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August 15, 2007
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FESTIVAL SEASON 2: Success by brand association




Last week, EVENTS:review looked at research from live marketing agency Out of the Blue Communications that revealed the potential of festival sponsorship to engage with one of the most difficult age ranges to reach, the 18-24 group. It also showed how festival goers’ perceptions of brands can be influenced by having a clear visible presence at such an event. Certainly there seems to be an increase in festivals, many of which appear to be heavily sponsored, so is this really the case?

“Over the last three or four years there has been a huge rise in boutique music festivals,” says Mike Mathieson, chief executive of live marketing agency Cake.
“The increase has been fuelled in part by the desire of brands to interact with the audience they attract.”

Iris Experience’s business development director Cameron Day agrees, adding that festivals are also appealing to a broader age range. “The newer ones are catering for a wider spread of interests and audiences, therefore making them interesting to a greater variety of brands to sponsor,” he says.

Increased competition

However, Day is keen to point out that this is creating more competition between brands looking to sponsor festivals.

“Essentially, the opportunities are broadening,” he continues, “and while this is great for brands in terms of new brand alliance potential, it also means they have a tough job on their hands ensuring the tie-ups are relevant, engaging and truly pay back to the brand.”

So why have brands suddenly become so keen to sponsor festivals? What concrete returns are they getting?

“The value with any effective sponsorship – and festivals are no different – is that it provides a relevant and credible platform for a number of different activities through the association it creates in a consumers mind,” explains Day. “A good sponsorship will allow a brand to open a channel of communication with its target audience, through a shared interest. Beyond the event itself, this can be leveraged through public relations, promotions, hospitality, branding, awareness and customer relationship management opportunities.”

Carling Weekender

Cake has been involved in helping the Carling lager brand, now owned by Coors, get the most from its festival sponsorship. One of the biggest, and probably best, examples is the Carling Weekender that takes placed in Leeds at the end of August. Of course, sponsoring an event like this must be done with the utmost care and attention to detail. It’s vital, particularly with the growing competition in festival sponsorship, that any activity a brand carries out perfectly complements the message it’s trying to get across.

“It’s no use selling Carling lager warm, for example, or badly kept, or if festival goers have to queue for ages to get a pint,” insists Mathieson. “As a result, the Carling brand’s owners have invested heavily in special multi-pouring dispensing machines to speed up the serving process – which also means more lager is sold. And each festival presence is supported by a technical crew for quality control purposes.

“Also consumers are now a cynical bunch, so simply getting the target audience right is not enough, they also have to be convinced by the product. Festivals provide Carling with a real opportunity to do something different that’s creative and engaging. It’s a great chance to reach out to your audience with a tailor-made functional activity.

“And if this links with a practical application,” Mathieson continues, “so much the better. For example, many festivals are sponsored by mobile phone brands, which provides re-charging stations and an alert facility to keep festival-goers up to date on what’s happening at the event, among other services.”

Getting it right
So how can a company find out if festival sponsorship is right for their brand? Well, for as start, it depends on marketing aims.

“The right festival sponsorship can solve a number of brand, marketing and business challenges if used correctly,” says Day. “These can include targeting a niche audience, shifting a brand image, providing a credible link to music, and making their product relevant, to name but a few.”

Once it has been established that festival sponsorship could help, how does a company go about deciding what event to get involved with?

“First, understand your own challenges and audience and then research as much as possible on the events themselves,” answers Day. “A huge amount of money is wasted on irrelevant, meaningless sponsorship – and as worldwide sponsorship spend increases, so too does this wastage. Brands should be clear on what they want to stand for, how they want to communicate with their audience and their specific brand objectives. It can also help to speak to other brand owners who are working with these events.”

Or, of course, enlist the help of a marketing agency with experience in this specific area.



Budweiser pushes its Glastonbury presence



Budweiser at Glastonbury

But get it right and the gains can be enormous. For example, Budweiser’s festival activity at Glastonbury between 2003 and 2005, organised by Iris Experience, which targeted 18 to 24-year-olds with the aim of getting them to associate the brand with music and the event, worked very well.

The Crown, high-quality destination bar open for five days from 11am till 3am, featuring eclectic, multi-genre talent, was created, plus exclusive branding secured across 19 on-site bars, including event cups. This activity was supported by an on-cup phone text competition, pre-event advertising in lifestyle and music magazines, plus in-bar promotion. From an ethical standpoint – a key hook for festival goers – Carling encouraged festival goers to recycle through a range of services and communication, its core message being ‘Keep Glastonbury coming back’.

And the results? Around 78% of all press coverage correctly referred to Budweiser as the ‘official beer of Glastonbury’; the Crown was at capacity from 11pm to 3am each night and became the highest selling bar and the after hours destination of the festival; 150 tonnes of waste was recycled, more than double the 2003 total of 60 tonnes; and more than 500,000 pints were purchased and over 1.2 million samples delivered.

No that’s what you call making an impact.

Next week EVENTS:review’s final festival sponsorship article looks at the new phenomenon of brand-owned events…

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FESTIVAL SEASON: the effect of event sponsorship

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