Brand Strategy

How brands brought reality TV to life at BravoCon ’23

DoorDash re-created Cheesegate IRL, while Wayfair created lounges inspired by Bravolebrities’ homes.
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Mark Von Holden/Bravo

· 4 min read

It’s been a #scandalous year over at Bravo—you only have to look at the Vanderpump Rules cheating scandal, “Scandoval,” and The Real Housewives of New York City’s “Cheesegate” for proof. But those moments can translate to big business for Bravo and its parent company, NBCUniversal, plus the company’s brand partners.

That was on full display earlier this month, when Bravo brought together “Bravolebrities” from across its shows, including some of its most infamous, for the third BravoCon, which this year was held in Las Vegas. The event, which drew nearly 30,000 attendees, slightly below last year’s convention in New York, also included 20 brand sponsors, one more than last year’s BravoCon, including presenting sponsors Lay’s and State Farm, as well as Doordash and Wayfair.

The convention is a really big deal for fans, or “Bravoholics,” according to Jamie Cutburth, EVP of creative partnerships at NBCU. According to past exit surveys, he said, more than three-quarters of attendees “said this was the greatest day of their entire life. That’s talking about weddings and children, right? This is really important for people.”

To capitalize on the fan excitement (and Vegas’s larger-than-life reputation), Cutburth said the convention’s brand tie-ins were designed to amplify both.

“We always talk about [how] Vegas is the town where you go bigger, and we have absolutely done that with each of our brand partnerships,” he said.

Compliments to the chef

Many of the brand activations on the ground featured appearances from the real stars of Bravo shows, aka Bravolebrities. Vanderpump Rules star Ariana Madix, a key player in the Scandoval drama, was one of many Bravolebrities on the ground at the convention.

Madix and co-star Katie Maloney were on hand at a pop-up version of their much-anticipated sandwich shop, Something About Her, which has previously been teased on Vanderpump Rules and was slated to open in West Hollywood this year. At a pop-up promoting the shop, Lay’s served up cocktails and chips, including a limited-edition chip flavor, Grilled Cheese & Tomato Soup.

Other food-related brands with a presence at BravoCon included DoorDash, which helped bring Cheesegate to life during one of the convention’s “Bravopaloozas,” sessions during which Bravoholics mingled with Bravolebrities. At the session, cheese, charcuterie, and wine were served to playfully refer to the drama, and one of the Housewives involved in Cheesegate, Erin Lichy, posted an ad promoting the event to her Instagram in which she encouraged viewers who could not attend the event to buy related products on DoorDash.

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Food wasn’t the only way brands activated at BravoCon. Wayfair furnished four interactive lounges that were modeled on the homes featured in Real Housewives franchises in Beverly Hills, New York, Miami, and Salt Lake City, Cutburth told us. Various Housewives stars, like Meredith Marks from the Salt Lake City franchise and Sonja Morgan from the New York franchise, mingled with Bravoholics at the lounges, where they could scan QR codes in the space to enter a contest to win a Wayfair gift card, one of several giveaways throughout the convention.

The proof is in the pudding

For brands that didn’t appear on the ground in Vegas, there were other opportunities. The Bravo Bazaar, an IRL and virtual shopping experience that first debuted in 2021, is one of several “commerce opportunities” across Bravo that Cutburth said can sometimes lead to a 10%–20% increase in on-site sales for brands. This year’s Bravo Bazaar included brands affiliated with Bravolebrities, such as Tom Sandoval’s self-titled apparel brand.

Those brands had built-in commerce opportunities on the ground at the convention: Attendees who didn’t want to carry physical items they bought from the Bazaar home were able to purchase products virtually via QR code. A “microsite” for fans at home allowed them to shop brand products as well, Cutburth said.

“We look at [the Bravo Bazaar] as our ability for commerce to really democratize across Bravo for all of our businesses and for all of our fans,” he said.

To help bring BravoCon to life for those not in attendance, certain BravoCon panels were available on its streamer Peacock, which recently cleared 28 million subscribers. And Bravoholics’ obsession with all things Bravo could help boost that number further: Andy Cohen revealed onstage in Vegas that all future Bravo reunions would be available to stream—uncensored—on Peacock.

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