It’s that time of year again when nearly five million music fans1 flock to fields across the country to drink warm beers, pray to the sun gods and soak up their favourite music. Not far behind are brands keen to reach an audience that is near impossible to connect with via traditional media. Since the return of live events last year, we’ve seen sponsors flood back to festivals and the industry needs them more than ever. Making a show profitable is becoming ever more challenging with the rising cost of materials, labour shortages and unreliable travel just the tip of the iceberg.
It’s not all doom and gloom though, the music industry rebounded strongly in 2021 which was partly driven by the welcome return of live events with +200% growth compared to the previous year. However, that is still only 50% of 2019 pre-pandemic levels2.
Brands provide ongoing support and funding to events and in return get access to an untouchable demographic. Fresh faces on the circuit like cinch and Luno are taking the opportunity to shout from the speaker stacks. Whilst you might know their name, brands need to do more than sign a headline sponsorship deal or dress a stage to make a lasting impact on fans.
Everything tastes, looks, and feels better when it’s free right? With a captive audience, it’s the perfect opportunity to get fans to try your brand. 51% of people believe the best way for sponsors to engage with them at a festival is through giveaways3. However, it’s important to consider that fans are becoming increasingly concerned with the impact businesses have on the environment and society. Single-use portable chargers or plastic visors won’t cut it anymore with 82% of music fans concerned about climate change4. This year FTX US gave Coachella attendees an NFT flower which unlocked access to various rewards and prizes. This digital memento was built on the Solana blockchain which is known for its lower environmental impact compared to other platforms.
When asked what festival-goers missed most from the cancellation of events in 2020 the most common response was the atmosphere5. Music festivals create an environment where fans are open to new experiences, are looking to be entertained and have the time to enjoy themselves. In a space built for hedonism and escaping the nine to five, it’s important to create something that does exactly that. Brands need to be prepared to tap into the fun and less serious side of their DNA, which can in turn be powerful in shifting consumer perceptions and driving deeper emotional affinity with your product. 2019 saw the death of Jägermeister’s standout multi-level space the Jägerhaus, but other brands have been quick to fill the void. Bacardi with their transformative Casa Bacardi concept transports fans to the heart of high-energy Cuba.
54% of Gen Zs in the UK believe they have more freedom to be their authentic selves than previous generations6 and they want the same from brands they interact with. They respect brands that are transparent and honest with them. Rather than having to sell yourself through ads, experiences or freebies music festivals provide a platform to tell your story and educate fans. As part of Made in America festival, DHL presented ‘Cause Village’ a hub for social action which provided a platform to talk about their brand values and encouraged over 23,500 festival attendees to commit to living more sustainably.
It’s never too early to start planning for next festival season to ensure you get a head start on your competition. As we’ve witnessed first hand, fans are open to brands turning up at their favourite festival providing their message is authentic and they add to their experience in a way that reflects the atmosphere and ethos of the event. In return the opportunity to reach these customers on a deeper level is unparalleled.
1Music by Numbers 2019 – UK Music, 2019
2Music in the Air – Goldman Sachs, 2022
3State of Play: UK Festivals – Ticketmaster, 2019
4Turn Up the Volume – University of Glasgow, 2022
5The future of UK music festivals – House of Commons Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, 2021
6Culture Next – Spotify, 2021
Data: State of Play: UK Festivals – Ticketmaster, 2019. The future of UK music festivals – House of Commons Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, 2021. IFPI, Goldman Sachs Global Investment Research, 2022.