Five ways brands can take centre stage at next year's festivals
A view from Tom Shipman

Five ways brands can take centre stage at next year's festivals

As brands become part of the festival conversation, opportunities to connect with revellers still remain untapped.

From a giant archer towering above the fields to a suspended, tech-filled cube offering festival goers the onstage experience of their dreams, this summer’s brand experiences did not disappoint.

So, as the end of 2017 approaches and we dream wistfully of summer, there is a prime opportunity to review the successes of the past festival season and consider what brands can do to maximise their potential with next year’s activations.

RPM’s Connecting in Culture report analyses the conversations that happened at 22 of the top UK music festivals this summer, using social listening to spot missed opportunities and determine which brands were the most successful at activating at festivals.

Unsurprisingly, the festivals that generated the most brand noise were Glastonbury, V and Boardmasters. The activations that created the biggest buzz across social media included Corona Sunsets at Boardmasters and Jägermeister’s Jägerhaus. While alcohol brands traditionally dominate, EE, Benefit, Hunter and Relentless all generated significant conversation through their activations.

However, RPM’s research uncovered that while brands were becoming part of the festival conversation, overall, conversations about all the brands at the festivals combined were outweighed by the conversation about one particular subject – glitter.

Here are some untapped opportunities for brand experiences at festivals.

Bulmer's Colourena at the Isle of Wight Festival

The Heineken Bulmer's Colourena at the Isle of Wight Festival

1. Embrace the full festival journey, from ticket purchase to aftermath

Too often brands focus on just a ticket giveaway competition on social media and physical activation at a festival but fail to consider other touchpoints along the festival journey. For a consumer, a festival spans much more than just the main weekend experience – it involves the excitement and discussion once the line-up is announced, playlist creation and discovery, outfit and glitter prepping, journeys to and from the festival, sharing memories after the event and, of course, watching the after movie. The Tomorrowland after movies have received millions of views on YouTube. There is a massive opportunity for brands to tap in to and even hijack these other festival touchpoints.

2. Understand the micro trends and create experiences that capitalise on them

Each festival is different and has its own micro trends that matter to its particular audience. By using social listening, brands can identify these trends and create activations that have a deeper resonance with consumers because they are more in tune with the conversations specific to that festival, its nuances and its quirks.

3. Become synonymous with a festival by committing to long-term partnerships

It is tempting to create new experiences each year and show up at different festivals with different offers. However, this misses an opportunity to build credibility with a specific festival audience. Brands that consistently play an important role at the same festival over several years give themselves authority in the eyes of festival goers and they weave themselves into the fabric of that festival. Pepsi Max has hosted the second biggest stage at Wireless for several years and has become famous over time for quirks such as announcing the stage host.

4. Become part of the existing conversation – know what matters to festival goers

There are trends that stretch across the festival landscape and conversations, and brands can make the most of these to create experiences that really resonate. Through our social listening we discovered six macro trends that were happening across the summer at festivals, including glitter, festival outfits and the importance of the campsite. These offer brands conversational opportunities on which to piggyback. They also provide insights into festival behaviour that could help dictate activations, ensuring brands create something meaningful that can help make smaller budgets go further.

5. Don’t forget the headliners

By far the biggest conversation happening at festivals was about the headliners. From the moment someone buys a ticket, through the festival and beyond, everyone talks about the headline acts. There weren’t any significant headliner-focused brand activations last year and, while cost can be a stumbling block, brands that find a way to be part of the headliner conversation will succeed in connecting with festival goers.

Tom Shipman is a planner at RPM