A Conversation about Experiential Marketing with Steve Dupee, President of BeCore

We’re really happy to introduce the new President of BeCore, Steve Dupee. We wanted to know how he’s settling in after moving halfway across the country, and hear more about what led him out to LA. We were lucky enough to catch a few minutes of Steve’s busy schedule to have a conversation about his first impressions, the future of experiential marketing, and his passion for sports (he’s been to 16 Super Bowls!).

What are your first impressions of LA?

It’s wonderful! I’ve been out to LA quite a few times for work over the last couple decades, but never spent a sustained amount of time out here so it’s been great to get the real flavor of the place. I love the diversity, from the laid-back beach lifestyle of Manhattan Beach where we live, to the more gritty and urban area of the Arts District where our BeCore offices are. Being in the Experiential industry in LA, you can pick up ideas everywhere you look, from street art to the latest in entertainment and technology.

I was also pretty lucky that I have a solid network of people within the sports and entertainment industry based here in LA that I have worked with over the years, so I’ve been able to connect with quite a few people I know that have been great about advice and recommendations, not only around business connections and opportunities, but everything from real estate agents to pediatricians to dry cleaners. The cherry on top though is that I’m really going to appreciate it in Jan-March when normally I’d be in 20 degree temperatures back in Milwaukee, but here I’ll be enjoying sunshine and 60-70 degree weather.

(Notices lots of Packers gear on the walls, including signed Brett Favre and Donald Driver jerseys) You’ll get to watch the Packers game and then go to the beach after! Have the Packers always been your team?

Yes, I was born in Denver but moved to Wisconsin when I was young, so I have always had the Wisconsin teams and Colorado teams as my favorites. Packers, Brewers, Bucks, and Badgers are definitely my passions from a team perspective.

Any LA teams you have your eye on?

I know a lot of people that work for the LA teams, so by default I want them all to do well. I love going to Dodger Stadium, it’s a great spot for a ballgame, and with the pickup of Manny Machado, it would be nice to see them win it all sometime soon. Clearly the Lakers are going to be at another level with Lebron joining the team, so that’ll be exciting to have some Showtime flavor back at the Staples Center. The Rams and Chargers are building the new stadium, which is going to be really exciting, and where we live is only 15 minutes from Inglewood, so it’ll be fun to go over there and take in some action.

More importantly for me and for our business at BeCore, I’m looking over the next decade at all of the major global sporting events that will be coming to LA. MLB has the all-star game coming to Dodger Stadium in 2020, the NFL Super Bowl will be in the new Los Angeles Stadium at Hollywood Park in 2022, the College Football Playoff National Championship is slated for 2023 in the same building, the World Cup is coming to the U.S. in 2026, and the Summer Olympics are right behind that in 2028. So LA is going to be at the center of an incredibly exciting next decade in the sports world, and I think we can really benefit from it.

Did your love of sports contribute to your career path, and current role as President of BeCore?

Absolutely. I got my start in the sports world right out of college, working for a sports commission in bringing sporting events and tournaments to the community that I was in. I worked for the Chippewa Valley Sports commission for 3 years selling to amateur athletic organizations such as USA Volleyball, USA Hockey, USA Basketball, and the AAU to get them to bring their tournaments to the area to drive revenue for hotels, restaurants, and retail.

Then my wife and I moved out to San Diego and I worked for a sponsorship marketing agency called Seaver Marketing Group, which ran a conference called The National Sports Forum, that brings together annually about a thousand executives from the front offices of sports teams, leagues, colleges and events to discuss the latest in marketing, sponsorship, ticket sales, and promotions. I spent a couple of years in San Diego before moving to Milwaukee and joining GMR Marketing, a global sponsorship and experiential marketing agency, where I spent the past 15+ years leading sports and entertainment marketing efforts for companies like Miller Brewing Company, Comcast, Hershey’s, Northwestern Mutual, Lincoln Financial group and others.

Tell me about a few of your favorite events or campaigns you’ve worked on in your career.

There are so many, but one of my favorite events has to be the Super Bowl. There’s so much passion for the NFL in this country, so to come to one place where fans from all over the world have come to celebrate the sport of NFL Football is amazing. It is incredibly hard for a team to get there (other than the Patriots apparently), so fan excitement is at a fever pitch all week long surrounding the game. It is such an entertainment spectacle, that to see the game and all the revelry that comes with it is really just something else. On a similar note, the passion I witnessed from fans in Brazil during the 2014 World Cup was off the charts. To see a World Cup game in a storied football venue like Maracanã Stadium in Rio, is something you never forget.

