The Age of the Guerilla Marketing Campaign is Upon Us 18th September, 2013

A Slingshot favourite, Arcade Fire (yes, they are of Canadian origin – and yes, we are reminded of this each time they grace the office speakers – our MD’s Canadian) recently embarked upon a marketing campaign of epic proportions to promote their fourth studio album, Reflektor.  For the past month or so, music blogs alike have been roused by the appearance of guerilla graffiti across the streets of the United States.  For months, bloggers questioned the ownership of these cryptic symbols; fans were handed out at both Lollapalooza and FYF Festival emblazoned with the symbols and sightings began to spring up across Europe and through various social media channels.  All of this, for an album release.

Gone are the days, it seems, of albums being released through traditional marketing campaigns – billboards being hung weeks prior to the release date and artists trudging around one radio station after another.  Of course, these channels are still very much a part of the routine, but it seems that the advance of digital and social technology has disrupted the traditional model – opening a plethora of opportunity for those musicians with a unique vision, or ones (ahem, Katy Perry) that wish to wow with extravagance.

In light of the influx of guerilla and viral marketing campaigns, I have decided to put together my top 3.

The xx – Coexist

In poll position – For the release of their follow up to the critically acclaimed ‘xx,’ The xx embarked upon a marketing campaign that embodied so perfectly the power of word of mouth in the digital age.  On 3rd September 2012, The xx gave one fan the location of a website which hosted a preview of the album Coexist.  The Coexist streaming site featured a map tracking shares as they occurred with a beautiful visualisation, inspired by Aaron Koblin’s flight patterns.  Just twenty-four hours after the stream was shared with a single fan on Facebook, the site crashed from the millions of streams, with the average user spending 2.1 hours on the site and what is more, you were able to see all of this unfold from your computer screen.

Nine Inch Nails – The Year Zero

Fans of Nine Inch Nails had been eagerly awaiting the release of the band’s new album; after examining one of their tour t-shirts fans realised thathighlighted letters from the shirt spelled out the phrase ‘I am trying to believe.’  As it turned out, this was a website filled with cryptic messaging.  As fans began to delve deeper into the digital sphere, more and more clues began to emerge, phone numbers were uncovered within tracks and when called, fictional characters answered; flash drives containing the complete album were left in public toilets and Google Maps was utilised to award fans with free tickets and NIN memorabilia.  NIN’s marketing campaign brought back the excitement of discovering music, making it all the sweeter.

Radiohead – In Rainbows

Not necessarily as show-stopping as the two previous examples, but the release of Radiohead’s seventh album, In Rainbows, wholly shook up a very stagnant music industry.  Never one to shy away from controversy, Thom Yorke et al decided to dispel the on-going issue of illegal downloading and released their album directly to fans, with an offer; wait for it… to pay whatever they wanted. With 3 million downloads in the first year and $10 million in revenue, In Rainbows swiftly became the band’s most successful commercial success to date.  What is most significant about this marketing campaign is that it restored faith within the music fan – emphasising that fans really are still willing to pay.

When Sponsorship Goes Green… 10th September, 2012

With the increasing prominence of environmental issues, event organisers can no longer neglect such concerns when planning for their respective event. This has led to ever more sophisticated green strategies, as well as a number of award shows, conferences and competitions dedicated solely to sustainability; the Tree-Athlon, the What Car? Green Awards and the International Green Awards to name a few.

In his latest blog post “Olympic Sponsorship: Remember the Positives”, Nick Anderson mentioned such “sponsorships [were] becoming dangerously close to having an adverse effect on certain brands”: McDonald’s and Coca Cola were both heavily criticised in the early stages of their Olympic sponsorship. Nevertheless their Recycling program is playing a big part in achieving LOCOG’s goal to hold the most sustainable Games ever. At the beginning of the Games, Coca Cola placed 4,000 branded recycling bins across the venues and the Olympic Park, committing to recycle every soft drink bottle that was put in the bins into a new one within six weeks. Furthermore all Coca‑Cola products currently sold at the Olympic and Paralympic Games are in 100 per cent recyclable PET packaging containing 25 per cent recycled plastic and 22.5 per cent plant-based plastic. Those are just two examples of many actions that Coca Cola took ahead of the Games to implement their sustainable strategy.

Another example of this development is the recyclable McDonald’s restaurant that was built on the Olympic site. With this initiative, McDonald’s aim at reusing 75% of the restaurant and recycling almost everything else by re-allocating all the furniture and equipment to McDonald’s UK restaurant estate after the Games.

