Music festival sponsorship

Food and drink brands may have a natural synergy with summer music events, but other sectors can get a return on their investment in festival sponsorship if they fit and enhance the mood, environment and audience profile.

Music festival

It’s no surprise that brands want to soak up a bit of the summer music festival atmosphere and target consumers on a mission to party. But before marketers dive into the hedonistic mosh pit they need to consider the environment they’re in, according to research commissioned by media agency Target Media and carried out by Eyeball.

Brands shouldn’t just think about the target audience. At the very least they may be ignored, or far worse they will annoy festival goers, according to Target Media trading director Adam Hopkinson.

“The big problem is where brands just talk to the audience. The marketing press is reporting that all media is devaluing year on year. This unfortunately commoditises target audiences. It’s very easy to fall into the trap of targeting a core audience for the cheapest possible price. If brands think like that they’re not thinking about the environment and therefore will not get their message and media right together.”

Going to a festival is the most exciting thing 44% of respondents have ever done, according to the study. This makes the target audience far more open-minded, allowing sponsors and advertisers a better chance of getting their message across, according to the study.

This positive emotion appears to rub off on brands that associate themselves with festivals. Of the 2,000 respondents, 41% have positive feelings towards the brands that sponsor music festivals, while 40% have positive feelings towards the brands that advertise at festivals.

The festival environment is one of the best places to advertise. More than a third of respondents (39%) think ads fit better with the rest of the experience than elsewhere, compared with 19% who get annoyed by advertisements at festivals more than elsewhere. Perhaps surprisingly, 15% believe that ads at festivals enhance the enjoyment of the experience more than elsewhere. 

Many different sectors choose to associate with music festivals, but those with the most potential for success are alcoholic drinks, with 75% of festival goers spotting booze ads at festivals and 77% believing alcohol brand advertising would work best at festivals. Fashion brand advertising has been spotted by 36% of those attending festivals and 41% believe this kind of advertising would work best in a festival environment.    

Hopkinson warns that future festival sponsors could look out of place if they attempt to capture positive association from the festival spirit. “As it becomes less of a cult media, certain brands that don’t belong are going to get involved.”

He believes that sectors which are not right for the festival environment, such as banking, cars and insurance, are starting to consider festival sponsorship and advertising as they see other sectors get a return on investment on their deals.

Those brands naturally suited to this environment should also go beyond just having a presence. Thinking about the needs of festival goers is key to getting noticed, says Hopkinson. “Alcohol brands are obviously going to be well suited to the festival audience but if they can give something back to those people then they will stand out.

“For example, we’re seeing a trend that originates from Scandinavia, where people can go round festivals collecting beer glasses and take them back to a recycling point in exchange for beer tokens. People can really get involved with a brand and that can only be a positive thing.”

However, those sectors naturally suited to the festival environment can also get it very wrong. The qualitative part of the study revealed that many festival goers disliked the presence of underwear brand Sloggi at last year’s festivals, saying its fashion show was out of place and “chavvy”.

Hopkinson says: “Nobody got it. It was cashing in on an affluent audience but got it wrong. There could be scope for an underwear brand to get it right at festivals but a fashion show would never work.”

Another brand that some people complained about was Xbox. Hopkinson says this is because a computer game brand is about being indoors and doesn’t fit in with the outdoor nature of festivals, but Ziggy Gilsenan, co-founder of Bestival and Camp Bestival, believes that gaming brands can successfully demonstrate they are turning into multimedia brands via the festival environment. (See below)  

It’s clear that the positive environment of music festivals will continue to lure brands in. And festival goers appear to understand the presence of many sponsors and advertisers, even welcoming them and believing they have a positive effect on their experience. To gain the approval of the festival crowd, however, brands need to think beyond the crowd and their message, and think about giving genuine value.


Ziggy Gilsenan, Co-founder of Bestival and Camp Bestival

Festivals provide an environment where brands can have deep and meaningful interactions with consumers. In terms of a sponsorship proposition, event owners can offer something that is very targeted in terms of its audience profile as well as reaching high volumes of people in one place over a set period of time.

We work very closely with brands across our portfolio of festivals to tailor their brand experience within the festival environment. Bestival gets under the skin of the brand and works with them strategically. It’s important to put some work and creative thinking behind these sponsorship deals.

Festival-goers understand that events need partners and so they expect to see sponsors, but a brand is perceived to be far more relevant if it evolves its experience to look and feel right in the festival environment.

