If there is one thing I’ve learned in all my years of event planning, it’s that you usually can’t go wrong with puppies.
I was reminded of this fact once again while hosting the Waverly Puppy Bowl for the second year in a row this last Super Bowl Sunday. Waverly is a shopping and residential plaza in south Charlotte that hosts a number of events throughout the year to foster community among vendors in the plaza and to encourage families to spend the day there.
For the second year in a row, though, the Puppy Bowl was our most popular and least expensive event. It’s been a great event for us, and we’ve learned a lot over the past two years.
What is Puppy Bowl?
I pitched the Puppy Bowl event to Waverly because so few organizations have large winter events between the holidays and the start of spring. Depending on where you are, weather can be a big factor in this.
However, we wanted to make sure there were things continually happening at Waverly to keep drawing in new people to the plaza who hadn’t been before.
We went with a football-themed adoption event, allowing us to work with a local animal shelter to find some adorable pups homes while also hosting a fun, family-friendly event for the community which would draw a crowd to the plaza – a crowd who will hopefully continue to walk around and check out new shops while they’re there.
2018 versus 2019:
We first held the event in February 2018 the week before the big game on Sunday. Last year we worked with South Charlotte Dog Rescue, had a blow-up football game for kids to participate in, a DJ playing fun music and Waverly purchased a popcorn machine for people to have snack on while watching the puppies.
We had a smaller, enclosed tent with a fenced in area where the dogs and puppies played. Approximately 400 people attended to visit with the dogs and put in applications for the ones they connected with.
This year we decided to spread the love and work with Halfway There Rescue. Our main goal was making the event more comfortable. Last year the tent was slightly too small for the 400+ people who wanted to come by and look at all the pups, so we rented a larger one and it made a big difference.
We were even able to put a small “Puppy Kissing Booth” in the tent to further encourage interaction with the dogs!
This year more vendors within Waverly got involved, which was great to see. We had both Taziki’s Mediterranean Café and Ted’s Montana Grill passing out food and beverages – lessening the cost for Waverly, who purchased snacks last year, and allowing vendors to interact with potential customers. Both restaurants ran out of food because they were so popular, and we even had some other restaurants send employees out with samples to walk around with!
We also had other businesses set up booths to share information on their business, including PetPeople, CycleBar and others. Having vendors in the plaza participated gave them an opportunity to promote their business and foster community.
Finally, PetPeople our tenant partner for the event added a “halftime show” that anyone could sign up to participate in. We had tons of families bring their own dogs to walk around the plaza and enjoy some of the freebies PetPeople was giving away, so it was the perfect opportunity for them to get involved. Halfway between the event, these doggies competed in a few different competitions for prizes.
In a word, it was adorable.
Success Of The Event:
Overall, we were able to maintain the number of people we had in attendance. We estimate approximately 400 people attended the 2-hour event, which is about the number we saw in 2018.
We had 10 dogs attend the event with their foster families, and six applications were filled out. Our partners at Halfway There Rescue say this should translate to three dogs being adopted since some of the applications were for the same dog.
Every event, no matter how successful, serves as a learning experience. First, we learned the success of the event in 2018 was not a fluke – people love puppies, and we saw just as much success in 2019.
Because this event is the most well-attended, cheapest event (the puppies are free entertainment, making our biggest cost the rentals), it was a no brainer to put it back in the mix for 2020.
Next year we’ll be looking potentially for a new shelter to partner with to continue to spread the love through the Charlotte community. Because we are working with nonprofit, mostly volunteer organizations for this event, we’ll plan to have a more concrete marketing strategy in place for the shelter who we partner with so they can better promote it to their followers, hopefully increasing attendance and adoptions!
We’ll also plan to stagger the arrival of the puppies/dogs next year. The past two years we’ve had all the foster families come right as the event starts for the full 2 hours, but many of the dogs can get overwhelmed in the pen with other pups and the crowd all around them and need breaks. This will also allow families to leave earlier or come later if they want a smaller time commitment.
This event set up is a really great option for any organization looking to find ways to partner with the local community and do some good. And, like I mentioned earlier, anytime there is a question, usually puppies are the answer.
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The J. Leigh Events team is expanding! This month we welcomed two new additions, both of whom happen to be named Sam. Head here to learn more about our new project manager, Sam Kimball, and our new event planner, Sam Poler.