Andy King, an event producers of the infamous Fyre Festival, recently partnered with Evian to create limited-edition water bottles. Despite all the talk of planners taking on more strategic, senior roles in our industry, King is being rewarded for going the extra mile – in the worst possible direction.
If you're in events – and even if you're not – you've likely heard of the 2017 disaster that was Fyre Festival. What was supposed to be a luxury music festival on a private beach in the Bahamas, organized by Billy McFarland and promoted by social media stars, quickly turned into a high-profile scandal.
Last year, Netflix released a documentary about the debacle titled Fyre: The Greatest Party That Never Happened. The documentary featured Andy King, one of the event's unofficial producers, who was reputedly asked to provide oral sex to a Bahamian customs officer in exchange for releasing the Evian water bottles that had been ordered for the event.
He soon went viral, and on the occasion of the documentary's one-year anniversary, Evian is capitalizing on King's success with an unfortunate marketing campaign that glorifies, rewards, and normalizes crossing wildly inappropriate lines and trivializes the immense pressure the industry puts on planners.
Needless to say, planners are displeased with the depiction of their job and Evian's exploitation of the situation – and with good reason. Here's exactly what's going on and what people have to say about it.
The Lowdown on the Fyre Festival Fiasco
Fyre Festival was promoted as an exclusive, three-day music festival that was supposed to take place over two weekends in the spring of 2017. McFarland collected millions of dollars from investors in preparation for the event but failed to deliver on every promise.
The event was a rush job and was nowhere near completed by the time the festival dates rolled around – but it went forward as planned anyway. Attendees – mostly Instagram influencers – arrived on the island to find local laborers still working on the festival site and nothing but tents set up instead of the luxury villas they were expecting.
During the event's production, Andy King was tasked with getting Evian water bottles through customs for the festival – and he was prepared to go as far as it took to secure them. As he tells it, this included giving oral sex to a customs officer.
Although he didn’t have to go through with it in the end, King has built an entire brand around his role in the failed event. "FYRE Fest Survivor" features in his social media bios. He likes to talk about his "team spirit" and how he's willing to go above and beyond to do what needs to be done.
But when that reputation comes from crossing a line for a fraudulent event, it's not exactly a great look.
Evian Exploits King’s Fame to Planners' Dismay
On January 17th, King announced his partnership with Evian on Instagram – if it can even be called a partnership – to release 10 limited-edition water bottles with the tagline,
The bottles are not being sold but given away to those who enter the contest via Instagram.
The announcement reads:
View this post on Instagram
Who’s thirsty!? 💦 On the one year anniversary of my doc debut, @evianwater is releasing a special bottle with a new slogan… all in honor of my infamous team spirit 😂😂 Follow me & tag a friend in a comment below before tomorrow (Sat 11:59PM ET) for a chance to win one of these 10 custom bottles 💦 #evianpartner . . . . . NO PURCHASE NECESSARY, for a chance to win just tag a friend. Winners will be selected randomly and will be contacted via Instagram direct message on 1/22/2020. (Open to U.S. residents only, 18 years old or more at the time of the event.)
This is problematic for many reasons. Evian is a recognized international brand that's now making light of a situation that cost unsuspecting people thousands of dollars – in particular, locals who couldn't afford not to be paid for their services.
What's more, they're tacitly endorsing this idea of team spirit that entails going to unreasonable lengths to "do whatever it takes," as if this is somehow what planners should strive for.
There appears to be little consideration for how this job should have actually been done or how this image negatively reflects on eventprofs. The campaign is seen by many as trivializing the role of event planners already subjected to incredible levels of stress.
Alex Plaxen, President of Little Bird Told Media, had this to say on the subject:
Event professionals aren't the only ones who find Evian's initiative problematic – many users outside the industry are similarly disgusted with the campaign and what Kind stands for, and took to Twitter to share their thoughts:
Hooking up with Andy King? I have officially stopped buying your water for good. Disgusting.
— Janet Brady (@moragabetty) January 18, 2020
— stephen (@stephenmcgeeee) January 17, 2020
While some are up in arms about the recent promotion and are understandably critical of its implicit message, others are also calling out Evian's audacity in seeking to profit off of Fyre when so many still haven't been compensated for work they completed for the festival.
Fyre Festival turned out to be a huge fraud that deceived hundreds of people, including, most devastatingly, Bahamians. Andy King ended up profiting from his involvement in the ordeal, and Evian was more than happy to get in on the joke for some publicity.
We can only hope that the bottled water company, and other companies for that matter, do a better job of thinking their marketing efforts through and of considering the impact they have on the image of those doing things by the book.