Here comes the summer festival plan

Six senior marketers give advice on how to make the most of this summer’s bumper crop of festivals. David Burrows finds out about the best field marketing and festival activation.


The panel:

Luke Southern, head of sponsorship and partnerships, Virgin Media
Terry Barker, director of marketing, Cellar Trends (UK distributor for Jagermeister)
Chris Collis, senior marketer, Alpro UK
Tim Bisset, assistant brand manager, Strongbow
Jason Rosenbaum, marketing manager,
Sarah Bird, director, Wild Rumus (organiser of family festivals)

Marketing Week (MW): What festival activity have you planned for this year and why?

Terry Barker (TBa): We’re set for our biggest ever summer of music, with Jägermeister having a presence at over 25 festivals across the country. The complete JägerTruck fleet of three specially customised ex-military vehicles will be appearing in high footfall locations at festivals. These include Download, Rockness, Wireless and Hard Rock Calling. Jägermeister has enjoyed a close association with the rock music scene for many years, but the brand also has wider appeal among mainstream consumers and festivals.

Jason Rosenbaum (JR): Gaydar has a long history of sponsoring gay and lesbian Pride festivals. We are sponsoring at least 15 festivals in the UK, and over 50 globally. We have longstanding partnerships with most of these, and have supported them for many years. We always want to align ourselves with lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community focused events, big or small.

Tim Bisset (TBi): This year we’ll be hosting a full Strongbow experience at the Isle of Wight Festival with a smaller brand presence at both V Festivals. The Strongbow brand has built a long history at both these events. As we move the brand into a younger target audience, these events give us the perfect opportunity to access the 18 to 34-year-old age group in an environment where they are relaxed and looking for a great experience.

MW: Have your tactics changed this year?


Crowd pleasers: Alpro gives out free breakfast samples (top), while Jagemeister will be present at 25 UK festivals this summer

TBa: After the successful field activity last year at Leeds, we’ve decided to go bigger this time with the presence of the JägerIce truck in the main arena. This is a moving ice bar, with a room chilled to below zero housing a bar carved from ice. The truck also features a raised VIP area with a 360-degree viewing platform, and a 21m outdoor Jägermeister bar with 10 serving points. Additions to our festival schedule include the Isle of Wight, which is now possible having found a way to load a 25 tonne truck onto a ferry.

JR: We’ll be attending mostly the same events, but getting smarter about our activities to increase the return on previous years. Our competitors have been pulling back from some sponsorships, so we’ll be capitalising on that to forge new relationships where possible.

Chris Collis (CC): We have fine-tuned our festival list since last year. We had a great experience in 2011 and look forward to returning to some of those festivals in the future, but we also need to spread our wings to meet more of our target consumers to continue to grow the brand.

This summer, Alpro will be at Latitude, Womad, Wychwood, Cornbury and Rewind, plus Electric Picnic – our first festival in Ireland. We use a number of criteria to choose the right festivals. It’s about much more than just the music, we’ve chosen quirky, culturally diverse events that appeal directly to our target audience, and which are open to working with the Alpro brand.

Our festival activity this year is about reaching the right audience with the right message in the right tone of voice, when they’re in the mood to be a little curious.

Luke Southern (LS): We’ve taken a broader view when it comes to our involvement in events like V Festival, which means it’s more about a longer-term strategy to extract more value from the sponsorship for our brand and business objectives.

This has meant focusing on improving three things in the last couple of years. First, there’s a bigger focus on return on investment and measurement of the event. Second, leveraging the festival association across all areas of our business in a ‘joined up’ way. And finally, using the association to drive advocacy among our customers, from early access to tickets to the event to VIP areas and experiences on-site.

MW: Why are festivals good for field marketing?

CC: Festivals are the ideal way to reach out to your consumer during their downtime and if you select the right events for your demographic, you can target a very specific audience. Our consumers tend to be relaxed at festivals, so are sometimes more receptive to opening a conversation with our brand. However, they will only be receptive if you are offering a high-quality, relevant and engaging activation.

JR: Gaydar is one of the world’s largest gay personals websites, so the connection with gay festivals is a fairly obvious one. Festivals are a chance to get ‘offline’ and engage with consumers. We are an online social network, and real-world social gatherings are a perfect opportunity to draw attention to our products.

TBi: It’s rare you get the opportunity to access a large amount of 18to 34-year-olds in one place, all there for a shared purpose. It takes a lot of commitment to get to a festival – time, money and transport, so these people have a real desire to enjoy the entire experience. Therefore, it’s a great environment for brands to reward that.

Sarah Bird (SB): The thing that sets a festival apart in terms of marketing is that they are such immersive events. Our particular festival [the Just So Festival – a boutique family event for an audience of 5,000 which takes place at Rode Hall in Cheshire in August] has a very distinct audience. If a brand wants to appeal to that audience, what better circumstances to start that conversation than at a time when they are relaxed and already thinking about new opportunities?

