Brands and bands make music festival experience

To get the most out of festival sponsorship, brands need to create experiences that enhance each individual fan’s enjoyment of the event.


What does a laundry brand have in common with a cheese snack or an outdoor fashion company? The answer is that products including Persil, Timberland and Dairylea – not normally associated with music – are turning to festivals to spread their brand messages.

While the festival season normally takes place in summer, brands need to prepare in advance and use the winter months to sign deals to appear at everything from Hard Rock Calling to Latitude. And this year, the opportunities for non-traditional festival brands to become involved in the scene are greater than ever, according to a trends report on music festivals from entertainment agency Frukt Communications, which has been seen exclusively by Marketing Week.

Report author Giles Fitzgerald, editor of cultural trends title Frukt Source, notes: “Fashion, technology, food and household goods are all joining the well-established festival sponsor brands, demonstrating that there is no sector barrier when it comes to entering this lucrative marketing space.”

The beginnings of this trend could be seen in 2011 when Persil organised a teddy bears’ picnic at Camp Bestival to promote its new 2in1 Comfort line. Timberland also set up a stand at a number of festivals last year to promote its sustainability message, while Dairylea appeared at the Dorset festival encouraging families to try on fancy dress outfits for photos that could be uploaded onto its branded Facebook page.


Fitzgerald adds: “Few consumer touchpoint opportunities offer themselves up on a plate in the way a music festival does. Where else can you find a predominantly young, captive, emotionally charged audience engaged in a shared, tangible social experience?”

But with an increasing number of brands attracted to the festival scene, marketers need to offer more than a branded deckchair area and a few promotional giveaways to have any lasting impact.

A detailed strategy around the concept of music, including festival sponsorship, has been developed for Aloft, a boutique-style hotel from Starwood. The brand, which was developed to appeal to young people, runs a music programme throughout the year, including DJ nights to attract a local crowd as well as to entertain guests staying the night.

Steven Taylor, Starwood’s vice-president of marketing for EMEA, says the company’s move into festivals is a good fit for youthful consumers. “Because our Generation Y audience has a passion for music, we felt that we needed to take part in festivals and content creation,” he explains. “We thought it would be a way to connect with our target audience in the most effective way.”

The use of digital media to promote an association with festivals is a growing trend and one that marketers need to take note of

A celebratory programme was developed around the opening of the company’s 50th hotel called The 50 Days of Music Festivals. In September last year, 50 emerging artists performed in Aloft hotels around the world. Their music was also available to download via the brand’s Facebook page.

The musician with the most music downloads won a performance slot at Live in the Vineyard, in Napa, California, which Starwood sponsors. The brand also partnered with radio stations to run competitions offering an all-expenses paid trip to Napa.

Last year, Hard Rock Calling and Wireless – both held at Hyde Park in London – were Starwood’s biggest presence at UK festivals. To promote its sponsorship, Starwood offered its preferred guest programme members the chance to win a Rockstar experience at either event.

The marketing plan didn’t just create positive sentiment for the hotel business, it had a serious business impact, says Taylor, who points out that 90,000 people entered a competition to win a trip to London with the Starwood Preferred Guest programme in a three-month period – more than triple the amount the business had driven before through a marketing initiative.

Taylor explains how the business measured the success of the programme: “We were able to look at who registered and their staying patterns to figure out who was staying with us more because of the contest.

“They not only registered but the more they stayed with us the more entries were put forward. By using festivals we were able to incentivise people to stay with us.”
Starwood claims the incremental revenue was around $4m over the course of six months and, as a result, a similar campaign is being devised for this year’s event.

While brands like Aloft are successfully entering the summer music scene, alcohol brands continue to find festivals a good place to gain exposure. In fact, there appears to be a resurgence in alcohol brands entering into festival partnerships, according to the report.

James Kent, sponsorship manager at Festival Republic – which runs Reading and Latitude – notes in the report that spirits brands have been returning to the market in the past 12 months. He comments: “While not really an evolution, more a rebirth, the right drinks brand at the right festival is undeniably an opportunity and can meet lots of key performance indicators.”