When we first launched Bestival it was a blank canvas so we contacted brands that we thought would be an appropriate fit with the premium event that we were about to launch. We deliver huge value in terms of PR and marketing as well as offering a great on-site experience, and most of those original partners have grown with us over the years.

Brands from the food and drink sectors work best. They are a staple for any live event because people need to be fed and watered. These deals work on many levels. For example, Gaymer’s Cider has partnered with us across Bestival and Camp Bestival but will work differently at each event. At Camp Bestival the cider brand has a pouring deal and at Bestival it will have a brand experience.

It has been interesting to note that gaming brands’ commitment to live events has grown over the past few years. That’s because the likes of Xbox and PlayStation want to be seen as multiplatform media channels. They aren’t just about playing games, but about listening to music, playing movies and social networking.

Gaming brands want to get behind festivals because it allows them to showcase their brand offering to their target audience in a creative space to a receptive crowd.

Also not all effective partnerships need to be commercially focused – at Camp Bestival we work with the Sunday Times and Nickelodeon as media partners and those relationships deliver on so many levels for all parties. We provide great content and a creative backdrop for their brand to come to life in a live space and they provide fantastic endorsement and a direct dialogue with our target audience.

We’ve always been very selective about over-branding our site. From the beginning it has been a priority to work very creatively with our partners to make sure their experience is integrated into the festival environment and isn’t seen as a corporate branding exercise. Working in this way is more likely to result in positive results for both the event owner and the brand.

The Frontline

We ask marketers on the frontline whether our ‘Trends’ research matches their experience on the ground

Matthew Langley
Consumer marketing manager for Brothers Cider

Festivals are very good for drinks brands. We definitely get a big blip in sales after Glastonbury. For us, the great thing is that consumers are sampling your product but they are paying for it. This means they’re attaching some value to it and are appraising it in a real-life situation. 

We send our top 1,000 fans some tokens for a free pint at our bar to say thanks for the support. They tend to be the most vocal people on festival forum e-festival, and we also keep an eye on our Facebook supporters. It’s all about building a relationship and making sure that our champion consumers are going to continue to support us.

We started life as a festival brand at Glastonbury in 1995. Each year it got busier and busier with more emails showing interest in Brothers. Ultimately it is a brand driven by consumer demand so we are good at working the social networking side of things, such as Facebook and Twitter.

Tara Steadman
Senior marketing manager at Look magazine

Our marketing strategy for the Look brand is founded on increasing awareness and creating compelling propositions that allow us to interact with our readers. With music festivals being a key date in our readers’ diaries and the intrinsic link between fashion and festivals, we believe they represent an opportunity for us to engage with our audience while continuing to build greater awareness.

We decided on the Isle of Wight festival because many of the festival-goers fall within Look’s 16- to 34-year-old female target market. Not only that, the atmosphere and ethos of the Isle of Wight festival sits well with the Look reader, who loves to enjoy life with her friends.

The response [to Look’s Pamper Parlour] was overwhelming. We had girls queuing up round the tent throughout the weekend, eager to take advantage of the free styling.  The atmosphere inside the marquee was fantastic, mirroring a typical Saturday night in our readers’ lives. For us, the event ticked the box in terms of delivering brilliant branding and engaging with our readers in exactly the way they like it.

Ian Moss
Marketing manager at Budweiser Budvar UK

We had recognised the need for a consumer-facing activity that would accelerate the word-of-mouth missionary process to the right audience. Following a call from the Cheltenham Jazz Festival, our research discovered that jazz and Budvar enjoyed a lot of synergies – pubs and bars are the main places where the UK’s grassroots scene goes on, so with over 50% of our business coming from this sector that also held possibilities.

After the first year’s sponsorship of the Cheltenham Jazz Festival we came up with the idea of hosting a place where people could go and hear jazz sessions free – a Budvar branded marquee in the centre of both Cheltenham and the festival. The Budvar Brewed Jazz event has subsequently become the place where you can find the best experimental jazz at the event, and the music critics and lifestyle writers have started referring regularly to notable performances “at the Budvar Marquee” in their write-ups. We have managed to turn a tent into a concept.

For the first time in 2009 it became the Budvar Cheltenham Jazz Festival and the accrual to us in useful consumer exposure has been enormous. Recently a major bar owner referred to us as “the jazzers beer”, which is good news for us.