashion and retail trends of note:

OUT OF THIS WORLD: It is time for brands to get on the front foot and embrace emerging tech to build never before seen experiences for the Australian market. 2020 accelerated the shift to online shopping by five years (IBM 2020 US Retail Index).  In 2019, according to a Neilsen global survey, AR and VR were the top technologies consumers were seeking for daily life assistance before this acceleration happened. A great local example last year was P.E Nation’s simple approach to the launch of its snow range with an AR change room and filter to try their ski jacket on.

EXPERIRENTAL: Style has always been cyclical. And now our consumerism can be too. Brands should consider trialing rental or subscription services that appeal to the desire for short term ownership – taking ‘try before you buy’ in a different direction.

For example, in the middle of last year luxury clothing rental platform HURR launched its first bricks and mortar rental space store at Selfridges in London.

Professional sport was one of the hardest hit categories by the pandemic. Virtual leagues and e-sports proliferated during the live sport glut, whilst codes and publishers met rampant demand for content by upping the frequency and ease of consumption for fans no longer able to go to live games. Athletes, teams and codes have started to become fully fledged representatives of significant social issues and as 5G starts to roll out here in Australia, the first incarnations of what’s possible in the US show a wealth of genuinely new and exciting fan experiences for Australian audiences.

Sports trends of note:

THE FUTURE OF THE FAN EXPERIENCE: 5G is set to fuel a wave in bringing immersive and spectacular experiences to engage fans beyond the stadium.

SNACK SIZED STORY TELLING: We have transitioned to a new era in digital fan engagement, as brands hit fast-forward to find new ways to connect with fans and supporters.

For example, Samsung and the Dallas Cowboys have implemented 5G experiences across its stadium; from artificial intelligence photo posing digital screens, to augmented reality live game stats and large scale stadium interactivity.   

Dallas Cowboys x Samsung 5G stadium
Dallas Cowboys x Samsung 5G pitch

Click here to get the NEXTperiential Issue III report from our Trends Catalogue.



Our Diversified Offering in 2019 as Strategic Brand, Commercial & Experiential Agency

We expand our service offering adding creatives and brand strategists to the team.



Emily Clark


Our Diversified Offering in 2019 as Strategic Brand, Commercial & Experiential Agency

Bastion EBA, part of Australia’s largest independent agency, Bastion Collective, has diversified its offering as a leading strategic brand, commercial and experiential agency, working with some of Australia’s biggest and most exciting events and brands in the country.

In its tenth year in 2019, a lot has changed for Bastion EBA, led by CEO Simon Garlick along with General Manager Matt McCann who joined in 2018. Whilst the core belief of the agency still rings true; to connect people and brands through experiences and emotions, Bastion EBA can now offer a full service agency model, as a strategic brand and commercial agency that delivers exceptional experiences.

In the past month Bastion EBA’s Sydney team moved into the Bastion Collective new flagship NSW office in Waterloo with the nine other business arms. This allows Bastion EBA to work closely with its creative sister agency, Banjo as well as data and analytics arm, Stable Research, both of which were acquired by Bastion Collective in 2018.

According to McCann, the major difference is in the diversity of EBA’s offering. ​McCann said, “​Over the past six months the agency has created a national team of 25 specialists across strategy, creative, commercial and experiential with a laser focus on having the customer front and centre.

“We spent a lot of time earlier in the year listening to our clients and scoping the market before implementing a revised structure and strategy going into 2019 and beyond. This has manifested with a completely new approach to our strategic thinking and building a team passionate about our clients business no matter the size. Not to mention being able to tap into the expertise of our sister agencies across the Collective which are now all in the same building. We can now completely deliver on the term full-service for our clients”.

Bastion EBA’s latest brand experiences include the Australian Open onsite activations for KIA and Garnier in 2019 and 2020, the 2019 Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix with Ferrari, Microsoft’s Gears 5 XBOX gaming launch event, and the upcoming VRC Melbourne Cup Carnival which will see an exciting first-time activation in the Birdcage for Kennedy Luxury Group.

McCann added, “What we’re seeing is that clients benefit hugely when they can interact with people amongst their target audience and control the environment.

“Brands can control how people feel, from the moment they enter, to when they leave. They can truly immerse customers and activate all of their senses in an unforgettable way that creates a lasting brand impact. Then we turn impact into a data point that extends the customer journey for a much longer timeframe post-event”.

Garlick added “We have a rich history in sport and sponsorship which will continue unabated, but now we have a diverse, national skill base that delivers so much more than that every day.”

This article featured in Mumbrella here on 26 Sept, 2019.



Defining the Value of Sponsorship for Non-Traditional Rights Holders

What role do less traditional rights holders such as entertainment, retail and arts organisations play when it comes to sponsorship?



Emily Clark


Defining the Value of Sponsorship for Non-Traditional Rights Holders

For decades, sport has been the golden child of sponsorship. The goose that laid the golden egg, with more than 80% of sponsorship spend being invested in sport.

It’s not hard to see why, when as Australians, we continually talk about how sport is the foundation of our culture and our undisputed national pastime. So when it comes to investing in sponsorship, to align yourself with the things that Australians are most passionate about, sport becomes a no brainer, right?

The eyeballs, reach, awareness and profile are undeniable and despite the ill fortunes of our nation’s cricket and rugby teams of late, sport still demands the lion’s share of brand investment. But, sponsorship in this fragmented media market is becoming so much more than eyeballs, it’s in the experience.