But it is not just sports events that are concerned by this green movement. Music festivals and their sponsors are increasingly trying to integrate sustainability within their sponsorship strategies. According to a Havas Sports & Entertainment Research, 80 per cent of European festival goers strongly feel that sponsors need a green strategy. The Glastonbury Festival in the UK seems to have it right, through partnerships with WaterAid, Oxfam and Greenpeace as proofs of its environmental commitment. The 2012 Reading Festival, which took place two weeks ago, followed this trend as well by launching a Recycling Champion competition two months before the event. The Student Recycling Champion worked with Every Can Counts to help promote the recycling of drinks cans and he got a chance to get backstage access to this major music event.

A benchmark example in the US comes from the Lollapalooza Festival in Chicago that dedicated a whole area within its site, called the Green Street, to showcase various environmental initiatives from different organisations and to engage festival goers. The Lollapalooza Festival included several charities and environmental groups in its sponsorship portfolio and gave them the chance to promote their environmental projects.

As the Havas Sports & Entertainment Research study proved, it is important to understand that “green sponsorship” is vital to every right owner and sponsor, no matter which age group they target. A decade ago sponsors with a green strategy were unique. Nowadays it has become a fundamental requirement of any sponsorship strategy. Thus whether you are a right owner or a sponsor, don’t miss out on the sustainability trend and seize the opportunity to make something unique out of it.

Are UK Music Festivals Created with Cookie Cutters? Outlook Festival Proves Not 4th September, 2012

The Slingshot Sponsorship team just got back from an amazing week in Croatia at Outlook Festival – Winner of the UK’s Best Overseas Festival 2011.  It was an amazing event and we arrived home – albeit a bit dusty, sun burnt and tired – with so much enthusiasm for next year’s festival and sponsorship opportunities around it I wrote this blog en route.

But before I begin, I will first explain that the term ‘cookie cutter’ means the same thing as carbon copy or effectively just the ‘same’.  Apparently (which I’ve just found out from my British colleagues) you do not use this term in the UK.  It makes a better picture than carbon copy, so we’ll use ‘cookie cutter’ for the time being.

Now that is cleared up…

During our trip we spoke to a number of brands who came out to join us and the same conversation kept coming up – that UK music festivals so often mirror each other and rarely offer a truly unique experience – they are cookie cutters of themselves.  Same stage, similar line ups, same parks, and even the same brand sponsors!  Now, of course, this doesn’t include every festival, but on the whole the feedback we’ve had is that brands have started to fall out of love (which equates to a loss of ROI) from something that has been a stronghold in our sponsorship industry.

Because of this, brands who are interested and align themselves to music have started to consider new platforms in music and other music events that feature a UK audience, but position themselves in a different environment whether that is music genres or geological location.  Outlook Festival combines both.

Engagement with a more unique event can be tailor-made for sponsors and the experience stands these brands out from their competitors in an often uncluttered market as they are more forward thinking and attract less bandwagon followers.  This allows sponsors to showcase and create a more genuine, forward-thinking, and most of all memorable brand experience.

My music festival sponsorship tip – If you are a brand sponsor, consider looking outside of the usual.  If you are a music festival in need of sponsorship, start considering how important differentiation of your festival is to ensure you are able to effectively drive brand relationships with your audience.

And just to share, here are some of our Outlook Festival Instagram moments from the team:

The Invisible Brand 17th July, 2012

Sponsorship in the past has focused largely on naming rights and branding. However, increasingly brands are moving their attention away from this approach towards more creative activations and a less ‘visible’ form of sponsorship.

Invisible Sponsorship

Festivals are a good example of where understated sponsorship can be the most effective. With a different music festival virtually every weekend of the summer in the UK, it is no surprise that plenty of brands want a piece of the action.  However, festival sponsorship requires careful consideration on behalf of the brand.

Often a highlight to their summer, people tend to approach festivals with a more relaxed vibe and are therefore more open-minded and receptive which can make sponsorship of these events hugely appealing from a brand perspective. However, too much obvious branding and a lack of relevance to the event could have a negative effect.  Festival goers want to relax and enjoy the music and brands should not make them mistake of trying to get involved if they won’t be perceived as bringing something positive to the experience.

Festival goers complained that gaming brand Xbox’s sponsorship of Bestival was not in line with their outdoor experience and this created a negative perception of Xbox’s involvement with the event. Whereas, alcohol brands have such a good response from sponsorship of festivals because the brand is integrated into the event, and in turn leads to people associating it with their positive experience.

