Black Sabbath headlining Hyde Park’s British Summer Time festival back in 2014

With brands from John Lewis to Guinness now putting their names to annual music festivals, it’s clear more and more marketers are looking to enter the events business.

Last year alone, an impressive 30.9 million people attended gigs and festivals in the UK. This was a 12% rise on 2015’s figure of 27.7m, according to a survey by UK Music. Of this 30.9 million figure, it claims four million people specifically attended festivals.

A big proportion of this audience is made up of millennials, making an association with a festival a golden opportunity for brands to target young consumers they sometimes struggle to speak to. But despite the fact branded activations at festivals can appear like the antithesis of cool to many millennials, Will Dowdy, VP of global partnerships at AEG, says perceptions are changing.

“When people attend festivals they are looking to create lifelong memories,” he says. “So while they might be cynical of traditional logo sponsorship, if a brand is adding real value to their experience then they can be receptive. Brands have an opportunity to be tied into those lifelong memories.”

AEG acquired the rights to hold festivals in Hyde Park back in 2012 and has run the British Summer Time (BST) Festival on behalf of The Royal Parks group ever since. Sponsored by Barclaycard and filled with experiential pop-ups from brand partners such as Heineken, Tinder and Bacardi, it’s a festival that on paper appears more corporate than edgy.

If consumers think you’re just trying to sell something then they see through it. Providing a unique festival experience has to be the priority.

Aina Fuller, AB InBev

However, the British Summer Time Festival has proven to be very successful, attracting big name artists such as Taylor Swift, Stevie Wonder and Kendrick Lamar. Spread over 10 days, the festival counted Justin Bieber and Phil Collins among its headliners this year as it sold in excess of 350,000 tickets and its attendance rose 14.5% year on year.

Dowdy says the festival’s brand partners achieve an 83% brand recall from attendees, with 50% of attendees aged between 16 and 35 choosing to participate in a brand activation on site. “It’s about giving them something extra, whether that’s a brand rewarding them on site or letting them sit in an extraordinary pop-up space,” he advises.

“When you get results like 74% of people coming away from BST saying our partner space has actually improved their experience then those numbers speak for themselves. It tells you what a huge opportunity music festivals can provide for brands looking to engage with young people beyond advertising.”

Creating a branded festival

Dancers at Corona’s global SunSets festival

It isn’t just the sponsorship side of festivals that can be appealing to brands either, with many choosing to host their own….