The way to Generation X’s pocket is through its pop, Gordan MacMillan
Youth is everything. Or at least that’s the way it seems when it comes
to so much advertising. Yet the youth market remains one of the hardest
to crack. According to the media, Generation Xers - twenty-to-
thirtysomethings - are blank, lost or indifferent; take your pick. They
are ad literate and ad aware. In essence, they can see you: in this
market, giant banners and TV advertising miss the mark.
What is proving much more of a hit is outdoor music-event sponsorship.
It is being harnessed effectively by various big-name brands - a case of
brand-meets-youth in a muddy field in the middle of nowhere. Amid the
veggie burgers, bottles of beer and music, something seems to work.
A quick tour around the UK’s festivals in 1996 would have revealed
Carlsberg, the Guardian, Rizla, Dr Martens, Levi’s, Mickeys, Red Bull,
Jolly Rancher, and all things Virgin and Tennent’s chilling out by the
video screens either at Phoenix, V96 in Chelmsford and Warrington,
Reading or T in the Park in Glasgow.
The involvement of these brands has heralded a quantum leap in youth
marketing. Mike Mathieson, managing director of the youth marketing
agency, ffi, says: ‘Before, companies would go along and put up banners
and hope it worked. Now they look to do something more sophisticated,
become involved and make themselves part of the event.’
This weekend, ffi will launch VodaZap, a new pager from Vodapage, at a
sponsored outdoor dance event called Big Love, which is expected to
attract 20,000 people. Vodapage will be involved in the on-site
communications, mounting large messaging boards to let people know what
is going on and for those attending to leave messages for friends.
Mathieson describes it as ‘a good example of the sponsor bringing
something positive. Hopefully it will leave everyone with a good
One of the most successful events in recent years is Glasgow’s T in the
Park, an event created from scratch three years ago by Tennent’s and its
agency, KLP. Before T in the Park, Tennent’s had a problem. Although it
is Scotland’s leading lager, with more than a 60 per cent market share,
it had a low awareness among the key 18- to 24-year-old market.
Music was seen as the answer and Tennent’s began to address the problem
in 1988 by developing a grass-roots music programme called Tennent’s
Live. However, it did not cut through to the youth market and KLP was
briefed to come up with something new.
The answer was T in the Park. A two-day multi-stage festival - the first
of its kind in Scotland.
Paul Morrison, the associate director of music and sponsorship at KLP
who is credited with dreaming up the event, says there was a general
feeling that Scotland could not support such a festival.
‘We believed it could happen and T-3 has been the most successful so
far. Ten years ago, Tennent’s was a lager that was famous for having
pictures of women on its cans. Now it can be found in the front of Tower
records in Glasgow and T in the Park is the heart of the Scottish Music
scene,’ he says.
T-3 in 1996 included some of the most highly rated bands in the UK, such
as Pulp, Radiohead and the Manic Street Preachers. In all, there were
103 bands, six stages and 70,000 people paying pounds 26.50-a-day. All
this generated reams of press coverage.
But it was not an easy idea to sell. Scott Menneer, head of sponsorship
at Bass Brewers, says: ‘We had to convince the music industry and make
sure we got our commercial delivery out of it. How do you aggressively
market when you don’t want to be overbearing? Now it is an institution.’
For Carlsberg, being the official beer sponsor at both the Reading and
Phoenix festivals was sufficient. It added elements such as the metal
sculpture of David Seaman at Phoenix, formed out of Carlsberg cans and
used as a meeting point. It was subtle, functional - and it was
John Slade, Carlsberg’s marketing controller, said he did not want the
brand to be a headline sponsor: ‘Sponsoring a festival is unpredictable.
You don’t know how many people are going to turn up, or if a major band
is going to pull out at the last minute.’
V96, while successful, did attract criticism for being too ‘Virgin’,
with Virgin products everywhere. It was another KLP-organised event and
Morrison believes it was a success. ‘It is a pioneering new concept: a
true, moveable festival, but I can understand people saying it was a bit
But Mathieson says there are criticisms of credibility: ‘T in the Park
was a success, Virgin Retail at Reading was a success. With V96, Virgin
was everything. I think punters enjoyed it but they did get Virgin
products rammed down their throats - in some cases, quite literally.’
Additional reporting by Eleanor Trickett