rockway logo

Creating the Ultimate Branded Environment: A Case Study From Publix Plaza

Branding is a powerful tool that creates unforgettable experiences for customers and the community. Publix, the supermarket giant, made its mark on the Tampa Bay Community through a unique branded environment project we dubbed: “Publix Plaza”. This ambitious endeavor was designed to give Publix long-term presence in the area, while also creating an inviting destination where people could connect with the brand through food, events, and everyday life. With careful strategy and collaboration between multiple teams, Publix Plaza became the ultimate outdoor branded environment at the Amalie Arena in Tampa. Explore the experience as it unfolded below.

Background and Purpose

When Publix first approached us, it was clear, they wanted to make their mark. Publix’ primary objective was to create a branded outdoor space that could serve as a multi-purpose area for its customers and the local community. Key tenets of our framework here at Rockway is understanding the scope of the project. This includes the why, purpose, audience, branding, and goals. With this level of information, we’re not only able to deliver a supreme outcome, but we’re able to more effectively work with our clients to bring their true desires to life. One of the key factors for Publix here was partnering with the Tampa Bay Lightning to create a space that could also connect with fans of the hockey team. Publix aimed to create an environment where people could relax, connect with each other, and enjoy food in an outdoor space. They wanted to connect with customers on a deeper level by providing the space that would be an extension of their brand.

The Opportunity

With these kind of goals in mind, a #1 question for everyone was where do you put something like this? Where will have the greatest impact? If you’re familiar with the Tampa area, and particularly the Amalie Arena, then it’s likely that you’ve heard of Thunder Alley. It’s a huge space with amazing features and is truly a staple of the city and arena goers. It’s food, fun, everything that you could want as you’re at an event. Publix wanted to contribute similarly, but in their own way. Now, Thunder Alley is a very populated area, with sponsors and companies, already established. But Publix had done their research. There was an area on the backside of the arena, an open cobblestone space that had previously been underutilized. Recognizing this as a potential area to increase their brand presence, Publix decided to lease the space.

The chosen location was not the main entrance of the arena, but rather the VIP entrance. This was strategically important, as it targeted a specific clientele: the VIP patrons of the Tampa Bay Lightning. Furthermore, the area was seeing rapid development with new high rises and businesses, making it an attractive market for Publix stores. Specifically,  it was also near Publix’s GreenWise Market, a subsection of Publix located on the same street. By choosing this location, Publix aimed to create a stronger connection between their main store and the GreenWise Market.

Publix’s decision was driven by strategic considerations: targeting a specific clientele, enhancing brand presence, and capitalizing on the area’s growth. They are the poster-child for strategic event and brand marketing with clearly established goals and forethought backed by research. They came to us prepared, and allowed us to bring their vision to life, and boy did we!

Strategic Process and Collaboration: 

To create the branded environment, Publix’s creative team, branding and marketing teams, and the Tampa Bay Lightning collaborated and discussed the purpose and goals of the space–for 3 months! We came up with a document outlining the objectives, strategies, and tactics. 

One of the first challenges was to create an environment that could withstand hurricanes and last for the sponsorship’s duration of 3-5 years. The solution to this challenge would require careful planning and execution. It needed to not only provide a visually appealing environment for the space, but also be a strong reflection of the brand’s values and mission. We needed to choose materials that can withstand strong winds and rain while maintaining the brand’s identity. 

Additionally, we needed to ascertain what exactly to build. The team discussed various ideas, including an outdoor kitchen, container gardens, seating areas, and more that never made it to fruition, but the process of exercising our options, allowed us to narrow down on what was most important. The container garden idea was a popular one, allowing customers to see how food was grown and to promote healthy eating. However, the final idea was an outdoor space that resembled a living room with different seating options, games, and a multi-use stage. The idea aligned with Publix’s “Food for Sharing” concept, where the company aims to bring people and communities together through its products and services. 

Furthermore, the design’s modular system allowed for expansion, making it versatile and cost-effective. The branded outdoor space design included an L-shaped couch, comfortable chairs, picnic tables, and a multi-use stage. The stage could serve as a performance space, a location for cooking demos, or Lightning watch parties. The design was hurricane-proof, cost-effective, and modular, which meant it could be adapted to different spaces. In addition, the space had clean energy sources, including a solar panel system and charging stations.

By the end of the project, Publix is no longer “just” a grocery store. The company wanted to go above and beyond the typical shopping experience and create a destination that people would want to visit all the time. Their goal was to create a place that was not just about shopping, but about community and social interaction. And they succeeded. Publix now offers a multi-purpose community space where people can grab a bite to eat, work on their laptops, play games, or simply hang out with friends and family. By creating a space that caters to everyone, Publix has truly become more than just a grocery store, but a hub for social activity.

Community Reactions and Impact

The community welcomed the outdoor space, showing tremendous support and interest. The space gave people a comfortable and safe place to hang out, connect with friends, and relax. Furthermore, the space served as a venue for Tampa Bay Lightning events like watch parties, autograph signings, and giveaways. Overall, the branded outdoor space brought people together, and it aligns with Publix’s food for sharing mission. 

The Publix and Tampa Bay Lightning partnership achieved its goals of connecting with the community, creating a branded environment, and providing a multi-purpose space for customers. By partnering with a sports team, Publix was able to engage with fans in a unique way. The branded outdoor space is an example of how companies can create a comfortable and safe environment while also connecting with their customers. Partnerships between businesses and sports teams are a great resource to facilitate community connections, and Publix’s initiative proves that. The success of this initiative highlights the importance of thinking outside the box and creating branded environments that can serve as a solution for your brands needs.

Share the Post:

Related Posts