From a campaign standpoint, I think about some of the things we did with Miller Brewing company back in the day, where we had some really cool campaigns around Rusty Wallace’s retirement as driver of the #2 Miller Lite car, and Kurt Busch’s inaugural season as the new driver. For Rusty, we had a year-long celebration called “Rusty’s Last Call”, and at every stop throughout the country we did all kinds of activities to celebrate with his fans, including appearances by Rusty as a bartender at local bars. There were grassroots activities but also a national promotion, where you could win a trip to Charlotte, NC, for a weekend of celebration surrounding the race at Lowe’s Motorspeedway. Winners enjoyed a roast of Rusty featuring a host of NASCAR legends at the Penske race shop, followed by a private Pat Green concert, and on race day, they had VIP access to the Miller Lite Rock’n Racing concert on the track. It was so great seeing these passionate NASCAR fans, who had probably been following Rusty their whole lives, get to enjoy this experience. They had pure joy on their faces all weekend long, and it really made me realize what a wonderful industry we’re in. We’re not doing brain surgery and we’re not putting our lives on the line to protect others, but man we can really bring joy and smiles to people through the experiences we can create. And that’s what I love about experiential marketing, working with companies to find authentic and unique ways to bring their brands to life for consumers in a way that leaves them excited, wanting to share with others, and hopefully becoming brand advocates and loyalists.

Where are you hoping to take BeCore in the next few years?

The reason I took this opportunity is because I feel like the agency has a ton of potential. I did my research and discovered it had a strong reputation for delivering really creative experiences with excellent service, both of which are cornerstones for success in our industry. It is a smaller shop (50 people), and independently owned, thus allowing for great flexibility, and ability to meet our client’s needs. As more and more brands see the value of creating live experiences for consumers, and invest in the experiential space, they are looking for agencies that are creative, agile and deliver innovative approaches to help them achieve their objectives within budget.

Coming from a global agency the size of GMR, I was confident that putting some of the processes and organizational approaches we had developed in place, while customizing them to be authentic to the culture, people and dynamics of BeCore, would alone allow the organization to grow. On top of that, we have incredibly smart and likeable people here with a diversity of cultures, work experiences and passions, and I’m excited to fully tap into them to open up new categories, services and partnerships to help us grow further.

And, as mentioned earlier, LA is going to be the center of the sports and entertainment world over the next decade, so being based here in LA, with a building, a warehouse, a fabrication shop, and a lot of vendor and partner relationships, I think we’re ripe for significant growth in the coming years.

What can small agencies learn from larger agencies, and vice versa?

When I was at a big global agency, we had 1300 people and 28 offices across 17 countries, and you had advantages of scale, in-house resources, and process, that benefits clients. On the flip side, it was challenging to compete against smaller agencies who could be more efficient, more flexible with their pricing, and still deliver great creativity and service.

I think with where the industry is going, there’s always going to be a place for the big agencies because of the scale and resources and what they can do globally, but I think a lot of brands are starting to utilize smaller shops more often, to get fresh, creative thinking on a regular basis for different projects. You’re seeing a lot more project-based work than previously. There are less brands doing AOR retainer type relationships, and instead tapping into a roster of shops on different projects, because brands believe it keeps things fresh. That’s why I believe smaller agencies will continue to see growth.

What do you see on the horizon for experiential marketing?

It is definitely the right time to be in experiential. There’s so much mistrust out there in regards to consumers’ view of brands, exacerbated by corporate scandals, and consumer viewing habits have changed so immensely, that brands really need to find innovative ways to create a deeper connection with consumers. In today’s world, so many choices are made through word of mouth recommendations from people we trust that if you can create an experience that leaves someone raving about your brand, that is going to go so much further in regards to creating trust with consumers.

As an industry, I think we still have work to do in regards to explaining the ROI, and showing the immense value that brands can get in the space. It’s not cheap to create experiences, and the cost of a one-on-one in-depth experience is likely going to be more expensive than an impression from a digital buy, or a TV ad buy, but comparatively, the value of the experience and message you’re leaving that consumer with is also going to be much higher. As an industry we have to get better at showcasing to brands the true lifetime value that they can receive from that investment. There’s work being done in the industry to get there, and once that becomes widely accepted, the growth opportunity for experiential marketing is limitless.

Who’s playing Steve in the Steve Dupee Movie?

Wow. That’s a good question, I’ve never thought about that one. I think a fun-loving, humble, everyday kind of guy, someone like an Owen Wilson or Luke Wilson type.

Any bold sports predictions you want to throw down?

Packers will win the Super Bowl this year, as long as the defense can hold their end of the bargain up. That offense is tough to beat.