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Festivals might be off for 2020 but we've moved our events business entirely online

Jamie Deasy and Brian McDermott created Event Fuel but have completely rearranged and renamed their business in the wake of Covid-19.

Jamie Deasy & Brian McDermott

WE STARTED FUEL, formerly Event Fuel in 2011 with a view to pushing the limits of what was possible in live experiences. We had both started in the marketing and events industries and so it felt like the right move to set up our own business. We’ve had a busy few years running live gigs, festivals and corporate events.

Our agency model is experiential advertising, marketing and event management. The company has been a fast-growing enterprise, starting with three staff and expanding to 33 by 2019.

We’ve run large corporate events such as the Google Summer Party and Accenture Christmas Party, which often involves catering for thousands of staff members. We’ve also been involved with Longitude and Electric Picnic festivals.

Kaleidoscope festival was established in 2019 with our Partners in Festival Republic, Tenth Man and Live Nation Plc. Born out of 12 years of operating Electric Picnic in Stradbally Co. Laois, we recognised that no festival was catering exclusively for families.

Russborough House in Blessington was chosen as the venue because the Alfred Beit Foundation shared our values of art, education and children. Lots of festivals had a family area or an allowance but none had a full dedicated offering. The festival has been a huge hit and went off extremely well with just under 15,000 people attending in 2019.

russborough-house-pictorial-art-robberys-crime-in-ireland-cattle-grazing Russborough House in Wicklow is the setting for the Kaleidoscope family festival. Source: Eamonn Farrell/Photocall Ireland

Fuel’s growth is attributed to our history of outstanding creative live events taking ideas from concept to creation and execution, developing plans with our clients and delivering it to stakeholders and attendees.

The last few months

When lockdown started months ago, we were left reeling like most businesses. We sat down and looked at our business model and decided we had to move fast to adapt. How could we merge from a company championing live events to operating in this ‘new normal’, where almost everything has moved online? It was important to carve out a new space for ourselves.

On one level, we were lucky as we had already been moving our practices online over some time. The current Covid-19 crisis pushed that move to the top of the agenda and we wasted no time in reinventing. The majority of our team began working remotely while we immediately converted our office space and venue on Camden Street in Dublin into five state-of-the-art studios.

Wyvern Lingo Single Launch in Studio 2 The new Wyvern Lingo single was recently released from the Fuel studios. Source: Fuel

In these studio spaces, we have delivered unique content for clients and their employee engagement such as Google, Davy, Standard Life and Paypal delivering events for Pride, Africa Day, quizzes, conferences and award ceremonies. Our studios have also been used for gigs with Irish acts such as Wyvern Lingo, Gavin James and The Coronas among others.

While the initial rapid change was daunting, we developed our corporate staff engagement event products with a fast turnaround and we were delivering them right into the homes of our clients’ Irish staff within a fortnight of lockdown.

It is the creativity of our team that has allowed us to adapt and see opportunities in the current climate, accelerating a new company direction as a reaction to Covid-19 rebranding in May from Event Fuel to FUEL, Dublin’s first hybrid events agency.

This rebrand marked our move away from solely operating live events into the wider offering of advertising, broadcasting and film production services. This change was accelerated due to the restrictions on mass gatherings, extending our services as a hybrid events agency offering both virtual and real-life experiences. We now specialise in providing corporate and marketing services to a host of multinational clients based in Dublin.

Dogs Trustival Dogs Trustival, one of the events organised by Fuel. Source: fran veale

We have seen a great response to our new offering with some of our clients opening global doors for us managing employee engagement worldwide. The studios are also a great asset as many clients need that kind of space to communicate and engage their audiences.

How it works

Our new corporate services include hospitality, corporate parties, employee engagement, conferences, off-sites and incentive trips, which we call “FUEL Engage”. Our marketing services include film production, brand activations, sponsorship consulting and activations, installations, pop up shops, restaurants, bars and bespoke fit-out design and build services. This is what we call our “FUEL Brand”.

Our virtual productions include webinars, conferences, demos and any other live and pre-recorded content.

The online nature of the work has also allowed us to break into new markets; instead of being a local provider to Ireland, we now offer services across the globe to our client’s global staff network.

When it comes to ad and film production, with the restrictions there has been a very limited amount of shooting taking place. This has caused a large backlog of projects that the current production resources cannot handle. We’ve created AdFUEL to operate in a new market place that has much demand and not enough providers.

Where does our industry go from here?

There’s no denying the live events industry has taken a massive and unexpected hit this year. Covid-19 has swept across the globe and called a halt to some of the most positive experiences we can have as humans.

The Studio The Fuel studios, reconstituted during Covid-19. Source: Fuel

Collectively standing in a concert hall or a field listening to music with your loved ones is one of life’s gifts. Ireland has always had a healthy live events industry but we believe the return of live events will come eventually. We are not going to rely or depend on any specific timeframe but we know that there is a strong bottled-up demand for live experiences.

We believe that ticketed events will return first allowing the general public to view sport, live music and attend festivals under a new set of guidelines.

Another long term change, we believe, is that virtual and hybrid events are also here to stay. There is a convenience factor associated with webinars, conferences and online employee engagement that has been clearly highlighted to all event stakeholders and organisers throughout the pandemic.

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The cost savings increased reach and shorter resources requirement make it too attractive for some professional events to go back to “live only” setting. This has been copper-fastened by the big switch to remote working that has been embraced by all of our global and Irish based clients.

We see a hybrid future where some of the audience will attend an event whilst it is also broadcasted and recorded to a much wider audience across a borderless geographic area. The future is different from what we had imagined, but we believe it’s no less exciting, once you work hard to change your approach.

Brian McDermott and Jamie Deasy are directors of FUEL. More information online, Twitter and on Instagram.

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