It used to be teenagers who flocked to weekend-long festivals to enjoy warm beer, long queues, late nights and brilliant bands, but with the cost of going to these outdoor extravaganzas spiralling, organisers and the brands involved are having to stretch their strategies to reach different age groups.
The average age of a festival-goer is now 36 years old and the average cost £420, including the ticket and travel, food and drink expenses, according to a survey commissioned by MSN for the website Gigwise. The high cost is putting young people off going to festivals. While 18- to 24-year-olds are still attending outdoor gigs, 60 per cent feel they can’t afford this cost, according to the study. A raft of one-day events held in city parks has sprung up to cater for this age group, offering lower cost fun without the expense of camping or buying three meals a day.
The change in age range of festival-goers means brands that haven’t previously been involved with these events are now considering them as a way to reach the more affluent 25-plus age groups. Victorinox, the maker of the Swiss Army Knife, for example, this year launched a smartphone app called Festival Ready, which it calls the digital equivalent of its original knife, for festival goers.
“We were aiming for the festival goer from the boutique, affluent end of the market who is already appropriate for our brand,” explains Adrienne Merrill, brand communications director at Victorinox.
“It’s open to everyone but we know as a brand where we appeal and we’re tapping into that same market,” she adds. “We don’t sell anything to anyone under 18; we’re not looking at a younger audience.”
Created by Pd3, the app includes a comprehensive guide to preparing for any festival, including camping tips such as what to pack, what to wear, keeping safe and pitching your tent. Festival Ready also includes a tool kit with torch, an emergency response alarm as well as weather forecasts.
Users can find their friends through a 3D GPS-enabled augmented reality tool, which allows users to pin multiple locations such as their tent, specific stages, food stalls and any other important locations to a map so they can then be found from anywhere at the festival. It works for any UK festival and has had close to 4,000 downloads since it launched last month.
The brand has partnered with the upmarket Wilderness festival, held in Oxfordshire in August. “Its demographic and culture is exactly what we are looking to tap into – the 25-plus age group who can afford the tickets and who see festivals as an extension of their holiday experiences. They’re much more cultural. They are going there to do things, participate, attend workshops, listen to music and are into fashion – people who are culturally alive,” says Merrill.
The proliferation of festival-goers in their 30s to 40s is also making it a distinctly less cool prospect for younger partygoers and, consequently, there is now a huge contingent of family-friendly festivals, rivalling classic field raves like Glastonbury and Global Gathering.
“Festivals are increasingly popular among Mumsnet users,” says Mumsnet founder Justine Roberts. “It might not be as rock-and-roll as visiting during the child-free years, but for many parents, festivals with the kids offer the chance to enjoy activities they may have missed on previous, more alcohol-fuelled, visits. The plethora of family-friendly festivals popping up all over the UK have added to the appeal.”
Mumsnet users’ favourites include The Big Chill, Womad and Camp Bestival. “In general, parents opt for less crowded, one-day festivals or those with family campsites, a range of kids’ activities and healthy food choices,” she says.
Getting it wrong when it comes to your audience can have dire consequences for event brands, as Hop Farm Festival found out this year. The event, which has been running for five years in Kent and was due to be headlined by My Bloody Valentine and Rodriguez, was cancelled a few weeks ago due to low ticket sales.
“It is a surprise for us that after eight weeks of heavy marketing and with such a great bill that we have to cancel, though we are convinced this does not reflect on the artists; it highlights the poor economic climate,” said promoter Vince Power.
“There are just so many festivals, all aimed at different price brackets. It’s fiercely competitive,” says Graeme Merrifield, festival director at Wychwood Festival, which has been running for nine years, taking place at Cheltenham Racecourse last month. It featured a silent disco, family theatre, dance workshops and comedy as well as a line-up including Soul II Soul and The Human League. Its core audience is 35- to 50-year-old parents and their children.
“In terms of sponsorship, family brands are quite keen to be involved with the festival. We have a high proportion of children on site,” says Merrifield. Waterstones, Ecover and Becks Vier among others sponsored the event this year.
So has the rise of the family-friendly festival made it harder for brands looking to attract and engage a younger festival audience? No, but brands must pick their festivals carefully.
Jagermeister’s target group is 18- to 35-year olds who like to go out with their friends on a night out or at music festivals
Many young music fans are now opting for one-day events in urban locations that often come with smaller ticket prices and reduced transport costs. Tequila-flavoured lager brand Desperados aims to reach those aged 18 to 30 who are keen on using social media.
The Heineken-owned drink sponsored this year’s Land of Kings festival, a 12-hour gig held in various venues in East London, featuring a mix of loft parties, basement discos, warehouse raves, subterranean games and a cinema. As well as being a main sponsor, Desperados had its own outdoor stage.
It also built The Factory, its largest temporary structure to date, at the Field Day festival, featuring a branded bar and stage headlined by house duo Waze & Odyssey.
A live graffiti installation from some of London’s leading street artists also featured and sat beside the best versions that festival-goers can create on a digital graffiti wall.
Meanwhile, Jagermeister is continuing to invest in festivals aimed at under-24s, with its ‘Deep Freeze’ ice bar at events including London’s Wireless festival, Glasgow Summer Sessions and Splendour in Nottingham.
“Jagermeister’s target group is 18- to 35-year-olds who like to go out and have fun with their friends on a night out or at music festivals,” explains Nicole Goodwin, UK group marketing manager at Jagermeister. “Festivals continue to be popular with our core consumer and with more and more festivals taking place each year, it is important that we have a presence at the most relevant events,” she says.
Other festivals, like a Day at the Park, part of Barclaycard Presents British Summer Time Hyde Park, hopes to appeal to all age groups. It pitches itself as ‘the ultimate show for the entire family to enjoy, featuring artists to keep the youngest to the oldest member of a family entertained’. AEG, which runs the event, says that it is using the festival to appeal to a broader audience.
“It is much more than just a music event. I have always wanted to promote a show where you can take your kids and your parents. Junior can be enthralled with the Gruffalo and your daughter can scream at JLS, while your parents dance around to The Beach Boys,” says Rob Hallett, president of international live touring at AEG Live.
Festivals are offering wider targeting opportunities for brands but if they are to succeed in reaching their desired audiences they need to take note of the budget pressures young people are under and consider the family estate car brigade as well.
Jagermeister announced in November that it is targeting an older demographic of 25- to 35-year-old males in addition to 18- to 24-year-olds, bringing a new ‘Deep Freeze’ interactive bar experience to five leading festivals as part of its summer campaign, which will see the spirit at 25 music festivals and events nationwide.
“Last year, Jagermeister was well received by Wireless festival goers, which is why we decided to participate again this year,” explains Nicole Goodwin, UK group marketing manager at Jagermeister. With Bloc Party headlining at Latitude and the Kings of Leon and Eminem at Glasgow Summer Sessions, we expect them to be hugely popular with our core demographic”.