Group Created with Sketch.
Volume 22 No. 49
  • Created with Sketch.
  • Created with Sketch.
  • Created with Sketch.

ZipBlimp out to prove that it’s not just a bunch of hot air

L
ike many, Chris Beauchamp’s quest for “new and improved” began when he realized that what he thought was state-of-the-art was actually archaic. At an Orlando Magic game a few years back, Beauchamp watched as the obligatory mini-blimp circled the arena, dropping coupons. Most of the crowd was engaged — to what was on the screens of their mobile devices. A 40-year-old man tumbled over his son, spilling a beer, in pursuit of a $1 Chick-fil-A coupon.

Beauchamp knew there had to be a better way.

So the inveterate tinkerer, who’d earlier helped market an adhesive patch to ward off the effects of hangovers, along with a line of sun-protection products and a (legal) Nevada pot farm with retail outlets in Las Vegas, took a shot at becoming an indoor aviation pioneer.

Out, Beauchamp hopes, are the clunky indoor dirigibles of the past; in is ZipBlimp.

Since there’s never a market advancement without some jargon attached, it’s not a blimp anymore, it’s a “premier end-to-end, fan-activated engagement solution for sporting and live entertainment.” Lest your eyes glaze over, stay with us; we believe he has built the proverbial better mouse trap, albeit one that’s airborne.

ZipBlimp takes advantage of all the fans in an arena paying attention to their phones. The seating section sending the most texts is the one that attracts the 8-foot-diameter blimp (patent pending), which then delivers a digital reward instead of dropping a paper coupon. It’s a way of “gamifying” the experience, which is a marketing hot button.

Of course, the end game is data capture. ZipBlimp is a Trojan Horse, collecting data from fans such as cellphone numbers, which can later be cross-indexed with zip codes and email addresses, and relevant demographic information. A 1080p camera adds another benefit as a fan cam.

ZipBlimp’s airships look to modernize the classic marketing, fan activation tool.
Photo by: ZIPBLIMP
It’s a leasing arrangement for around $25,000 a year, plus the cost of a pilot and spotter.

“The idea is to hit two hot areas,” Beauchamp said, “fan engagement and to help teams monetize their fans, by knowing who’s in the audience, and how to monetize that data.”

ZipBlimp has yet to, er, take off.

“The sponsorship guys wonder what they can sell it for, but the marketing and ticketing guys see the value right away — so it’s been a question of getting all of them together,” Beaucamp said.

The Los Angeles Clippers have employed it sporadically, and the ascendant Vegas Golden Knights have been using it at every game since the start of the season, branding it as the “VGK UFO.” It’s become a social media hit, perhaps because it has yet to bear a sponsor logo.

Jonny Greco, Golden Knights vice president of events and entertainment, said they’ve used the system to give away tickets for team sponsor Cirque du Soleil, and for a cap giveaway.

“We haven’t activated half of what it’s capable of,” Greco said, “but there will be lots of sponsorship integration moving forward.

“We’re all jaded by things like this, ’cause we think we’ve seen it before, but this really is Blimp 2.0. It’s a new dialogue and experience for fans that just wasn’t there. And it opens up a channel for immense data capture so you can know, service and sell to your fans.”

There’s still air space to be cleared.

The Magic, whose home was the site of the original inspiration, are close to signing on. Beauchamp has been in talks with various NBA, NFL and International Speedway Corp. officials. He was scheduled to meet with the Dallas Cowboys last week. ZipBlimp will need to develop an all-weather version for some of those. Until then, “the six domed NFL stadiums are our bogeys,” he said.

Of note: The next two Super Bowls are indoors. Happy flying.

Terry Lefton can be reached at tlefton@sportsbusinessjournal.com.