What it's like telling the story of what we think is the greatest merger of all time: food and music.
When we started 44 Communications in 2010, we had an expertise in hospitality public relations and a professional history of executing campaigns for a range of celebrity chefs and big-name hotels. We certainly had a passion for music and saw its importance play out in the venues we worked with, but it wasn't a topic getting much ink in our press releases or placements.
Enter Superfly Presents, most known for founding Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, TN, that little festival that Rolling Stone called one of the “50 moments that changed rock and roll forever.” Superfly's four founding partners, Rick Farman, Jonathan Mayers, Kerry Black, and Rich Goodstone, were New Yorkers who met while studying at Tulane University. Having always found inspiration in New Orleans' rich music and food culture and they, along with partners Another Planet Entertainment, were translating that inspiration into a culinary experience at Outside Lands, three years old at the time and San Francisco's largest music festival. We were all in within 20 seconds of hearing about the opportunity to tell the story of the intersection of food and music.
No one knew what was possible. Superfly had a longstanding relationship with the powerhouse music PR firm Big Hassle, which had secured ample press in the way of artist interviews and festival roundups. Praise had been given to everything from the festival's impact on the local economy to its lineup to its atmosphere, but press had never covered its food lineup or menu items, locally loved and James Beard Award-winning chefs, or biodynamic winemakers.
When we sent our first press release and started working the phones, we told the story of how Outside Lands was changing the meaning of concert concessions forever by kicking greasy hot dogs and pizza to the wayside. Instead, they were giving 65,000 fans the opportunity to find toasted nori wraps, Hawaiian Poke, fresh pressed coconut juice, and kegged organic Sauvignon Blanc while catching Phoenix, Kings of Leon, My Morning Jacket (on the 2010 lineup), we stepped back and thought “Honestly, how do you not fall in love with this?”
Since our lead time and directive for the first campaign was tilted toward a short sprint at pitching local press, our biggest scores were with the San Francisco Chronicle, where we placed both a feature on the food and a feature on the wine, as well as EATER, Grub Street, and 7x7. By 2011, the Outside Lands food lineup had nearly doubled to include more than 50 top San Francisco restaurants and more than 30 wineries. We had a longer campaign run, allowing us to place the festival on the national radar with a spotlight in Details and a tidal wave of local press. Aside from expanding on our local and national reach, we embraced the music press and scored a piece in Rolling Stone. We also created Summer Pairings Series, a PR and marketing initiative that brought the festival to life in advance of its August weekend with pop-up summer picnics at Napa and Sonoma Vineyards and tasting menus at participating San Francisco restaurants.
In 2011, Superfly hired us to talk about the food and beer at Bonnaroo's tenth anniversary. By 2012, we were executing campaigns for Outside Lands, Bonnaroo, and embarking on the most ambitious campaign yet – introducing Great GoogaMooga to Brooklyn, NY. Collaborating with Rubenstein and Big Hassle, we messaged GoogaMooga for what it was – the coolest food festival to be found, an amusement park of food, drink, and music, and a celebration of New York culture.
At time of writing, we're managing our third campaign for Outside Lands and Bonnaroo and our second campaign for GoogaMooga.
What we've learned is if a topic is as fun as this one, pitching press by their respective beat is wonderfully less relevant. Music press want to write about food and food press want to write about music, and there is no stopping there. While still giving great attention to the culinary experience of each festival, we also increasingly approach storytelling from a lifestyle perspective, expanding on the food and music angles into those of style, travel, and pure summer fun. We're hitting on such universal passion points in peoples' lives that the story opportunities are endless and the conversation is ongoing.
Alexandra Hynes is a partner at 44 Communications. She can be reached at Alexandra@44-communications.com.