Chandan Bagwe, Founder & MD, C Com Digital explains the concept of ‘Tentpole Marketing’ and how it can help marketers in planning their Road to 2020.

Tentpole marketing is a strategy devised by most artists, movies, and media production companies to seize the hype created around an event – a trend, or a moment in a manner that benefits them.

The concept of tentpole marketing is similar beyond the movie industry as well. Here, the marketing drives are strategized around the arc of the buzz curve; in other words, the conversations that take place before, during, and after the given event.

In other words, if you hope to stir interest in the aforementioned things, market it in a way that is relevant to something that is generating a lot of buzz, such as selling face masks and t-shirts around election time, releasing a family-oriented movie on a festival, or conducting a CSR activity around Independence day. These are all instances where marketers took benefit of the “trend” to efficiently market their cause.

The digital world is largely led by trending topics, pictures, and videos on different platforms including Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok, which are primarily popularised by hashtags. Many brands then join the bandwagon if they find it relevant to trending hashtags to promote their products and services. In the past, we have observed how popular acts such as the Kiki challenge and Ice Bucket challenge created on social media platforms gained instant traction due to its creative, engaging and interesting nature.

In some cases, marketers go all-out with completely designing their offerings around a tentpole event. Have you ever noticed a movie studio releasing a Christmas-special movie during summers? Of course not, the movie was produced to direct people to the theatres when they are in the Christmas spirit.

Another standout example of how a well-crafted tentpole marketing strategy can deliver unparalleled results is Ariana Grande’s music video, “Thank U, Next.” This video, which was a tribute to celebrated female-led movies, instantly surpassed YouTube’s highest record for most views within 24 hours of release. There’s no doubt that most of the success of the music video was because of Ariana Grande’s relevance as an admired singer and public figure, but an equal credit goes to the marketing team that treated the music video release like an event.

The Art of Mounting Moments

What we can learn from Grande’s team is the hype and anticipation they created by sharing teaser-videos, photos and behind-the-scenes right before the release of the music video. This strategy is useful for more than just an event, movie release, or music video premiers.

Whether you want to launch a product or run a new marketing campaign, it’s crucial to ensure you don’t waste a moment, rather mount it along with other techniques leading up to launch.

Capitalizing on Moment Marketing

Take a look at the calendar and you’ll notice the list of special events like Christmas, Halloween and New Year’s are lined up one after the other.

Marketers spend an entire year planning and waiting to release their movies, videos or other announcements during these occasions. Then there are tentpole events that do not wait for such holidays, one of them is the Super Bowl.

During the 2013 Super Bowl, an unexpected power outage put the game on halt for nearly 30 minutes. What could have otherwise been a disastrous time was turned around by the watchful social media marketers who jumped in and seized the moment.

Oreo stole the show when its team tweeted, “Power out? No problem. You can still dunk in the dark.” What we see here is, Oreo didn’t expect the power outage, nor did they prepare for an incident like this, but what saved them was having a 15-member social media team on stand-by during the game. This shows they were in the right place, at the right time, to capitalize on the moment.


Similarly, Red Bull partnered with Australian daredevil Felix Baumgartner to sky-dive and set the record for the fastest free-fall velocity and highest-jump without the support of a spacecraft or jet. This garnered millions of dollars worth exposure for Red Bull and a global level of fame for Felix Baumgartner. However, before performing this stunt, the mission was postponed several times.

The real advantage of the situation was taken by KitKat by timing Red Bull’s Facebook post to play off the many delays and align with their brand slogan, which touted “take a break with a KitKat bar.”

Why should you care?

An effective tentpole marketing strategy can be the biggest driver of success since it has the power to boost your content game curated to engage your potential customers or followers. It is a way of planning and strategizing viral content. That being said, developing and endorsing evergreen content has the possibility of getting more mileage out of an activity.

Essentially, integrating “tentpole” content will prove to be the biggest asset that the latter will support in the long-run. This begins with jotting down keywords and research topics for your tentpole piece, evaluating competing content, listening to your audiences, and using external tools for better engagement. You do not have to restrict your tentpole strategy to this.

Make use of quotes and stats to make social media ads, promote influencer amplification, publish excerpts on social platforms like LinkedIn – these efforts will boost your content value, thereby bringing in organic results.

Many artists have had their “big breaks” because of planned tentpole marketing moments. When talking about tentpole marketing recipients, YouTubers cannot be missed out from the list, since they largely rely on content that links with tentpoles and trends, thereby gaining greater influence and audience on social media.

The biggest examples here are YouTubers like Ashish Chanchlani and Prajakta Koli who are featuring artistes like Sonakshi Sinha, Akshay Kumar, Badshah, Russel Peters, Hritik Roshan, Ajay Devgan, and Ayushmann Khurana on their channel to promote their movies and events.  

Predict and Plan

Mapping your work well in advance can help you identify the easily predictable buzz, gain valuable insights, and accordingly prepare your content for the event.

Predicting the best period and planning your tentpole marketing event won’t be difficult if you have a clear picture of your business goals, your budget, and the personas of your buyers.

If your business caters to B2C markets, you have a chance to plan during the seasonal tentpole events such as Easter or Christmas. While on the other hand, for B2B brands, identifying your tentpole marketing events can be a little difficult. Here’s when knowing your community will help.

You must note that interacting with the audience should not be your only reliant source. Several brands dip their hands into these cultural tentpoles, and if your team does not present content that creates an uproar, your brand is most likely to suffer tremendously. Giving away an RFID wristband to your guests to check-in at an event is not unique, but if the technology can help them unearth new content or find a clue leading up to the cause, they are more likely to remember the engagement.

Looking at Adidas, we can notice how it anticipated its social media possibilities for the World Cup well in advance. They predicted reactions of some of the most obvious situations and charted their social media response for the same. While opportunities may not always present themselves, knowing what could happen and talking about how you will handle it, makes you more prepared for the possibilities.

In short, planning tentpole marketing well in advance is a good attempt since it tends to yield relatively good results, but at the same time may also suffer from stringent competition. To cut through the noise and create your brand’s tentpole moment, follow your audience on different platforms and widen the reach by generating a simultaneous burst on social media, TV, YouTube, etc.

How ‘Tentpole’ are evolving

With reference to the historical record, the only strategy glitches that tentpoles witnessed were standoffs on opening during the same weekend.

For instance, if two chartbusters released on the same weekend, like Salman Khan’s movie against a Shahrukh Khan movie, both would have lesser audiences since they are competing in the same market.

In today’s times, the scenario has evolved and rather become more complex. The competition has risen, IP driven tentpoles have found a place, and thus everyone is striving with regard to the audience size.  

Bottom Line

The trend of tentpole marketing isn’t going anywhere. With the rising importance of social media and entertainment platforms like Netflix, it will be a challenge for marketers to shape their strategies and engage audiences to breakthrough.

Tentpole is less about following a rule-book and more about understanding why and how it works. If done correctly, it reaps rewards like no other.

What we understand is, by recognizing the right opportunity and pairing it with timely content by keeping the target audience in mind, you’re more likely to hit the spot and go home a winner.

This article piece is authored by Chandan Bagwe, Founder and Managing Director, C Com Digital