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EBay Takes Camp Campaign on the Road

Online auction and retail platform eBay Inc. is running a summer promotion called Camp eBay to introduce the brand to millions of Americans attending outdoor sports, music, food and cultural events.

Starting Memorial Day weekend, eBay sent a specially designed bus and cabin on a 30-market tour supported by on-site promotions, advertising and merchandising. This is the first such mobile grassroots effort by eBay, San Jose, CA, since a minor tour in 1999.

“One of the challenges here is that the new users coming to the site today are not the early adopters and sometimes require more handholding in learning how to use eBay,” said Jennifer Caukin, senior manager of corporate communications. “So a program like Camp eBay brings more of that 3D experience directly to make them learn more effectively.”

Camp eBay broke ground in late May at the Indianapolis 500 auto race. Later this month, it will have a presence at the Country Music Fan Fair in Nashville, TN, and at the eBay Live! community conference June 24-26 in New Orleans — a confab of company staff and die-hard users.

In the Midwest, Camp eBay will appear at Taste of Chicago, a June 30-July 4 food and cultural festival that attracts 3.5 million visitors. It moves to the Ohio State Fair on Aug. 4-15 and the Minnesota equivalent Aug. 26-Sept. 6.

These events will let visitors check out the eBay bus and cabin. Kiosks and brief video introductions to eBay greet people who step into the cabin. The bus is more like a mobile classroom. Here, people can register for a 15-minute course on buying or selling.

Of course, the power of the brand alone is not enough to entice. Camp eBay participants can enroll in an instant win game that gives them a one in three chance to bag prizes ranging from free ice cream to free music downloads and $10,000 in cash.

Corporate partners play a role in supporting eBay's day out.

Clear Channel Communications is hosting 400 music concerts in 18 markets. EBay will have a presence at these events, distributing 2 million instant win game decoder cards. Similarly, Loews will display Camp eBay signs at its movie theaters nationwide, again giving away 2 million game cards. Another 250,000 game cards will be distributed at the other venues where Camp eBay will pitch tent.

In other partnerships, Sony Connect is offering $575,000 in prizes including 500,000 music downloads. Baskin-Robbins is giving free ice cream for a year to 250 winners. The chain also is displaying signage at 2,500 company stores.

All told, these partners are delivering more than $7 million in joint marketing media value. EBay's choice of partners was key. It wanted to work with firms whose products were associated with summer, like ice cream, fairs, movies and outdoor concerts.

Camp eBay is expected to expose the brand to more than 25 million people.

Clearly, eBay does not lack traction. At the end of the first quarter, eBay reported having nearly 105 million users worldwide and a presence in 28 international markets. It has more than 50,000 categories and 328 million listings. More than 25 million items are available each day, and 3.5 million are added daily.

According to eBay, net revenue for the first quarter was $756.2 million and 2003 sales were $2.17 billion. Gross merchandise sales — the value of goods traded on eBay — climbed to $23.8 billion in 2003 and was $8 billion in the first quarter of 2004. That means $1,000 worth of goods are traded on eBay each second. But efforts like Camp eBay hint at room for growth.

“The whole idea behind this is to drive more awareness and more activity behind the site,” Caukin said. “This type of program allows people to learn how to use eBay in an experiential way.”

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