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August 15, 2007

FESTIVAL SEASON 3: When the brand takes charge

A new phenomenon in festival sponsorship is the brand-funded event. In this case, the festival is created especially for the brand. The most successful of these are aimed at a much broader audience than traditional music festivals and directly encourage families to get involved, such as Innocent Drink’s Village Fete and Ben & Jerry’s Sundae, both held in London.

“The benefit of this kind of festival is that it is a totally brand-owned event that is unrestricted in terms of how it is used and also the impact it can make,” explains Cameron Day, business development director at experiential marketing agency Iris Experience. “Rather than piggy-backing on an existing event, this approach allows a brand to create something that is a complete manifestation of its brand values and an wholly-owned property. Creating cultural phenomena that is intrinsically tied to a brand should be the pinnacle of brand sponsorship, although with creativity, it is true that clever association with existing events can also be hugely successful.”

Major challenges
So why aren’t there more of these kind of events? What are the drawbacks?

“Cost and content are key challenges here,” Day replies. “Creating an event from scratch can be expensive. What’s more, very few brands have the ability to be able to create their own original brand-owned content. There are some brands that can easily develop an event that on paper sounds interesting either because they are brands that are rich in personality, like Red Bull or Innocent, or have products that are easy to build an event around, such as Apple and Nike. Then there are those brands that by their very nature lead to social occasions, such as Smirnoff and Starbucks.”

However, Day claims that the majority of brands don't have these attributes to play with. “As a result,” he says, “it becomes a lot more difficult to create an event without having to invest heavily in content, such as headline music acts.”

The Whiteling kids enjoy Ben & Jerry's Sundae as much as adults

The perfect Sundae

Live marketing agency Cake created the Ben & Jerry’s Sundae for the ice cream brand. Held annually on one day – 12 noon to 8pm – on Clapham Common in south London, it’s an enclave of summer fun for all the family. This year there were special activities for kids, such as a helter skelter (which actually lots of adults were enjoying, too) animals provided and supervised by a local urban farm and a design-your-own-cookie area (which, again, also attracted as many grown-ups as kids).

For adults, there was an interesting line up of bands, from newcomer Kate Nash – which proved to be a real coup, her album topping the UK charts soon after her appearance – to popsters The Feeling and art rockers The Bees. There were also the obligatory bars, which were never overcrowded, and a selection of excellent natural and organic food stalls. However, probably best of all were the 24 different types of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream that was available free of charge at various special stalls all day – a treat for both kids and adults!

The atmosphere was terrific, really buzzy and fun. And there was indeed a broad age range, from teenagers and 20-somethings to families. Labour MP Geoff Hoon was even spotted.

Reaching out

So how did this event come about and what does Ben & Jerry’s gain from it?

“The initial brief we pitched for was for a campaign that extended Ben & Jerry’s current marketing into areas that it was finding difficult to reach, but there was only a limited budget,” explains Mike Mathieson, Cake’s chief executive.

“We came up with the idea of a Ben & Jerry’s festival and it is now in its third year, and proving to be a huge success by fulfilling it’s aim of reaching families in the London and South East.”

Cake gauges the success by the fact that the festival sells out in a matter of hours, and by the sheer volume of email Ben & Jerry’s receives directly from festival goers after the event.

Of course, an event like this doesn’t just reach its festival goers. There’s an advertising campaign in the run up, plus media coverage on the back of the bands that are performing, who will themselves be promoting their presence. And this year there was also a BBC TV film crew interviewing festival goers on site.

The key, as with any kind of sponsorship, is choosing the content with absolute care, because done badly an event like this can be highly damaging to a brand. With a brand-owned event, excellent organisation is also crucial, because the brand will be directly associated with how smoothly the festival runs. However, get everything right and you have an incredibly powerful brand experience that can engage an audience like nothing else. Ben & Jerry’s, for example, had its festival goers directly under its influence for eight whole hours!

Related articles
FESTIVAL SEASON: The effect of summer event sponsorship

FESTIVAL SEASON 2: Success by brand association
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