The added value of sponsorship at festivals

The festival season is upon us! In America alone more than 800 festivals will take place this festival season. Last year in the UK more than 14 million people attended a festival. This number is said to rise in 2016. With such audience numbers companies might be keen to sponsor music festivals. Except when you are BP, than you are not so keen anymore on sponsoring live events.

Edinburgh International Festival

This week BP announced it would not extend the sponsorship deal it had with the Edinburgh International Festival. They did sponsor the festival for 34 years. The British oil conglomerate says it is operating in a “challenging business environment”. That is an understatement as profits fell by more than 50% compared to last year. Sponsoring an event can be expensive.

Sponsorship events & festivals

In North America $860 million was spent on sponsoring festivals, fairs and annual events in 2015. That comes down to about 4% of the overall sponsorship market focused purely on events and festivals. Most brands are after the millennials. They are the biggest group attending music festivals.

Banners are never really useful...

Banners are never really useful...

A study from AEG and Momentum Worldwide looked at how millennials view brands that sponsor music festivals. 93% of those questioned said that they like brands that sponsor live events. Millennials attending live events like the brands that sponsor music events and think that these brands are more authentic.

To be honest I’m not sure how you come to the conclusion as a festival attendee that a brand is more authentic. Is it just because the brand is at the festival? Smirnoff teamed up with Live Nation, the world biggest live music promoter. Does that make Smirnoff more ‘authentic’?

Bud Light is also in a sponsorship deal with Live Nation. I am sure the beer brand is authentic but that’s really not on my mind when I order a beer at a festival. And then there is the sponsorship deal between Live Nation and Hilton Hotels. Authenticity… I’m also not a millennial so perhaps that’s where my confusion comes from.

Sponsorship can work out great for a company if this is the result they are after: festival fans like your brand! But sponsorship is more than just giving money or being on site. Brands need to add value to your festival. Brands need to stand out as otherwise no one will remember they were even there.

Sponsorship means standing out!

Last year I conducted research at festivals in America. One of the questions we asked attendees was whether they could name any organisations that supported the festival. Barely anyone could remember any names. And this was whilst the festival was still happening. Not a week or a month later. Perhaps these attendees failed to recognize authenticity…

Sponsorship can give brands fantastic exposure but they need to do something unique. Don’t just be present. Do something! Provide an experience to festival fans. A useful experience if any. Or, at least, give them something to talk about. Festival fans want to feel, hear, and touch your sponsors. The era of the banners is behind us.

BP ended their sponsorship deal with the Edinburgh International Festival. There are plenty of people who think that’s a good thing. After all, an oil company sponsoring art? According to some fans of the festival their association with BP was “doing too much damage to the festival’s reputation”. That bring us back to why you want certain brands sponsoring your festival in the first place: what is the added value to your event? Figure out what a brand can add to the overall experience of your festival fans.

Please visit my website for more information. Or check out my online workshop in Event Marketing.