City Profile: Akron, Ohio (Aug 26 and 27, 2017)

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Akron wove Pokémon GO into two activities downtown: a free music festival, and the University of Akron’s freshman orientation (“New Roo Weekend”). The music set the tone, through he free Rubber City Jazz and Blues Festival, a free four-day event with ten different venues, players and  throughout the city.

A scavenger hunt featured PokéStops that connected the university campus to the downtown corridor, where there was live music, drawing sessions, vendor areas, walking tours, and photo opportunities. The event coincided with the last weekend that Pokémon GO’s Legendary Birds Articuno, Zapdos, Moltres, and Lugia were available.

Local organizers included the University of Akron, the Downtown Akron partnership, Niantic staff that flew in for the occasion, and Knight Staff based in Akron.

Related report

>> We tracked this city closely for our report. Although we do not detail Akron as a separate case, many of the tactics and models apply. Of course, Akron is also distinct: it may be the best model for a light-touch effort in a city, especially within a music festival that does not close city streets or embed in libraries and physical buildings.



Key pictures

Blue street stencils temporarily revealed how the digital layer of the game intersected with physical space. Here, players check the game for information about a Pokéstop.


A fan adds chalk art near the line for players to register for the special hunt downtown
Answers for the scavenger hunt were written down on this paper guide, and returned to organizers to participate in the raffle drawing.

Outreach with social media was a key strategy. Staff at the University of Akron utilized several platforms, including Snapchat and Facebook, to advertise the Pokémon GO event alongside other orientation events on campus. Here on Twitter:

And word spread through player forums and chat:

A crowd of players at a Gym in Akron
(Image: reddit user dogpleasurenight)

“Let’s make the downtown side of campus and main street the gaming area for two days. And make it public and make it open to everybody and see what kind of social mixing happens as a result of another invitation (the game) to come downtown that weekend.” – Kyle Kutuchief, local representative of the Knight Foundation

Local stores amplified the Pokémon enthusiasm in their own unofficial ways:


Bicycle rental sign
“Poke-Man-Go” ice cream

Landmarks rewritten for the game included:

Text for a Pokéstop shows how the town connects the Ohio and Erie Towpath

More reflections

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