However, Fiona Lovatt, marketing manager at Magners, argues that creating a point of difference is a must for any alcohol brand wanting to make an impact. She says: “There are lots of experiences that do look the same at festivals and there are more and more alcohol brands entering that space. I think you have to focus on bringing your brand to life.”

Bar cide: Magners set up the Crusher Bar at Latitude to promote Golden Draught

She suggests brands can offer something functional and useful, such as the Orange ‘chill and charge’ tent at Glastonbury, where festivalgoers can charge their phone.

She claims that the approach her cider brand takes is to offer something “emotionally useful that enhances a festival experience – something that someone couldn’t have had without Magners” (see case study, below).

Mike Swingwood, brand manager of Jägermeister, agrees. In the report, he notes: “Brands must add to the event and not just be there for their own agenda. Our main criteria for events are that they are music led and reach out to loyal consumers.”

Jägermeister targets festivals where its own-branded JägerRock truck bar acts as a viewing platform where drinkers can view their favourite acts. At Download, fans could also watch artists perform unplugged on the Jägermeister Acoustic stage.

Becoming central to the music experience is a growing trend for brands, says Fitzgerald. He gives the example of Southern Comfort’s Juke Joint, an intimate music venue hidden at both The Big Chill Festival and V.

Juke Joint tickets were given to winners of Facebook competitions and the brand was marketed with the tagline “Embrace the sweet taste of the unexpected”. Before the festivals started the brand made people aware of it by leveraging Twitter and Facebook accounts of both events to reach out to a wider audience.

The use of digital media to promote an association with festivals is a growing trend and one that marketers need to take note of. Brands can use digital to engage with their target audience before, during and after the events to get the most out of their experiential activity.

Simply having a presence at a festival is no longer enough. Fitzgerald says those brands that can add a new dimension will be more likely to see a return on their experiential investment.

“One of the key opportunities we see developing in the festival sector is letting fans shape and tailor their individual experience. Today’s increasingly discerning festivalgoer is looking for experiences that offer additional value beyond the main stage line-up; activities they can stamp their own individual mark on.”

And those marketers that can conjure up such creative activity are the ones likely to feel the positive vibes of the festival scene.

Case study: Magners


It’s pretty much a given that a festival is a good place to alert the masses about a new alcohol variant. But Magners didn’t just want to drive awareness of its Golden Draught variety with a run-of-the-mill pouring deal. Instead, it opened The Crusher Bar at Latitude, the Suffolk festival that last year saw Suede and Paulo Nutini headlining.

The idea behind the bar came from Magners’ Strongman advertising campaign, which features a character with the strength to crush the hard Dabinett and Michelin apples that make the draught cider.

Fiona Lovatt, marketing manager at Magners, claims Golden Draught has a crisper taste than other recipes because of the type of apples used to make the cider. The Crusher Bar, styled like a factory, was used to get this message across.

The bar area had live performances from tribute acts including The Killerz and Blurb, as well as DJs. Once the bar filled up the ‘crusher moment’ sent a weight onto a crate of apples that sent 150 golden tickets into the air with prizes such as free drinks and iPods.

The aim of such elaborate experiential activity was to “drive awareness, trial and education” about the new brand, adds Lovatt.

Magners also made appearances at Hard Rock Calling and Wireless, before which digital marketing was used to drive conversations on the brand’s Facebook page.

Lovatt says digital activity is essential in terms of drumming up interest in upcoming events. “There was a noticeable rise in positive conversation around the brand as content around festivals was added to its Facebook page,” she adds.

Market research carried out during the festival and brand tracking on image and perception enabled Lovatt to demonstrate the positive feeling such activity generates, although she admits proving a direct link to increased sales is not possible.

But she stresses that festival activity “adds another dimension” to the marketing and will be something that the brand team will focus on this year.



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