America’s festival scene is burgeoning with new events springing up every year. Part event saturation, part audience demand, gone are the days where the musicians alone could attract fans – now there is an expectation of art, gourmet food and social interaction and this has opened up the door for brands to shift away from the traditional sponsorship model.
For businesses in the growth phase, you have to get creative in how to grow your brand awareness, particularly in a country where it is said that a new company starts up at a rate of 11,000 per hour!
I’m going to hazard a guess that thousands of sponsorship or marketing dollars are not available to the majority of smaller businesses. That makes getting creative with your event marketing initiatives crucial, and building solid relationships even more so, especially if you hope to infiltrate large events that small businesses typically can’t get into. Cue your new festival strategy!
When you’re thinking festivals, you may be thinking of the big guns – the Coachella’s and SXSW’s of the festival world – where you’re most likely priced out by the big buck sponsors. But success in event marketing is not always about being at the biggest, most expensive events. Targeting new, early-phase events gives you a chance to get your foot in the door, and also to scale up as they do. To get your foot in that door, figure out who the organizers are and get introductions to foster relationships with them.
The strategy is simple, go after the smaller festivals – maybe 2,000-4,000 fans –with an audience that is passionate about the event, the community within it and the artists playing. These size events may be breaking even (sometimes not) and are typically in years 1-4 of their own growth phase but they have a loyal community. Be there on the ground floor as a brand sponsor and that community will most likely remain loyal to you. These organizers generally need to top off their event dollars and this is where you come in.
Think about your business offering and, rather than a standard sponsor model, take the initiative and offer festival partners a commission so you both win when you hit your targets. Speaking of targets, decide what they are and make sure you get buy-in from the festival organizers. If it’s in the form of online sales from a discount coupon created exclusively for the event, then spell it out and agree to targets. The higher the sales target, the greater the potential pay-out to the festival.
When it comes to providing promotional assistance, see if you can link in your respective social channels and website to help spread awareness for their events. As long as it’s a good brand fit, you’ll show your ‘cool side’ to your customers. In the process, you will help each other build social media fans via the cross promotion.
Don’t forget to focus on adding value to the people working the ‘hard yards’ to make the event possible. Volunteers are key to any successful event so find a way to reward them to deepen your connection to the heart-and-soul of the event.
Also, once the arrangement you strike with the festival organizers is in place, offer easy management of the processes. Festivals are extremely complex to organize so the lower key you can make everything, the more likely it is to run smoothly.
In a snapshot, if you’re looking to get your brand at a festival, I recommend:
- Show the value of how your product or experience enhances the festival goers time at the event – think experiential or a value-add that is too hard to say no to. JUCY has campervans so we offered ‘nap stations’ at one event for weary partygoers to catch a recovery nap…it was a success!
- Be clear upfront on the trade you are offering, including commission or kickbacks, as festival organizers are time starved and event management is a giant beast.
- Network at the right events and be persistent – it might be the PR company, record label or just a buddy that gets you your ‘in’.
- Provide a clear, simple contract or agreement and be self-sufficient once you or your team are at the event. The organizers will be putting out fires, don’t have yours be one of them.
If you haven’t been to a festival in a while, you might be thinking your product or service doesn’t suit the scene but the scale and opportunities are far greater than it ever has been before. Get creative, have fun and be tenacious, as it pays off! Good luck!
About the author: Not every festival partnership has to have a bill in the triple digits. The festival scene is exploding with new events blossoming each year. Zoe Macfarlane from JUCY RV Rentals offers tips on how brands can avoid large sponsorship fees and get creative in their partnership offerings.