Music Festivals Provide the Perfect Setting to Promote Your Brand


The year 2018 was a bit of a rocky one for music festivals. It marked the end of a number of significant festivals, including traveling festival the Vans Warped Tour (after 24 years) and the Pacific Northwest-based music festival Sasquatch (after 17 years).

Yet, that year ended with Nielsen Music releasing its 2018 Music 360 Report, which found that 52 percent of the U.S. population goes to a live music event each year, with 68 percent of those attending a concert and 44 percent a music festival.

These attendees spend an average of $247 per year on tickets to live music events (the general population spends $147 annually), skew young, and are 35 percent more likely have a household income of more than $80,000 a year. Also, once they are at the venue, 23 percent purchase artist merchandise on-site.

“They bought their tickets, they’re in the door, a lot of them are going to the merch stand and not necessarily buying music,” Matthew Yazge, Nielsen Music’s Vice President and Head of Brand Partnerships said at the Billboard Live Music Summit. “These people are not shy in buying tickets. It’s all about the experience.”

That “experience” is where brand partnerships enter the picture. Music concerts and festivals are an important part of many people’s lives. A study by AEG and Momentum Worldwide examined the Millennial relationship with live music events. The results found that:

  • 80 percent believe the most effective way for brands to connect with them is through a branded live music event.

  • 93 percent state they like brands that sponsor live events.

  • 81 percent say that the coolest brand experiences involve music in a live setting.

 Brand activations are the final pieces in the puzzle that is fan engagement. In an article from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Scott Leslie, the Co-President of Madison-based promoter FPC Live, had a quote explaining why the six-year-old Summer Set music festival was forced to end.

“We were having to pay for talent … and security as if we were an upper-tier festival,” Leslie said. “If you’re only doing 15,000 people, you can see what the problem was. … If you’re not willing to invest just as much, if not more, in the experience for the fans, they are going to go and find a different festival to attend.”

By working together, brands and music festivals can develop a symbiotic relationship. However, for that to occur, brands need to ensure they are sponsoring the correct music fests.

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Make the Activation Match the Crowd

An activation must be organic to its specific event. A brand needs to know the crowd that’s attending the live music event and create an experience that will genuinely engage this target audience. An idea that works at one festival for its specific crowd may not make the same impact at another event.

For example, at this year’s Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, Amazon created a festival-long activation called Amazon Lockers. The idea was pretty straightforward and lacked much of the mystique typically associated with Coachella activations. It even contradicted the generally accepted notion that an activation should be about engagement first and the brand second by leaning heavily into ecommerce. Still, it was an extremely effective audience-pleasing installation.

Amazon’s idea was to let attendees purchase festival-essential items, such as sun hats, lip balm, phone chargers, and handheld fans, and then pick up their purchase at a designated locker. Typically, this would be no big deal. On my street, I see Amazon delivery people more often than my neighbors. Except that Coachella is located in California’s Colorado Desert area where getting lip balm or other essentials is a chore. Amazon saw a need and filled it through this very clever activation.

Would this same activation work at the Pitchfork Festival, which is located in Chicago’s Union Park? Probably not. If you need lip balm at Pitchfork, you just stop by the nearest convenience store on the way back to your hotel. This idea is very Coachella-specific.

Conversely, a few years ago, shoe and apparel brand Vans created a Pitchfork activation where a painter crafted portraits of attendees. The pictures were hung on a temporary wall on festival grounds. Eventually, the artwork was auctioned off with the proceeds benefiting a local park and trail system.

Now, would this activation work at Coachella? With a few tweaks, sure. Vans may not want to replicate it, but this fun idea would work at a number of music festivals and benefit the surrounding community by giving back through the auction.

It is essential to understand the festival and the audience before conceptualizing the activation.


Be Memorable

The goal of any experiential activation is to create memories, to forge a deeper connection between brand and guest. To do that, the activation needs to make a splash.

At the 2017 New York City-based Panorama Music Festival, Hewlett Packard created an activation dubbed “the Lab” to showcase nearly 200 products and accessories. However, this wasn’t a typical demo and display; the products were used to power a massive series of hands-on exhibitions designed by local artists. Some examples included:

  • “The Ark Dome Show” created by Dirt Empire, where attendees, while relaxing on beanbag chairs, could watch a 20-minute film about a mythic journey of intergalactic survival projected 90 feet above their heads on a dome’s curved surface.

  • “Heartfelt” created by Ekene Ijeoma, where visitors turned on lights and played sounds by holding hands to conduct electricity.

  • “Future Portrait” created by Prism, where a person’s movement transformed into an animated film.

  • “Right Passage” created by The Windmill Factory, was a maze-like journey that began in darkness and ended in bright light.


The exhibit included a lounge area for visitors to utilize HP products and create a personalized bandana or engage in a photo opportunity that used bullet-time photography.

Another example is the Heineken House, which has become a mainstay at Coachella. Every year the activation evolves. However, this year was a significant change and to reflect that, the name of the activation was changed to Heineken House Evolution.

For the past few years, the Heineken House has been a fully enclosed structure with a club-like atmosphere. This year the walls were open, the design was retro, and the atmosphere was akin to a beer garden.

“The first thing we thought of was how in the past, the long lines would snake around the Heineken House building and you couldn’t see inside. We wanted to be more inclusive, so we thought, let’s literally tear down the walls,” Christine Karimi, Manager of Partnerships and Consumer Experience for Heineken, said to Event Marketer.

Inside the activation, guests could purchase a variety of Heineken beers, including the newly released non-alcoholic type, grab a bite to eat, play games like cornhole and giant Jenga, and listen to several concerts from a variety of artists including The Roots and De La Soul. The feeling was much more relaxed than in previous years.

Joining your brand with the right festival is a powerful marketing opportunity. However, it is not enough to simply put up a couple of banners. You must create an activation that will engage the crowd and create memories that will remain once the music event is over.