Brian Bauer, TicketTank; Chris Meeds, AEG Live, Dave Redelberger, Columbus (Ohio) Arena Sports & Entertainment, and Jen Strum, AmericanAirlines Arena, Miami, put the fun in marketing during an EAMC panel on social media rules of engagement. (VT Photo)

REPORTING FROM NASHVILLE — Selfies have been a way of life for a few years now. Turning that obsession into a marketing campaign seems a natural.

Dave Redelberger, Columbus (Ohio) Arena Sports and Entertainment, found arena marketing success with The Arena Guy, a face and personality that brought a connection to upcoming show announcements and arena advertising.

“The camera is no longer pointing toward the artist,” he said. Fans take selfies with their back turned to the stage and the artist in the background of their life. “That’s the language today.”

Redelberger spoke on a panel on “Social Media: The Rules of Engagement” during the Event & Arena Marketing Conference here June 1-4. EAMC drew 380 attendees, more than 100 of whom were first timers.

He said that in Columbus, they try to put a face to every marketing initiative on social, whether it is The Arena Guy or an intern or a ticket taker. He looks for a person with a passion for the topic at hand.

“Write like it’s to your friends,” he suggested to script writers. “It’s not ‘partly cloudy’ today; instead say ‘there are a few clouds in the sky.’ Use social media to create a fear of missing out.” That works for those who surf but don’t buy, he added, by telling those lost buyers to buy a ticket next time.

When he created The Arena Guy, he based it more on the fact people followed the mascot at Ohio State and created an arena mascot, but that has now evolved into using numerous personalities to make a connection.

Such show announcements on social media do not have to be professionally done, he added.  “A cellphone, bad lighting and okay sound” often does better than polished video.

And have fun.

During Garth Brooks’ concert at the arena, The Arena Guy was picked to fire the confetti cannon during Garth’s rendition of Friends in Low Places. It’s a 40-50 pound gun, Redelberger said, but, though awkward, it’s pretty straightforward. All you have to do is “turn off the safety, pull the lever and don’t shoot the cowboy.”

It didn’t go well. Garth Brooks actually had to walk across the stage and show The Arena Guy (real name Gary) how to do it, all while still singing the song.

“Gary was mortified,” Redelberger said, but it was also an opportunity to turn lemons into lemonade.  They posted “the guy who messed up Garth Brooks' otherwise perfect concert” on social media. It was a hit…because it made a connection.

This is the future, Redelberger said. Facebook is more about branding and fan booster clubs than it is about selling tickets. “Email is by far the best way to sell tickets,” he said. “Leverage social fans to turn them into email addresses.”

Interviewed for this story: Dave Redelberger, (614) 653-0604