FEATURE: Music festivals grow up - Major brands are wisening up to the value of music festivals as a promotional vehicle for reaching the lucrative youth market. David McCormack reports

The last five years have witnessed a transformation in the great British tradition of summer music festivals.

The last five years have witnessed a transformation in the great

British tradition of summer music festivals.

Events that were historically associated with rain, mud and poor toilet

facilities have become more professional in their organisation. The

public profile of festivals has never been higher and neither has the

amount of corporate sponsorship involved.

Major brands have begun to realise the wealth of promotional and

marketing opportunities to be had at the variety of music festivals that

occur throughout the summer season.

’Music festivals have become an important arena for youth marketing,

connecting brands with a popular lifestyle,’ says Richard Moore,

managing director of specialist PR and sponsorship agency


According to Mike Mathieson, MD of youth agency Cake, the reason is the

type of audience these events attracts. ’For these brands you are

attracting a core market of half a million people aged 15-30 who are out

going, independent, opinion forming, into cutting edge music and in a

field for three days,’ he says.

Whether established rock events such as Glastonbury or more modern dance

festivals such as Creamfields, festivals are becoming a playground for

major brands wishing to target the young consumer with a disposable

income and a long purchasing life ahead of them.

Sponsorship at music festivals has been going on for years, but until

recently it was unsophisticated.

Companies tended to do little more than display branded banners.

But brands now realise that being creative and bringing something to the

event can really improve the image they have with the media-savvy

audience of opinion formers they have on site. Creative sponsorship can

also help create news stories around the event, which helps reach an

even greater audience.

The role of the PR agency can be to educate the brand how to communicate

with this particular audience.’If done in the right way, music

sponsorship can be integral to an event. But if it doesn’t work it turns

people off,’ says Peter Stroyan, head of entertainment at KLP Euro


’Consumers nowadays are very brand-literate and appreciate good

promotion,’ adds KLP senior project manager, Natasha Kizzie.

A festival stalwart over the past five years, Bacardi is a case study

representative of the power of festival sponsorship.

As a brand, Bacardi found itself with a serious image problem during the

early 1990s - for many people, the drink epitomised 1970s dinner parties

rather than 1990s club culture. So Bacardi decided to reinvent and

invigorate the brand by focusing on its Cuban heritage and aiming at a

younger audience.

As part of this brief, Capitalize was appointed to oversee promotional

work for Bacardi Spice at the Reading Festival in 1996.

According to Moore, Bacardi was initially unsure of the wisdom of an

association with music festivals. In the first year, Capitalize attended

Reading with Bacardi Spice in association with Doctor Martens and handed

out drink samples. The second year, a slightly bigger campaign was

carried out, and by the third year the brand was confident enough to

invest in the Bacardi B Bar.

’The aim was to recreate a piece of Cuba based on Bacardi’s Cuban

heritage, which dates back to 1862, and have salsa dancing which created

a very positive media response,’ explains Moore.

Last year the B Bar visited nine festivals. This year the campaign is

bigger again with a dance floor twice the size and renowned DJs signed


’The concept has moved from a simple bar to something able to generate

news stories through the DJs, percussionists and henna tattooists

appearing,’ says Moore.

Marketing service agency KLP helped create the first branded festival T

in the Park in 1994, sponsored by Tennants. As a result, it was then

involved in the creation of the V festival, sponsored by Virgin and

Budweiser. Most recently, it has been involved with the rebranding of

the former Reading Festival, now known as the Carling Weekender.

KLP handled below the line activities for T in the Park and the Carling

Weekender, reporting to Bass Brewers. ’It works best if you can

incorporate the brand’s name in the events title without it seeming

overtly commercial,’ says Stroyan.

According to Kizzie, the key benefits to being a title sponsor is the

brand getting press mentions in the six months lead up to the event.

’If the brand is perceived to add value, it can get involved for

cheaper. If the festival promoters see blatant advertising then they are

likely to say no,’ says Stroyan.

Nowhere is this need to provide value greater than at Glastonbury. While

the most non-corporate of the festivals, corporate sponsorship is still

to be seen everywhere.

Glastonbury founder Michael Evis is very protective of his festival

becoming too commercialised. Instead of corporate banners, the stages

promote charities such as Greenpeace. However, even Glastonbury is not

without its sponsors, although they are referred to as partners and they

must fit the brief of bringing something to the festival experience.

This year’s partners included Select magazine, which provided a free

daily newspaper, and Orange, which provided extra mobile phone masts as

well as a chill out area where people could recharge their phones. This

year, its second as a Glastonbury partner, Orange appointed Capitalize

to handle communications.

Even if not an official sponsor or partner, brands can attend the

festivals as traders. For instance, festival regular Rizla Cafe provides

a venue for revellers to ’chill out’, buy tea and coffee and listen to

music all within a subtly branded tent. The Smirnoff Orbit at this

year’s Glastonbury Festival is another example of a company, although

not an official partner, gaining valuable exposure.

While traditional events like Glastonbury can be very precious about

which sponsors are involved, the dance festival scene has very much

embraced corporate sponsorship. Ericsson, using Slice for PR, is

involved with Homelands, while Evian is associated with Creamfields.

’The dance music industry was built with the aid of sponsorship, so it’s

not a problem in the dance arena. In rock, there is much more idealism

against sponsorship,’ says Stroyan.

’Clubbers as a generation are very brand conscious,’ agrees


What Orange and drink brands can bring to a music festival is pretty

self-explanatory, but for other brands it can be harder.

Hair product brand Wella Shock Waves is a V2000 sponsor, branding the

dance tent. In a bid to prove itself creative to its captive audience,

Wella is providing a hair styling tent next to the camp site so that

revellers can wake up in the morning and have their hair styled by

Wella’s consultants.

’If something is perceived as too corporate it will be rejected. The

best way to communicate is to give something back,’ says Mathieson.

Most PROs involved in festival sponsorship agree that whatever the

amount spent on taking part at an event, the same amount again must be

spent to achieve effective results.

’Whatever the production budget double it to be able to maximise the

exposure,’ says Mathieson.

Stroyan agrees, ’Music sponsorship can provide excellent value for money

but sponsors need to do it well. If you spend pounds 200,000 then you

need to spend as much again implementing and PRing it.’

Music sponsorship is not nearly as advanced or as lucrative as sports

sponsorship at present. ’In sponsorship terms, music is very good value

for money,’ Moore says.

However, Stroyan is reticent about whether every brand can succeed.

’There needs to be some strategic fit. Live music and drink go together,

mobile phones make sense when there are 50,000 people in a field. But it

gets more difficult if you get into car manufacturers, for instance -

how are you adding value?’

The bottom line is that musical talent is vital to the success of a

music event.

’There is room for more sponsors but they have to be very selective

about events. There is only room for a finite number of events which are

still dependent on artists’ availability. A common criticism is that too

many events have the same line up which depends on how many big artists

are touring and have new material at that time,’ says Mathieson.

But provided the musical talent is around, the opportunities are out

there. It may not be long until our music festivals are being brought to

us in association with Microsoft.






Radio 1

The Guardian

The Carling Weekender:


Radio 1



UK Play



Virgin Trains


Virgin Radio



JJB Arena

Wella Shockwaves


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