This begs the question – what role do less traditional rights holders such as entertainment, retail and arts organisations play here? They don’t have the broadcast but they do have a physical (and I would argue, more meaningful) reach that rivals that of even the largest sporting organisations.

Consider major theme parks that see 6 million+ visitors pass through their gates every year, or better yet, major entertainment destinations that see up to 30 million people visiting their properties annually.

These numbers are staggering and present an enviable commercial proposition, particularly considering the MCG sees 3 million visitors in the same period.

So why have many of these organisations been late to the party when it comes to using sponsorship as a genuine business function to generate inbound revenue?

Over the last five years, we have helped to stimulate significant commercial growth for these non-traditional rights holders and surprisingly, our involvement is often the first formal steps these organisations have taken towards generating such a business function.

These entities understand the partnerships model (and even have a toe in the water in respect to out-of-home advertising assets or one-off pop up activations), but do not invest in a formal partnerships program because their ‘business as usual’ activity often generates far greater financial returns. In the case of an entertainment complex or casino, one can appreciate that the $500k-$1m odd in partnership revenue that could be earnt in the first year remains negligible in comparison to their gaming, F&B and hotel income.

But for many of these entertainment complexes, shopping centres, arts bodies and attractions, incremental revenue is not the only benefit to be gained here, in fact it is only a small piece of the total pie.

There are a number of indirect benefits that a well executed partnerships strategy can deliver for rights holders, their brand partners and consumers, which will eventually lead to powerful business outcomes. These include:

Driving Visitation  

For example a retail district’s partnership with a cultural icon to stimulate additional appeal and visitation at a peak traffic period; such as Disney’s integrated Christmas campaign at Melbourne Emporium, where a premium Mickey Mouse themed Christmas Tree was revealed in conjunction with Mickey Mouse themed high fashion artwork.

Enhance the Customer Experience  

The perfect fit brand partners have an exceptional ability to enhance the experience for the rights holder’s audience, creating longer dwell times, and influencing purchase behaviour. The Lounge enabled by Samsung at the Sydney Opera House is a good example where the very latest in Samsung technology is used to engage guests in an immersive and relevant technology experience.

Rewarding VIPs/Valued Customers

Engaging and rewarding customers through the things they’re passionate about is a great tactic to increase brand loyalty. For example The Star Entertainment Group invited a collection of VIP customers to a private cocktail event to witness the unveiling of a McLaren supercar in a bar on site at The Star Sydney.

Changing Band Association and Perception

A shopping centre’s partnership with a celebrity chef or restaurant chain can help reposition a retail hub into a cultural destination, all the while appealing to whole new audiences.

Procurement Efficiencies

Rights holders can grow a supplier into a larger, more integrated partner which returns partnership revenue for marketing assets. An example of this is American Express’ ownership of the Taronga Zoos Twilight Series, where AMEX receive pre-release ticketing, express lanes for members, and exclusivity within payments systems.

I look forward to seeing more of these new world rights holders capitalise on partnerships to drive these outcomes and start to challenge the saturated sporting market. Afterall, greater competition and more options provide greater value for brands and will work to take the industry forward as a whole.



Matt McCann joins as New General Manager, Sydney

EBA gets a new General Manager based out of Sydney.



Emily Clark


Matt McCann joins as New General Manager, Sydney

Leading specialist sponsorship and experiential marketing agency, Bastion EBA, have appointed Matt McCann to the newly created role of General Manager – Sydney.

Before his four year stint as Global Chief Operating Officer at influencer agency, The Projects, McCann held the role of General Manager – Media and Sponsorship at Telstra from 2012 to 2015 managing an extensive portfolio across 325 markets nationally. McCann has a distinguished career with over 15 years experience in media agencies across FMCG, Finance, Telco and Government.

Matt will be running Bastion EBA’s Sydney team, overseeing operations and delivery of services including Sponsorship Strategy, Acquisition, Management and Experiential Marketing, as well as key business development and further integration roles across the broader Bastion Collective agency group.

Bastion EBA’s CEO Simon Garlick said of the appointment: “Matt is a brilliant addition to our team. He is incredibly talented, well respected and connected and his extensive experience and ability to lead large scale sponsorship negotiations and think strategically from a rights holder, agency and most importantly brand perspective means he is incredibly well placed to both grow our operations and nurture and develop our people. We are rapt to have Matt join the business and are very much looking forward to what we will be able to do together”.

Matt added: “I am thrilled to be joining Bastion EBA in Sydney and working closely with Simon and the whole team. The calibre of work delivered, the people, and the engaged clients all demonstrate what a great culture has been developed already across both EBA and the wider Collective. I am really excited at the prospect of working with this highly creative, motivated and passionate group of people and continuing to grow and support the business as a whole.

“The Bastion Collective model sees clients access a breadth of services under one roof delivered by experts in their field but with service quality that is typically only possible in smaller businesses is a powerful one, can’t wait to join and do my bit.”

Bastion EBA’s clients include AIA, Garnier, Medibank, Nissan, Deakin University, Rebel Sport, Johnnie Walker, Tourism NT, The Star and Microsoft.



Bastion Collective is the largest independent communications agency in Australia. We exist to be the Bastion of Australian Ingenuity. Our integrated agency network allows us to deliver simple, original and resourceful communications solutions to our clients' complex problems. Bastion Collective clients can use us for one specialist service or our entire integrated offering, delivered through one central point of contact. We do this all to help our clients create, grow, measure and protect their businesses.