Five ways to get the most out of a festival partnership

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One thing we all missed when the global pandemic struck, was the ability to meet up in large numbers like a huge gig or festival.

Thankfully, live events have staged a massive comeback as we all get used to mixing again.

So how are brands getting back into the swing at a major event?

Will Dowdy, Vice President – Global Partnerships at global live shows powerhouse AEG Presents.

Here, he takes us through how some of the world’s leading brands are adapting how they interact with us at a big show…

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Brands are investing more in events than ever before, with the latest IPA Bellwether data revealing that 18.7% of marketers expected their budgets in this area to grow.

And why is that? Live events create moments that are shared a thousand times and last a lifetime.

And brands know that by being part of that moment or, better still, enhancing it, they can build a real connection with people that traditional media could only dream of.

A few years back, I remember pulling a wonky trolly loaded with four day’s kit and three small kids – one jacked-up on Skittles, two crying – from the Camp Bestival car park up to the camp site at the top of a muddy hill: I was close to tears myself.

Unannounced, two beaming Volvo brand ambassadors grabbed the trolly off me and ran it up the hill, singing ‘I predict a riot’ to my kids, just because they’d seen us turn up in a battered XC90.

It brought surprise and delight in equal measure, and because of it, I love Volvo and the brand will be forever in my heart.

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Glory days: Dowdy has fond memories of brand interactions at Camp Bestival.

Partnerships can make a huge difference to the customer experience at events, and in return, live events provide a platform for brands to engage face-to-face with captive audiences.

With festival season about to get underway, there are a whole range of opportunities on the cards for brands who want to engage with the diverse range of audiences attending this year.

The focus should always be on enhancing rather than interrupting the fan experience. Ultimately, audiences are more likely to remember your brand if you were able to make an already memorable day extra special.

The team at AEG Global Partnerships works with brands to ensure that the activations they run at festivals are truly effective and hit their objectives – and with more than 10 years of American Express presents BST Hyde Park and five years of Uber One presents All Points East under our belts, we know what works.

There are a few things that can really help to add that extra value to your festival partnership spend, whether you’re new to the game or an old hand.

These are the five that always stand out to me:

  • Tailoring approaches based on demographic

Taking this year’s BST Hyde Park as an example there is a significant variance in audience demographic based on the artist.

While nearly a third (32%) of those attending for one act are under 25, only seven per cent of the audience for another are the same age. And of course, the interests and life values of the audiences also vary based on artist.

The differences between the audiences for shows can be an opportunity for brands that can tailor their activations accordingly.

We’re seeing some partners change approach based on the make-up of the audience, and Asahi UK, which having recognised the increased focus on no- and low-alcohol options amongst Gen Z, will be offering Peroni Nastro Azzurro 0.0% and Asahi Super Dry 0.0% at the festival this year.

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Choices: Asahi Super Dry will be just one of the 0% alcohol offerings at BST Hyde Park this year..

As a result, their partnerships will be more effective because they are responding to the needs and desires of specific groups, rather than taking a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach.

  • Promoting brand values and purpose

Brands are increasingly using their activations to further the aims of broader campaigns, such as Coca-Cola drawing on its partnership with Gay Times to support LGBTQIA+ musicians and L’Oréal Paris bringing its charity partnership with the Suzy Lamplugh Foundation to Uber One presents All Points East.

The learning from this is that interactions at festivals do not have to be transactional – and in fact, brands that are able to engage the audience based on their beliefs and values reap the rewards.

Both Coke and L’Oreal are showing their authenticity by investing in these projects long-term; the message is consistent and genuine.

  • Piggybacking on existing infrastructure

As part and parcel of what they do, festival organisers already have relationships with production companies that bring live events to life.

Those relationships have the potential to deliver significant value for partners, generating cost savings and reducing the overall investment required to get activations off the ground.

Cost savings aside, we’ve found that expanding our relationship with LS Events has helped to enhance the activations themselves.

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Valued partners: AEG partners with LS Events for major events.

They know the festival site and the wider infrastructure involved, which means they can build activations into the fabric of the event both creatively and thematically, which drives greater authenticity.

That authenticity and integration is at the heart of successful partnerships – supporting the fan experience rather than sticking out.

  • Embracing omnichannel opportunities

Audience engagement for festivals is no longer restricted to the day of attendance and for brands, shouldn’t be approached as a “just a moment in time” campaign.

Customer engagement through digital communications, such as festival apps, give the festival, and the memories, a great longevity.

It is possible for brands to communicate with their target audiences before the event even takes place, during, through creative activations but also with smart data capture techniques, and long after the event has finished, by using a combination of push messages and programmatic to engage for longer and at a deeper level.

It is important to remember that festival partnerships can also act as a linchpin for associated marketing activity.

Ideally, your activations will form part of a wider campaign, bringing in direct marketing to existing customers, PR, social media and even location-based OOH advertising.

  • Effective evaluation for continuous improvement

Finally, when you are working with a festival or live event long-term, it is important to ensure there are robust measurement strategies in place, so that you can learn from the current year’s activity to boost effectiveness in the next.

We have a dedicated research team in place, which means we are able to track key measures like consideration and favourability well, identifying successes and areas for improvement, and making recommendations for activity the next time round.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay
Measurement strategies: Dedicated research teams assess past events to boost effectiveness for future shows

Each brand needs to find the right activation strategy for them, but at a time of increased scrutiny on budgets, being able to maximise return of investment and show added value is critical.

The first step to getting it right is always a conversation with the festival organiser – whether that’s AEG or another – because we are in this together, looking to give people their best day of the year.