On October 9, 2009 at 20:00 (EST) the world experienced its first multi-city live event that unbelievably included participation from the International Space Station. The event’s stated purpose was to raise awareness about issues related to earth’s most valuable resource- water. Guy Laliberte the founder of Cirque du Soleil and the One Drop Foundation, introduced the event called “Moving Stars and Earth for Water” and declared it as the first “Poetic Social Mission” while floating weightlessly aboard the Soyuz TMA-16 spacecraft. I have seen many of Laliberte’s Cirque performances which are well known for their dramatic mix of circus arts and street entertainment. Never before have I experienced an event that was so literally, out of this world.

Laliberte starts the event by claiming, “I am an artist not a scientist and that is the only way I can make a significant contribution to the mission and to raise awareness to water issues”. He then hooks our interest with a sobering statistic. A child dies every 8 seconds because of contaminated water. With the event now underway, we are welcomed into each of 14 cities (Montreal, Moscow, Santa Monica, New York City, Johannesburg, Mumbai, Marrakesh, Sydney, Tokyo, Tampa, Mexico City, Rio de Janeiro, Paris and London). Each city takes a unique approach to present the message artistically. One dances, one sings, Montreal showcases all that is Cirque and Mumbai takes a perfectly white set and lets adorable children hand-paint themselves blue. Some of the guests included former U.S. Vice President Al Gore, Dr. David Suzuki, Peter Gabriel, Shakira, Mathew McConaughey and even U2.

The traditional definition of event marketing or experiential marketing is the face-to-face interaction between a brand and its audience via live events. The rationale is that when an attendee recalls the event experience they will make a positive association with the brand. This positive association will make them more inclined to take action, to make a purchase or to change behaviour. Did Guy Laliberte go to this expense and safety risk to selfishly promote his Cirque brand? Cirque is certainly quite visible during the event; including a spectacular acrobatic scene involving a wall of water and excerpts from the amazing Vegas performance of “O”. Or were his intentions genuinely to promote awareness of all things water? Watch it yourself on and make your own determination. I know that after my event experience, I’m committed to doing my part to make a difference. Thank you, Guy Laliberte for pushing the traditional boundaries of events. Who else would have ever thought of an event that included a clown in space?