City of Shaker Heights

Event Marketing // Signature Event Series

The Client

The City of Shaker Heights is a suburb of Cleveland, located about 20 minutes east of downtown. The historic city lays claim to being the nation’s first planned community, consisting of 200 miles of sidewalks and two Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (GCRTA) rail lines. Shaker Heights has a diverse population of about 28,000 residents that live in nine distinctive neighborhoods.

The City of Shaker Heights has been a client of shark&minnow since 2017.


In 2017 – after years of planning – the Van Aken District opened to the public in Shaker Heights. Dubbed “Downtown Shaker Heights,” the Van Aken District provides residents and non-residents alike the opportunity to live, shop, dine and gather together in one central location. Shaker Heights engaged with shark&minnow to plan and execute multiple signature events to raise awareness in Northeast Ohio around the opening of the Van Aken District.

In partnership with members from the City’s marketing and& communications department, as well as developers from the Van Aken District, shark&minnow developed and executed a comprehensive signature event strategy to encourage residents of Shaker Heights and surrounding suburbs to celebrate the grand opening. In addition to the planning, shark&minnow also branded each event (naming, logo, design, etc.)

The Solution

Event Marketing // Signature Event Series

Chill&Toast: December 2017

Chill&Toast acted as the first event to welcome the community into the new “downtown” of Shaker Heights. Whilst the Van Aken District was officially still under construction – this event invited the community to gather just outside the District, witness its progress and celebrate the beginning of the winter/holiday season. The event name itself held meaning on two levels. The “temperature” implications of Chill&Toast spoke to the warmth of the gathering of friends and family around bonfires, roasting marshmallows and sipping hot cocoa in the cool winter air. Chill also nods to spending quality time together, as the community raised a glass, toasting to the season and the growth of the District.


Bloom&Buzz: April 2018

As the chill of winter gave way to the warmer breezes of spring, the community was invited to gather once more at Bloom&Buzz. Similar to Chill&Toast in its initiative to have the residents of Shaker Heights and beyond to recognize the District as a place to dine, to shop, to experience, and to simply be together. Several vendors, both food and retail, that were poised to soon open in the District were present at the event giving the community its first taste of all the new options that the Van Aken District would soon offer. Bloom&Buzz lived up to its name, as paper flowers and bright colors illuminated the event, celebrating the bloom of this new downtown and the exciting buzz surrounding it.


BBQ@VAD: July 2018

Nothing says community and summer like a good, old-fashioned picnic. This third installment of the signature event series acted as the bridge from gathering just outside the District, to gathering IN the District. Held just before the official opening of the Van Aken District, BBQ@VAD once again brought the community together to experience the vendors and flavors that make up this slice of the city. Police and Fire Services from the City of Shaker Heights were on hand greeting residents and grilling traditional picnic fare.

Promotional Tactics

The design approach for all three signature events thoughtfully set the tone for each, and defined the specific personality unique to that installment. Whilst each approach was distinct, an intentional consistency that personified each of the events created a unity to the series.

These events were spaced out to provide the Van Aken District time to put the finishing touches on the space, as well as allow retailers and merchants to fully move in to their properties. Tactics used for signature event marketing:

  • Website Landing Pagee
  • Event Environmental Graphics, Signage and Wayfinding
  • Search Engine Marketing
  • Direct Mail
  • Email marketing
  • Press Releases & Outreach
  • Out-of-Home Metro Train & Bus Advertising
  • Radio
  • Native Advertising: Facebook, Instagram & Snapchat
  • Social Media: Facebook, Instagram & Twitter

The Outcome

Metrics & Accolades

  • Attendance: 5,000
    • Chill & Toast: 1,000
    • Bloom & Buzz: 1,500
    • BBQ @ VAD: 2,500
  • Positive sentiment gathered from attendees and merchants
  • Significant increase in social media followers and engagement for the City of Shaker Heights and Van Aken District