It’s the aroma of fried food and warm beer, getting the perfect picture in the perfect #ootd and getting the ultimate snap of the wild crowd dancing to this year’s biggest radio hit. It’s the era of music festivals and it’s not slowing down. According to a study conducted by GMR, a whopping 14.7 million millennials attended at least one music festival in 2014. With over 800 music festivals in the U.S. alone today (and a new one was probably just announced as you’re reading this), one can only imagine how the number of festival attendees continues to grow.
Millennials demand authentic, shareable experiences. To garner as much exposure with America’s largest consumer group, brands are infiltrating the music festival industry. As the commercialization of festivals rises, sponsorship spending is on the verge of hitting $1.5 billion—the equivalent of buying 3,000 trips to Mars.
Today, festivals rely on brand sponsorship and brands rely on festivals for unparalleled fan engagement. With all this partnership, it’s critical to ask, “What does a successful brand-festival relationship look like from the eyes of music fans?” As a 21-year-old self-proclaimed festival expert who has attended over 15 music festivals in the last year alone, to me, these are some of the brands that understand their market.
- Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen: Teaming up with Coca-Cola at Shaky Knees Music Festival, Popeyes launched its summer campaign in the heart of festival season—summertime. With an activation targeting both festivalgoers and chicken lovers (seemingly, there are a lot), the massive Popeyes drumstick pod, known as the Marinating Machine, had festivalgoers literally lined up to experience a world of flavor.
- Budweiser: Last year at Stagecoach Festival, the iconic beer brand took care of country music fans and beer lovers with its “Country Club”—a three-story, open-air structure that provided a lot of beer, elevated views of the festival and a chance for fans to “live on their own terms.”
- H&M: Understanding fashion is as important as the music at Coachella, the trendy and affordable retailer became a massive sponsor and created a West Coast-inspired line of clothing available in stores, at the festival and seen on all its major fashion influencers.
- Waterloo Records: Austin-based Waterloo Records can be found at some of the biggest festivals like Austin City Limits (ACL), SXSW and Governors Ball Music Festival in New York City because they bring fans what they really want—an intimate opportunity to meet the artists.
Shares, hashtags, selfies and tweets are the currency of the digital age, and these are the brands that get it. Their integrations are thoughtful and meaningful, not plug-and-plays. They combine elevated experiences, pop culture and once-in-a-lifetime opportunities to capitalize on millennials’ need to keep sharing moments.
Today’s festival junkies expect impressive brand integrations just as much as they expect good music, because experiences are what make spending hundreds of dollars on a single weekend worth it.