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Dive Brief:

  • Walmart is continuing to leverage its massive parking lots for marketing purposes with more than 140 football and Halloween contact-free events outside stores nationwide, the retail giant said in a blog post Monday.
  • Its “Halloween Camp” extends a similar virtual summer camp offering. Plus, starting Thursday and continuing through Halloween, the retailer will hold socially distanced trick-or-treat events for kids and families.
  • A series of farmer’s market-style events that will include local vendors are slated for “six spirited college towns in Colorado, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Utah and Wisconsin” to provide a tailgate alternative for college football fans.

Dive Insight:

Retail marketing gurus of all stripes have been touting the need for experiential marketing to entice shoppers into stores, but in the pandemic era, that is out the window.

And indeed Walmart is taking its experiential marketing virtual and out of doors. The retail giant has done so previously; well before the pandemic the retailer used parking lot space for “town centers” and musical events. But at a time when retailers must limit the number of shoppers in stores and encourage curbside pickup, the approach allows the company to connect with its customers in a pandemic-safe way, at least until the weather stops cooperating.

It’s the kind of community sponsorship that recalls the heyday of department stores, which once upon a time took it upon themselves to be the center of civic holiday celebrations. The events, which this summer also included drive-in movies at a time when cinemas went dark, could help families at a loss of how to conduct their traditional autumn activities. Many towns have canceled trick-or-treating,┬ácolleges have limited or called off their football seasons and nobody wants to bob for apples.

“We enjoyed bringing our drive-in concept to life for customers this summer,” Walmart Chief Marketing Officer William White said in a statement. “We successfully reimagined what’s possible with our digital and physical footprint to bring communities joy in a year that’s been otherwise tough. For many of us, football tailgates and Halloween parties are cornerstones of a great fall season. These additional events will give customers an opportunity to still celebrate the things they love, while staying safe.”