Simon Stanford, joint managing director & co-founder, Upfront
Simon Stanford, joint managing director & co-founder, Upfront
A view from Simon Stanford

Think BR: Brands should be banging the drum for festival marketing

Brands need to focus on creativity if they are to really engage with festival goers, writes Simon Stanford, joint managing director & co-founder, Upfront.

Since the festival boom at the start of the noughties, the range of opportunities available for brands to reach a wider demographic has gone from strength to strength.

Yet even now brands are only just waking up to the power and influence of being linked with festivals.

Yes, there is a cost attached to being a brand at a festival, and the recession and increasingly limited budgets have restricted companies, but if done well the rewards can be worth it, even after the main stage has been packed up and the field is empty.

Festivals are a great experiential, sampling and ambient opportunity for brands to really get their message across to an audience that is relaxed and open to enjoying themselves and will therefore absorb brand messaging.

This platform offers a captive audience and the OTS rating is huge - but only if it really adds value to the event for festival goers.

The days of giving out flyers are long gone - I hope - as badly chosen and poorly executed freebies are just not enough. They won’t create the WOM that brands are looking for, they won’t represent the brand and they definitely won’t be remembered. You might as well bury your marketing budget in the field you’re standing in.

Getting festival goers’ attention and engagement needs to happen pre, during and post the event to mobilise social media activity for the brand. This is rarely done, as the focus is usually purely on what happens onsite, even though the bigger events have huge databases and social media presence.

These are rarely used by brand partners or sponsors to integrate their message with the event. At the moment the space and opportunities are not being fully realised and utilised by brands effectively. There is a lack of creativity in engaging with festival goers to enhance their festival experience. 

Brands are failing to understand that festivals are now a right of passage experience for most teenagers. It’s a shared and exciting experience they remember for a long time and if brands can tap into, or be remembered as part of that, they will have a huge influence and effect on that consumer.

Festival season will attract audiences interested in anything from music and sports to food and fashion, with men and women from 16 to 60 buying tickets.

In 2012 brands cannot just 'badge' festivals - they should be enhancing the festival experience and add some value. It’s all about engagement and the brand that is leading the way is Red Bull. They don't badge events - they create their own events that reflect the brand truths.

Radio One is also a real innovator in this area, creating the Big Weekend as a brand in its own right, offering a platform for other brands to piggyback.

Brands don't have to be 'buying cool' to be right for festivals. FMCG brands need to take a risk sometimes and be brave to influence consumers. For example, why can't Persil or Dove sponsor the washing and showering areas, or Rimmel create a hair and make up experience area where you can have a free Rimmel make-over for your festival day? Girls still want to look fabulous at festivals.

No one wants to spoil events with over branding onsite but even simple things like advertising in the programmes and on festival fencing are rarely used by brands, yet these are things people spend all weekend looking at.

Of course, festival activity and promotions for brands should be one part of an integrated and thought-through branded entertainment strategy to drive consumer engagement throughout the year - not just while it's festival season.

Festivals are built into the UK summer calendar and as such are another marketing channel that needs to be carefully considered. I’m banging the drum for brands at festivals - who’s with me?

Simon Stanford, joint managing director & co-founder, Upfront