If you have marvelled at the spectacular displays during the Honda Celebration of Light, stayed up all night at the Squamish Valley Music Festival, or visited the Vancouver House at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games, then you’ve been part of a BRANDLIVE experience. BRANDLIVE is led by president and partner, Catherine Runnals, a true pioneer—vivacious, brave, and determined to boost Vancouver’s cultural offerings. Catherine and the BRANDLIVE team also played an integral role in bringing Terminal City Club’s famous 2015 Bond Gala to life and creating an incredible experience that is still talked about today.
Catherine has worked with Chrissie Hynde of The Pretenders, spent a year supporting Neil Young, went on tour with Sheryl Crowe, Nelly Furtado, Chantal Kreviazuk, The Tragically Hip. “I was a full time road dog for almost 10 years, working my way through the ranks,” she says. Then, in 2004, Catherine was offered the opportunity to tour manage Dido’s world tour for Life for Rent. “We got to tour the entire world. I got to walk the red carpet at Cannes, we played a Roman Amphitheatre that was literally built before Christ, sold out to a giant crowd. The curtains parted, the crowd roars, I walked Dido up to the stage – it was absolutely amazing. And the hardest job I ever did.”
Catherine is positive and energetic, but a decade on the road began to take a toll on her. “The more time you spend away from home, the more you miss, the less you have to come home to,” she explains. Her husband Paul also worked in the industry; sometimes, their work brought them together, but other times, it kept them apart for as long as 11 weeks at a time. “In 2004, Paul finished Sarah McLachlan’s world tour, I finished Dido’s world tour, we came back to Vancouver, bought a house in Strathcona, had a baby, and started BRANDLIVE all within 18 months.” (You could say that they had two babies.)
Catherine and Paul took their rock ‘n roll pedigree and married it to an event business, founding BRANDLIVE, a leading event production and creative agency. “Any event that you do is actually an activation for your brand, whether it’s a conference for EA or the Honda Celebration of Light,” Catherine explains. Today, BRANDLIVE crafts bespoke experiences from festivals and large public gatherings to meetings, events, and conventions. “We recognize that for many companies, business is being done a different way.”
A true trailblazer, Catherine forged forward, and her tenacity won BRANDLIVE the opportunity to build and bring to life the Vancouver House at the 2010 Winter Olympics, representing her beloved home city. But it wasn’t without risk, and a little bit of luck. “We were quite fortunate because there was no other event company at that time that was doing what we were doing,” she says. “But we didn’t have any Olympic experience.” So, Catherine went out and got some. She picked up and moved to Beijing to be the executive producer of the Adidas Pavilion, six months before the Olympics were due to start. It was her opportunity to learn how the Olympics ran, and the experience effectively catapulted BRANDLIVE into the 2010 Winter Olympics.
Coming out of the Olympics and the Honda Celebration of Life, Catherine and Paul didn’t skip a beat. Missing music, they dreamed up the Squamish Valley Music Festival. “There’s the music part, which is our passion, but what a lot of people don’t understand about Squamish is that we create a temporary village for 40,000 people and keep them alive for four days, and that’s no small feat!” says Catherine. “You have to start from scratch with power, running potable water, camping sites, parking, transportation, the security unit alone – to transport, feed, house, and then shift 300 security guards – the logistics are absolutely immense.”
In fact, Catherine has had fascinating conversations with the Canadian Red Cross. “There are parallels between our industry and what they do in crisis situations – whether it’s refugees or weather or some natural disaster – and they have to insert a city in the middle of a place that no longer exists,” she explains. “It’s shockingly similar. We’ve talked about how what we do at BRANDLIVE is actually quite transferrable to something like that. So we’re really proud of the Squamish Music Festival. I look back, after six years, and we didn’t start thinking that we would have Bruno Mars and Eminem play the festival. It still blows my mind.”
Catherine joined the Club about a year ago so that she could expand her network. “I wanted to have a modern and dynamic hub for doing business in the City of Vancouver,” she says. “I live in North Vancouver, but I’m out for events three, if not four, nights a week. So for me to get over the bridge and come back, it isn’t practical. So I come here in the afternoon, workout, regroup, then go to my event. It’s led to a far healthier, more balanced lifestyle, for my family and for myself. My son Griffin can have swimming lessons, I can bring my mum here for mother’s day. I’ve just found it to be such a warm and welcoming environment. The membership is fabulous, diverse, and super welcoming. The staff is next level. It’s good energy, it really is.” ■ Amanda Jun, Club Relationship Manager