The Infatuation was slated to host its annual EeeeeatsCon food festivals in Los Angeles and New York this year with Dell as a first-time sponsor. But when the events were postponed indefinitely due to Covid-19, the restaurant review site and the tech company had to figure out a way to translate their experiential partnership digitally.
To connect with fans in quarantine, the two brands launched the Infatuation Academy presented by Dell XPS—a weekly livestreamed series that spotlights one creator offering a workshop for people to learn or improve a certain skill. So far, events have been focused on meditation, doodling and photography.
Andrew Steinthal, co-founder and chief partnerships officer at the Infatuation, said the brand pitched the Academy to Dell and its agency MediaCom as a way to offer consumers valuable experiences virtually.
“We wanted to focus on things that were relatable to people’s current state of life,” Steinthal said. “It was about finding the right folks who are good at their craft to help other people come into their world. We want people to leave feeling like the event was worth their time.”
The series, which is free with RSVP on a custom landing page, kicked off April 23 with Meditation 101 with Jesse Israel, who led attendees in a meditation exercise followed by a Q&A about his practice. The series has also included Doodling 101 by Brooklyn-based artist Grace Miceli, who offered basic doodle lessons and answered audience questions about her career as an illustrator; and Creativity In Quarantine 101 with photographer Jeremy Cohen, who provided tips on getting creative in quarantine and shared some of his recent projects.
The Infatuation Academy will offer two more events: Choreography 101 with Tricia Miranda on Thursday and an event with DJ and record producer Diplo next week.
Zoom is a popular video platform for companies to host meetings and virtual events these days, but the Academy uses Maestro, an interactive and customizable livestreaming platform that allows attendees to ask questions in a sidebar and participate in polls.
According to Kerri Mason, chief revenue officer at the Infatuation, the brand consciously opted for a different streaming platform from Zoom to separate quarantine “work life” from quarantine “nightlife.” The brand also uploads each broadcast via Vimeo for people to view after the event.
Mason said the brand kept Dell’s product integration in mind when curating the programming. For example, Micelli not only showed attendees how she doodles on paper, but she demonstrated how she enhances her doodles with Photoshop, with attendees viewing her POV on a Dell laptop, making the livestream a bit meta.
“The integration of the product is tantamount, but it also has to be genuine,” Mason said. “We chose people who could do things that can be reflected on a laptop. For Grace, it was logical for her to use one. We’ll see that with forthcoming talent.”
The series also gives away one Dell XPS 13 laptop to an attendee each week, with people automatically registered to win when they sign up for a class.
“The current time period is presenting opportunities for us to connect consumers to the XPS brand in meaningful, creative ways,” said Brant Gonzalez, senior director of NA consumer and gaming marketing, Dell. “We saw an immediate opportunity to partner with the Infatuation to offer digital workshops for those seeking connection, self-improvement and entertainment during these times.”
The Academy isn’t the only virtual event series the brand has launched during the pandemic. It’s also offering a weekly Wine School experience that offers educational sessions about wine, tied to the release of How to Drink Wine, a book by the Infatuation co-founder and CEO Chris Stang and sommelier Grant Reynolds.
The brand reports the Academy so far has driven 22 million impressions across social, email and display media, with a 40% peak engagement rate during each livestream. The brand also surveyed attendees and reports 84% would want to participate in future virtual events, even after life returns to normal. According to Steinthal and Mason, the Academy plans to invest in virtual events indefinitely.
“Experiential has been a big piece of what we do, but before the pandemic a lot of that was IRL. We took what we’re good at and transferred it to a virtual space,” Steinthal said. “We’re thinking about the consumer and what they’re getting out of experience, but also building one that feels authentic for [brand partners] to be a part of. This space is right for us and we’re well positioned to be successful here.”