Brands & Festivals: Sponsorship vs Owned Assets

In 2016, an impressive 30.9 million people attended gigs and festivals in the UK. This was a 12% rise on 2015’s figure of 27.7m, according to a survey by UK Music. Of this 30.9 million figure, it claims four million people specifically attended festivals.

It's no surprise that brands have had a very active role in festivals, traditionally focusing on sponsorship as the primary method of engagement. But, we have also seen a rise of brands owning their festivals or taking over a stage and creating the experience from scratch. 

We previously discussed how brands can evolve their festival activations by focussing on creating an experience and being part of the event narrative.

Corona Sunsets: Brand Owned Festivals

Corona Sunsets is defined as a "Global music festival series celebrating the transformational power of sunset in the worlds most iconic beaches, mountains, and city centers."

SunSets aims to turn urban city environments into a tropical beach environment. Previous UK iterations, for example, have turned the Greenwich Peninsula into a beach using 400 tonnes of sand.

Aina Fuller, UK marketing manager for the AB InBev-owned Mexican beer brand, says 67% of Corona SunSets’ attendees are 25 to 34 years old, with the brand selling 34,100 bottles of the beer since the festival’s inception in Summer 2014.

“Launching SunSets was a really natural progression because Corona has always been a brand that has put experience at the heart of our advertising,” says Fuller, citing research that claims 80% of millennials prefer to spend their money on experiences over material goods. “We just wanted to leverage that experience into something more real.”

Innocent Smoothies

Innocent has launched several now-defunct music festivals over the years from Fruitstock to Village Fete. Its most recent stab at the festival scene was Un:plugged, which during 2015 and 2016 included celebrities such as Mr. Motivator, attracted 4,000 attendees and had a total PR value of over £1m from a spend of just £30,000.

Burn Energy Drinks: Big Burn

Another interesting example of an owned festival by a brand is Big Burn which has now booked the most credible artists in electronic music. What has made this especially unique is that Burn also manage another asset called the Burn Residency where they give emerging DJ's the chance to perform at leading clubs and gain mentorship from the best artists around. The festival platform then gives them another way to support their "residents" and ties into a unique event strategy that they own. 

Key Takeaways

  • Creating own festival can help establish brand message, especially if tied into wider activity such as the Big Burn & Burn Residency approach.

  • Create an immersive experience

  • Partner with musicians earlier in the process

  • Integrate into the narrative of the festival

  • Challenge festival partners to push boundaries


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