Throwback’s Guerrilla Marketing


After seeing Crossfit and Crunch set up pit stops during Summer Streets  a couple weeks ago, we thought we should do the same for this past Saturday.  We decided on next steps a few days before the event.  Since time was of the essence, we decided not to worry about potential permits needed to be an “official” part of Summer Streets and focused our efforts putting together something fun and memorable.  Our operation was going to be rogue, and even though there was a good chance we’d get shut down, it was worth a shot.

It wouldn’t be difficult to organize - all we needed was a banner, stereo, marketing material to distribute, and a van to transport our rowers.  We decided not to tell any of our friends because we didn’t have a specific location picked out and didn’t want anyone showing up after potentially getting the boot.  We got the above banner made at Staples and "borrowed" a battery-operated Bose from Best Buy.

We woke up bright and early Saturday morning and picked up the rowers from Wallyworld.  We were initially going to set up shop somewhere not too conspicuous like 20th Street, but said screw it and figured we’d give Union Square a shot.

Brian told a few cops our plan, fully expecting them to turn us away, but one responded “I don’t see why anyone would have a problem with that.”  They even let us park our van on Broadway, facing traffic.  We unloaded our stuff with the help of Brian’s awesome girlfriend, Noor.



Our location was both good and bad.  Good because we were in the middle of everything and visible to runners and cyclists from both directions, and bad because we were on the turf of some park locals who had started drinking early that day.  Here is one telling Brian that he needed to help her work on her abs.


Soon, thousands were seeing our sign and a bunch of people were stopping by for free rowing lessons, including this space cowboy.

Notice the Boots!

Notice the Boots!

Things were going well but the fun ended about an hour after we unloaded.  We were just reaching a tipping point where a crowd of people started to gather around Throwback’s pit area.  A Department of Transportation employee drove up in a golf cart asking to see our permit.  He didn’t buy Brian’s explanation that our boss was on the way with it.  According to Summer Street’s organizers, Reebok and Crunch paid six figures to sponsor this event and they would not appreciate our “ambush marketing tactics.”  Brian couldn’t charm his way out of this one and we were threatened with a fine if we didn’t pack it up.

Since the whole point of Summer Streets is to enable New Yorkers to be more active, we think the City should have been more lenient on us since we were providing a free, awesome workout.  Limiting the serving size of soda will only go so far in making New York healthier and Bloomberg should ease the restrictions on fitness organizations, especially small businesses during an active lifestyle event. 

Throwback’s guerrilla marketing was a fun and worthwhile idea while it lasted.  The jury is still out on whether or not we try again at a different location this coming weekend.  You'll probably be seeing our mugs on wanted posters pretty soon.

Written by Ryan