At Just So, families will be trying new things all the time, such as learning to dance, taking part in a trapeze workshop, dressing up, engaging in music, art, and literature. They are more open minded because they have more time in their day. If a brand can be fun and innovative in this environment, why wouldn’t they want to engage?

MW: Have festival goers become more receptive to brand presence and field marketing at outdoor events?

LS: I don’t think consumers view brand involvement in events as a bad thing. Brands bring money, exposure and, in most cases, add value. In most cases, a brand involvement for consumers means two things – a better experience and reassurance.

The association of a brand with a festival is reassuring for many consumers, like a seal of approval that it’s going to be well organised, accessible and safe.

Gaydar: Uses festivals to get offline and engage with fans

TBa: Brands should never forget that music is at the centre of consumers’ minds, so there’s a practical role to play for brands to boost what the festival-goer is there for. It doesn’t work for every brand and the majority need to think over and above their target audience – will their offering make their weekend easier, more fun and more enjoyable? If your brand isn’t going to do that, you probably shouldn’t be there.

SB: The corporate involvement needs to fit the ethos of the event. We’ve had approaches from big brands offering us lots of money – which, as a not-for-profit organisation on small budgets, can be tempting – but who are much more technology based, or have a heavy TV tie-in. Our festival is about being in nature. Our audience trusts us not to try to push something just to get the sponsorship fee. There has to be an integrity to your event to make it work for both parties.

Working with brands we love and think are a great fit means we’re happy to shout about them from the rooftops. We’re not embarrassed of corporate sponsorship. When it works, it benefits brand, organisation and audience.

TBa: Most consumers now expect a brand presence at any major event, and at festivals there are dozens of brands competing for the attention of festival goers over a short and intense period of time. Everyone loves freebies, but it’s experiences that festival goers will genuinely cherish. If brand activity can provide them with some great memories, they will come back for more the following year.

MW: Is it difficult to achieve cut-through at festivals? How do you ensure you get the most from the event?

LS: Festivals are only successful for brands in terms of building awareness, advocacy and trial of products or services if the focus is on adding value to the overall experience rather than plastering your name everywhere. You have to have a positive impact.

For us, it’s all about recognising the fact that festival goers spend a lot of money on tickets and travel and creating an unforgettable experience year after year with our products and brand playing a key role. For example, last year we provided free wi-fi across the V Festival sites. To us, this was about Virgin Media using our products to add value to the festival experience and in return building positive engagement with our brand.

CC: If you can’t achieve cut-through, then don’t do it. It’s fine for people to love the brand while you’re there giving them freebies, but if they forget about you the moment they pack up their tent, then you’re wasting your time.

The free breakfast samples we give out are a good draw, but we need to extend the conversation beyond that.

In the end, it’s all about relevance and the quality of engagement before, during and after the event.

TBa: Jägermeister has worked hard to generate, maintain and grow a loyal following of music lovers. It’s an authentic relationship that has taken time and a genuine passion for music from those working on the brand. Targeting the right festivals for your brand is important, but becoming an integral part of the festival experience is priceless.

MW: What innovative marketing tactics at festivals have you seen or used recently? What are the latest trends?


SB: Brands are more excited about having an immersive experience with the audience, fitting in with the ethos of the event and connecting with the festival families with more than a straight advertising message.

Those brands that work well are the ones who care about what the event is trying to achieve. Those that stick out like a sore thumb at events are the ones that just want to be the biggest and brightest stand at the show.

LS: This year, we’ll be focusing on putting our products and brand at the heart of the experience rather than tactical activities.

Communication is key – social media is now essential to the festival experience and festival apps have proved popular.

The V Festival app had 100,000 downloads last year, allowing users to view an interactive site map, access Facebook friend finder and share the festival fun via Twitter and Facebook.

The use of near-field communication (NFC) technologies and swipe and go methods of payment are becoming increasingly popular. Brands are using these to offer incentives and reward festival goers by engaging them with their brand.

Preloaded wristbands, for example, which entitle the wearer to extra goodies, are a good starting point and a good way of making your brand integral to the overall experience.

TBa: Brands are incorporating more technology such as NFC throughout their festival experiences. These enable cashless payments and log brand interactions. It also creates more opportunities to generate content that consumers can engage with after the festival, such as photo uploads or video clips.

Leading on from this, a number of brands have created festival apps that offer people useful information such as ferry times, site maps or local taxi numbers.

JR: At each Pride festival we will be establishing Gaydar G-Spots, which let those who have downloaded the Gaydar app to scan [to find] guys nearby and chat without any quotas or limits.

People are notified that they’ve found our G-Spot through in-app alerts, as well as posters and banners throughout the event. This encourages downloads and use of the app. Gone are the days when you could only access Gaydar from a desktop computer at home – you could be knee-deep in mud at a festival, planning a date for that evening.


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