Technology marketers are all about marrying product-driven innovation with brand experiences that deepen customer loyalty to the product ecosystem; NetApp asked us to elevate their efforts in this area at VMware’s annual VMworld industry event in San Francisco. It’s a massive conference and trade show with a lot of buzz and noise.

Our strategy: while NetApp experts and leaders held nearly 200 meetings onsite with customers and prospects at the Moscone Center along with an exhibit space that engaged attendees in product-oriented discussions, a special offsite event would also further engage customers, partners, prospects, and other influencers through an entertainment and networking angle; in effect NetApp would “surround” the marketplace and own the data storage conversation in this tight community.

Nearby at AT&T Park, we pulled together a NetApp branded celebration for 1500 VIP guests that included an opening speech by NetApp CEO Tom Georgens followed by performances by the San Francisco Boys Chorus and America’s longest-running musical revue, Beach Blanket Babylon. Sponsorships sold for the party helped to defray costs and add exciting elements, including live interviews/broadcasts by web-based industry media SiliconANGLE; plus, celebrity athlete appearances by Ronnie Lott, Joe Morgan, Bret Saberhagen, and Brandi Chastain added high energy to the event while stimulating social media and web activity reaching an international audience.

The impact was immediate –attendees posted hundreds of Tweets and more than 10,000 Facebook mentions of the event immediately. It was the best-attended special event NetApp has had to date and set the standard for future efforts. At the same time, the strategy of surrounding the community with the NetApp brand by linking various touchpoints together around VMworld paid off with above-target impressions, sales leads and media impressions.