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Telling your own Comeback Story

I've been working with some events that were down and out, had been postponed, cancelled (some twice) and it wasn't looking great for their survival. But they have survived, they are back, sold out, and better than ever. And I was thinking it may be worth talking about an opportunity you have right now, that you won’t get, or want to have, ever again!

Telling your Comeback Story

Everybody loves a great comeback story, and it’s likely both you, by having your recent events cancelled, and also, your audience in having missed your events, could all be living that story in real-life, right now.

Whether it’s our favourite athletes or the stories in the movies or books we love, we are all drawn to embrace the simple, powerful story of a great comeback.

Tell it now, and hopefully never again!

While everyone loves the story of a great rise from adversity, the trick with the comeback story is that you need to have suffered some downs before you can come back up again. And that’s not a place we necessarily want to be going back to, and so the urgency is that while it's a great story to tell, the opportunity to tell this story only comes around once in a while.

Audiences have always been drawn to come together for a shared purpose, and now, you can amplify that by riding on the spirit of a great comeback.

We are coming back!

It can be difficult trying to promote the same thing over and over again, to create new and compelling content when promoting an event, or to tell a new story about an event across the years.

So to help, we often find inspiration from other worlds, and especially from other worlds of entertainment. Like when we used the Heros' Journey, a famous storytelling structure used in many of the great blockbuster movies, and we applied it to some events. And another great script template you can use - is the 'Man/Women in a Hole' approach - otherwise known as 'the comeback story'.

In a famous study of all stories, Kurt Vonnegut’s found 6 common story arcs, including the “man in a hole” - where a character falls in a hole and has a struggle to (eventually) get themselves out of it, and succeed.

And, I think it's a story you might be telling right now, for your events, as your events and activities re-emerge, having been cancelled or postponed, and, as a journey you can take your audience on, after being locked down and locked in, both our events and our audiences can now be coming back to be better than ever.

How to offer a real-life story

We’ve been exploring the power of immersive experiences in the World Experience Organisation, like the success stories of Hamlet Live – the interactive retelling of Shakespeare’s play that runs at Kronborg Castle in Denmark - which attracts over 350,000 attendees each year - and where audience members actually play a part in the play, they are 'in' the 'stage', talking to the actors (who stay in character), while actors and audience eat, drink, sing and dance, together.

It's all about everyone being a part of the story, and this immersive approach it’s definitely something we can all explore more in events (and sport).

The best experiences are the ones that people are immersed in, where they feel part of the story, even being part of the action. If your audience can connect with a character, or even be the character/participant, providing an experience that they can live through in their lives, it is sure to be valued, remembered, and repeated.

A second chance

One of the best examples of putting an audience into their own real-life comeback story is in the Gatorade Replay campaign, which essentially offered a group of people the opportunity a second chance, supporting them on what I call a journey of aspiration.

Gatorade REPLAY is an award-winning global brand campaign for Gatorade, and, is a wonderful case study of a simple story that captured people's imaginations, both for the participants, and the audience.

The REPLAY concept was a sporting ‘re-match’ giving 2 high school teams their chance to make a comeback, 15 years later! It was highly successful, winning awards, unheard of coverage, and even its own TV series.

All based on telling a classic comeback story.

"The true power of the idea, though, lies in it being all about true stories of real people, and that everyone can relate to the appeal of having a second chance to play a match again, and re-play it was the knowledge and experience you've acquired since." - Brian O'Rourke, Executive Producer

Create your comeback

So, I do think there is a real opportunity right now for us. For you, with your events re-emerging, and, for your participants, your volunteers, and even your partners.

Because telling your comeback story, and involving your audience in their own, is not that bad a place to be right now.

If you can map out your comeback story, and they can feel like they’re making theirs, we will all be back, better than ever before.

If you need some help with that just let us know….


We walk through this type of process in my Event Strategy workshops – you can find out more about them here.

Tools you can use!

Deciding which paths to take In our work, we like to help people make decisions on which journeys to take people on, so that you provide experiences that capture peoples imaginations, that they want to sign up and show up for, and keep coming back to.

Journey mapping is a simple but very effective exercise to design (or redesign) your experiences, creating a real life journey for your participants, and a plan for your team to deliver.

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