Does Sponsorship Enhance the Festival experience?? 18th September, 2012

So it’s the middle of yet another mild British summer and I’m standing in the middle of a muddy field, surrounded by an eclectic array of people listening to very loud music and to cap it all off it’s raining – who would have imagined this would be the perfect environment for brand engagement.

Music festivals have become an important and developing platform for sponsorship by larger and smaller brands alike. For the festival organisers sponsorship is an important revenue stream, and from the brand’s perspective, the sponsorship of music festivals and events provides opportunities for bespoke communication and interaction with the predominantly young and receptive festival audience. However, are the brands actually concerned about improving the festival experience or are they just in it for their own benefit?

Whether or not corporate sponsorship activation should be allowed within the festival arena is the subject of much debate, with many events such as the Green Man Festival in the Brecon Beacons adopting the traditional ‘Early Glastonbury’ or ‘Woodstock’ approach of zero-branding. However, the real question that should be asked is whether or not the sponsorship actually benefits the experience of the attendees. After all, this is the sole reason for attending the festival in the first place.

Festival goers are passionate about music but most go to festivals first and foremost for the overall experience, something that can be looked back on for years after the event has passed. With this in mind, surely the primary objective of the festival organiser is to ensure that festival goers have the best time possible and if brand activations can help achieve this then why should they be sidelined?

In a study by Havas Sports and Entertainment of six festivals across six European countries and involving 2,244 respondents, they found that 65% of music festival goers believe brands improve the festival experience; with 60% interacting with two or more brands at festivals and 85% liking the brand activations they visited.

In the case of the Green Man and others, it appears that festival organisers do not want to draw too much attention to the sponsors in fear that this would have a negative effect on the integrity of the event. However, Havas’s study does much to dispel the view that music festivals are a dangerous arena for brand sponsors and suggests brands are a welcome part of the festival experience if they develop activations that add value.

Sponsorship therefore delivers a three-way benefit, as the more attendees that partake in and enjoy the activations, the stronger the relationship with the brands and the event. In the over-saturated and intensely competitive festival market of today, festival organisers are constantly looking for new ways in which to attract and retain their audience. As a result, engagement is becoming increasingly expensive, with sponsorship therefore proving to be a highly cost-effective method in which to enhance the overall festival experience.