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Desperados became a 'credible voice' in party culture with hot air balloons and light shows

 SkyFest activation won the coveted Grand Prix at the Campaign Event Awards.

SkyFest activation won the coveted Grand Prix at the Campaign Event Awards.

Desperados, the Heineken-owned brand that fuses beer with tequila, hosted SkyFest – a party featuring DJs playing in hot air balloons in sync with a light show. The event aimed to create a music and festival-themed culture designed for both a live and digital audience.

The activation was devised by We Are Pi and Jack Morton, and produced by Elrow. It won two categories at this year’s Campaign Event Awards – Brand Experience B2C and The Game Changer – and picked up the coveted Grand Prix.

The Hot Air Balloon Electronic Light Orchestra took off on 15 September 2017 in La Seu in Spain, against a backdrop of the Pyrenees. World-renowned DJs including Jackmaster, Honey Dijon and Paco Osuna performed high above the ground in seven hot air balloons to thousands of partying members of the public below, including 250 specially invited influencers.

A six-month campaign before the event helped to build awareness and identify the influencers to be part of the SkyFest experiment.

These influencers were asked to help amplify the activation as part of a two-day lead-up experience that connected sound, light and sky across touchpoints. According to We are Pi and Jack Morton, the two-day event "deconstructed, abstracted and teased the SkyFest concept, building anticipation for the final moment in the sky". It featured experimental music workshops and an interactive, conductive ink lightshow installation.

On the night itself, a live feed shared Instagram stories from Desperados and Elrow, alongside hundreds of user-generated posts. A hero film captured the DJs’ anticipation and excitement, accompanied by a variety of short films that showed different perspectives, from Elrow to the DJs to production. The set-up, festival and experiment created a suite of assets for Desperados that was launched online in November 2017 and soon gathered 67 million views.

Anna Bizon, international brands global director at Desperados, says the activation’s innovative nature contributed to its success. "SkyFest was the world’s first Hot Air Balloon Electronic Light Orchestra – a never-seen-before event that blew everyone’s mind as soon as they saw it: partygoers, influencers. And even very experienced DJs were blown away by its scale and awesomeness," she says. "Many parties, events and festivals run to the same formula and format, but not this one."

Bizon adds that success was also down to the relationship between Desperados and its inter-agency team – it is built on trust and creativity, while they also challenge each other to go further than thought possible.

We are Pi and Jack Morton add that SkyFest supported Desperados’ mission to push the boundaries of wild experimentation in parties and music. They say that it’s hard for brands to create a "credible voice" in party culture, but Desperados was able to do this with an experience that easily translated into "world-class content".

The activation was not without risks. Most parties stay close to ground level but, by going up to the sky, Desperados opened up a whole new set of challenges around location, production and in particular weather conditions, as a slight change in wind speed could have prevented the balloons from flying.


Desperados SkyFest in Numbers:

  • With more than 67 million views, SkyFest was Desperados' most watched and shared content ever

  • There were 729,9000 engagements with #skyfest and #desperados

  • Elrow's SkyFest coverage achieved 250,000 video views

Kaz