Are festivals really worth the gate fee?

There’s no mistaking that, as a culture, the UK loves a festival. And this love affair transcends generations and demographics, providing a wide range of opportunities for brands to engage with their audiences and communities. But the festival scene is, and always has been, evolving – and with the costs to play for brands increasing, it’s critical to keep a careful eye on the return that festivals can provide.

We are continually being asked to provide some insight into the value that festivals can deliver, if they are worth it, and how to maximise the return on investment.

We’ve pulled together the key questions and consideration that can help answer that question.

Why festivals work

To every one of the 3.5million revellers that attended a festival last year, a festival provides a way to escape – to live in the moment, forget about the day to day and even explore an alternative side to themselves – whilst making memories along the way.

For brands that activate well, the upside is huge. By being part of the experience, you have the ability to put your brand at the centre of the moment and the world of your target audience. Get it right, and you’ll create positive associations that live on with the memories of the festival. However get it wrong, and you can waste large sums of money and even damage your brand.

The festival scene now caters for a far broader set of niche sectors. From a family-friendly environment that allows parents to live out nostalgic festival vibes, releasing their inner teenager in a relatively safe and permissible way, to the outright, the hard-core, those exploring the very limits of the taboos of sex and drugs, to all kinds of alternative lifestyle events – and of course music of every style.

Whilst the enthusiasm for festivals looks here to stay, there are some growing consumer trends that really do affect the rules of engagement governing how and if this type of activation is going to work for you and your brand.

We have looked at the key trends that you need to be aware of to answer the question of whether a festival provides the right environment.

Experiences mean more than things

Unless you’ve had your head in the sand for the last few years, the concept that the new millennial audience values experiences more than things will come as no surprise. This way of thinking leads to the belief that a brand’s success is intrinsically linked to its ability to deliver experiences for its audience.

So what does that mean to us?

Yes its true that a brand needs to provide its consumers with exceptional experiences, but this will do you no good if the experience you provide isn’t intrinsically linked to your brand positioning.

Relevance is key.

Be genuine and audiences will see you for what you are

With consumers being increasingly marketing savvy, just badging an event and having a presence is not going to work for you. You’ll need more than pouring rights. Ask yourself how your brand is going to enhance the festival experience.

If you’re not adding anything or serving value to your audience, then it’s time to step away.

A move towards the niche within the niche

The move to a more personalised, intimate experience is reflected through the evolution of UK festivals. As an extension of this, audiences now expect to have the products and services they want where they want them.

With an increasing number of festivals catering to the specific niche needs of their audiences, just being the only brand available isn’t going to do you any favours. You have to ensure that your offer is aligned to and enriching the overall festival experience.

A big watch out: If the audience sees you as blocking them from brands they want as part of the experience, this can even have a negative effect on brand perceptions.

The questions to ask yourself

Why are we there and what’s in it for our audience?

What do we want to achieve and will this help us provide a clear and obvious articulation of our positioning and our purpose?

Are we looking to just add to the overall vibe or do we want to create a specific experience?

How can we work with our festival partner or our audience?

Do our brand values and positing align to that of our festival partners? Or are we just trying to piggyback on their audience?

How am I going to measure the results?

The key points in a nutshell

Know what you want to achieve before considering festivals as part of your plan.

Access to a shared audience isn’t enough.

Seek out ways to collaborate with partners and audiences.

Ensure there is a clear and obvious synergy between your values, positioning, and purpose, and that of your festival partner.

If you’re not adding to the experience then you shouldn’t be there.

Badging doesn’t work, just being there isn’t enough – you need to activate with purpose.

Festivals are evolving so brands need to evolve with them to stay relevant.

We’ve helped some of the UK’s largest brands activate at a wide array of festivals, from Freixenet at Bestival, Pilsner Urquell at the Taste of London and Aspall at the Suffolk Show to Whitworth’s at Big Feastival.

Our team of experience specialists and strategic implementers can help ensure your event strategy is the right fit for you and your audiences, consumers, and communities. We’ll ensure that your brand delivers an amazing experience and help drive the results that are most important to hit your objectives.

If you need some help, why not drop us a line?