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October 20, 2009

FESTIVAL CULTURE 3:Feel the experience

In the final part of our trilogy on how businesses are using the festival season to build their brands, Ian Whiteling picks out three examples of successful experiential activity that took place over the summer.

Relevance and creativity are two key factors in delivering a successful festival brand experience, and the summer’s campaigns for EA Games, Tuborg and White Stuff ticked both boxes.

For a start, you could hardly get a better example of three more relevant festival commodities than computer games (EA), beer (Tuborg) and fashion (White Stuff). All three products sit well within the festival setting, making it easier for the brands to make a connection with the audience and avoid looking opportunistic. From a creative perspective, each campaign also performed well, yet in quite different ways.

Fashion sense
Leisure clothing brand White Stuff’s activity was the least sophisticated of the three, but was still highly effective. Taking a traditional outdoor theme, it simply involved a beautifully branded caravan touring some of the summers’ smaller niche festivals and events, and connecting with visitors through useful giveaways.

Festival chic: White Stuff's touring caravan

Festival-goers could hardly look at the White Stuff caravan without smiling, and the innovative branded giveaways were designed to make their outdoor experience easier, ranging from fun items, such as beach balls and playing cards to the more practical teabags, bottled water and torches.

The White Stuff caravan roadshow’s schedule took in smaller events, including the Limetree Festival and Chadstock, as well as also turning up at the Henley Regatta and the Edinburgh Fringe.

Beer fest
In contrast to White Stuff’s small-scale campaign, lager brand Tuborg embarked on its biggest UK live marketing drive over the summer at four festivals: the Download, the Wireless, Reading and Leeds. Developed by Closer, the experiential arm of Billington Cartmell, the Tuborg campaign was a simple and original brand activation concept called Amp It Up.

Offering festival-goers a moment of fame, dedicated on-site Tuborg film crews encouraged visitors to show off their ‘festival style’ on video, the footage of which was then shown on the main and big screens at the respective events.

Style conscious: Festival-goers Amp It Up for Tuborg

Those who had agreed to ‘Amp It Up’ and appear on video were then given the chance to party backstage with their favourite bands and artists through an innovative competition. Every time the video footage stopped between band sets, the ‘face from the crowd’ that was currently appearing on-screen won one of the backstage passes. Participating festival-goers also received a special lanyard, which included festival information and money-off vouchers. 

Broader coverage
To extend the reach and life of the campaign, once the respective events were over, Closer enabled festival-goers to view extended festival highlights on Tuborg’s music website (www.tuborg.co.uk) and through various social networking sites. 

“Amp It Up not only resonated among the festival crowds and enhanced their festival experiences, it also drove sales and front-of-mind recall after the actual festivals were over thanks to the viral element,” said Closer group account director Chris Mallindine. “Furthermore, the data we collected gives us potential for subsequent e-marketing campaigns.”

Brand army
Rather than just generating brand awareness, EA Games used the festival season as the launch-pad for its new videogame Brütal Legend. A hilarious mix of Spinal Tap and Dungeons and Dragons, the game stars comedy actor Jack Black as a heavy metal roadie who is sent back in time to a mystical age where he must recruit an Army of Rock to defeat an evil overlord.

The game boasts a blistering rock soundtrack and a stellar cast of heavy metal icons, making it a perfect tie in to the rock festival format.

The Circle Agency put together a brand experience designed to use EA Games’ existing roadshow assets, as well as the excellent working relationships it already enjoyed with concert promoters Live Nation and hard rock festival Download – the same three-day event used by Tuborg.

Record breakers
The EA Hub, the award-winning mobile marketing vehicle managed by the Circle Agency, had exhibited at the festival, which attracts around 80,000 people, in previous years. Always enjoying a fantastic response, festival-goers would queue to play the latest EA videogames. This meant the profile of ‘Downloaders’ was already well-known to the Circle team. So, in a stroke of audience-targeting genius, Circle brought together Brütal Legend, the EA Hub and the enthusiastic Download audience for a special launch.

Taking its cue from the game’s Army of Rock theme, the idea was to create Brütal’s own rocking band of followers from festival goers, in an attempt to break the world record for the largest ever assembly of air guitarists. The Circle team spread the word once the festival had kicked off, promising not only a place in the Guiness Book of World Records for those participating, but also the chance to be the first people in the UK to try the game.

Up to eleven: Spinal Tap meets Dungeons and Dragons at EA's launch

This pre-promotion helped ensure a large crowd, while those taking part also received Brütal T-shirts and special merchandise bags for their efforts. The result was that 440 festival-goers rocked out to the Mötorhead metal classic The Ace of Spades, smashing the previous world record of 318.

All participants were data-captured to continue the conversation post-event – and were sent an email the following week inviting them to spot themselves on the EA Hub website and claim a free copy of the game on release.

Maximising return
The launch received more than 60 online mentions on news and community websites, including The Mirror and the BBC, as well as continuing mentions on heavy metal radio station Kerrang FM. It also maximised an existing asset – the EA Hub – and used it to deliver a targeted entertainment to a researched and receptive audience. This built advocacy and anticipation for the product, but also helped move the game into the mainstream through extensive PR coverage. This all but ensured the success of Brütal Legend some three months before its on-sale date.

“The Brütal Legend Air Guitar jam was a fantastic way of maximising an outdoor event, engaging a target consumer on and off-site and building brand evangelists,” sums up Circle Agency managing director Claire Stokes.

These three campaigns show just what brands can achieve through a festival presence, as long as relevance and creativity are given centre stage.


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