When approaching a sponsorship campaign surrounding an event such as a festival brands should consider:

  • Creating the chance for the audience to experience the brand at the event in a relevant format through experiential activities
  • Amplifying the best attributes of the event through the sponsorship campaign – adding to the experience not taking attention away
  • Providing exclusive content in some form to share with the audience
  • Ensuring the brand has relevance to the event in some format

It is no surprise that the positive environment surrounding festivals continues to entice brands, however, it is important that brands think beyond the obvious message and provide real value to the event in order to gain the crowd’s approval.

Outlook Festival appoints Slingshot Sponsorship as exclusive agency 23rd April, 2012

Outlook Festival – Winners of the ‘Best International Festival’ at the Festival Awards– have appointed Slingshot Sponsorship as their exclusive sponsorship agency.

Slingshot Sponsorship will work closely with the Croatian-based event to increase awareness and commercial revenue through the creation of sponsorship opportunities as well as creating new digital brand partnerships.  Keen to preserve the traditional values of the Outlook Festival, Slingshot Sponsorship will ensure sponsors are carefully incorporated into the fabric of the event, adding value to the 15,000 festival goers at the event and the millions of music lovers who engage with the Outlook brand online throughout the year.

Jackie Fast, Managing Director of Slingshot Sponsorship, commented:

We are thrilled to be working with Outlook Festival this year.  They epitomise how growing organically and being true to a brand can create advocates exponentially.  This is a fantastic opportunity for brands to be involved with an influential music festival in Croatia – not to mention UK brands building relationships prior to Croatia’s acceptance into the EU in 2013.  The potential for audience engagement is like no other festival currently in the market because of their digital capabilities, making it an amazing platform for brands to be involved with.

Only in its fifth year, Outlook is already regarded as the biggest bass music festival in Europe, featuring the most prestigious names in the most cutting-edge dances across the globe.  Acts already confirmed include Fat Freddy’s Drop, Skream, Digital Mystikz & Andy C with many more to follow, ensuring 2012 will top the incredibly high standards Outlook sets itself each year.

Johnny Scratchley, Founder of Outlook Festival commented:

I’m very excited to now be working with Slingshot Sponsorship, they have the perfect ethos for us as a festival and are expert inthe new areas of media we are currently focusing on.

Music Festival Sponsorship: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly 17th April, 2012

We have been talking a lot about music sponsorship here at Slingshot.  Mainly because we are knee-deep in a couple of very exciting music projects, but also because everyone is gearing up for festival season.  Mostly I have been consumed with which festival to go to for our agency’s second birthday, but I have also been having some interesting conversations with both brands and rights holders on what is coming up this year and the current state of music festival sponsorship.

The Good

Festival sponsorship has always been a great platform for brand engagement – especially in the UK market with the English music lover’s ability to bare rain, sun, sleet, and a muddy tent with a smile on their face.  It not only provides the perfect atmosphere for a receptive audience, but also the space to really leverage brand experiences.  Festival-goers walk away with memories they cherish forever, which can provide a significant amount of brand recall for future years to come.  Consider V Festival – the name so synonymous with Virgin Media it surprises many when you find out they don’t actually own this festival, but just act as the Headline Sponsors.

The Bad

Because festival s has been such a great sponsorship platform, brands have flocked in droves – creating a cluttered market.  Instead of engaging with a couple brands, festival goers are often  bombarded by marketing messages,samples, activations, offers and more.  One festival had so many pre-sale sponsors that most people didn’t know where to purchase tickets and so opted to  not do it, which consequently saw the festival getting cancelled as they couldn’t underwrite the loss nor project the future sales of tickets for a show that saw a disjointed initial promotion.

The Ugly

Not only are festivals becoming more cluttered making it difficult for brands to ensure cut through, more festivals are entering the market and then being cancelled for a variety of reasons (see above).  This creates nervousness for Marketing Directors who really need to be confident that their marketing budget is safe and working for them.  Plans, resources, campaigns are in place well in advance and having a significant portion of their plans cancelled at the last minute is just not an option in the current economic climate where budgets are scrutinised and sometimes wrong decisions can place your job in jeopardy.  Last year alone saw 42 festivals cancelled and already this year many major festivals are also calling in the towel.

But all is not lost!

This is not to say that sponsoring music festivals is a bad idea – far from it.  But there needs to be careful consideration into which music festivals brands do choose to partner with and also a solid strategy in which to activate.  When both the brands and the rights owners work together amazing potentials can be created and tend to drive not only the experience for the muddied music lover, but also create brand advocates and sustain the festivals that can deliver these innovative types of sponsorship collaborations.