Masterclass: Landing the Right Sponsor

The modern music festival is a diversified business enterprise. Only a minor share of a major music festival’s revenue comes from direct ticket sales. Almost every successful festival draws in a large portion of its revenues through sponsorships with brands that align demographically and culturally with the festival itself.

For example, Coachella’s partnerships with everyone from Heineken to H&M earn promoter Goldenvoice millions every year, and even fledgling festivals can find smaller brands with whom to forge a mutually beneficial relationship.

However, as effortless as these brand/event partnerships may seem, bringing them to fruition is a process that collides the very different worlds of corporate advertising and the rough and tumble hustle of events promotion. Pulling it off is only possible when you come to the table prepared.

We spoke with Intellitix’s sponsoring guru Peter Machalek about how to suss out and land your dream brand as a growing festival. Here’s his advice:

Figure Out Who Your Dream Sponsor Is

The sponsor you choose to align with can make or break your event branding. Are you looking for a major beer or liquor sponsor to give you bags of cash in exchange for wallpapering your event with their logo? Or are you trying to be a little more modest about the whole affair with some lightly branded, tasteful installations? Either option requires a different method of acquisition and execution.

Do your research on the precedent that other festivals and events have set. Traditionally, alcohol, technology, clothing, and media brands have been the most receptive to festival partnerships. Deeper than that, some brands prefer traditional visual branding, while others prefer to fund installations, and others a trade arrangement. It’s best to identify what it is that most benefits your event and which brands align with your philosophy on branding strategy.

Have Your Data Ready

It’s a stone cold fact nowadays that brands are looking for numbers before they invest in an event. These can range from simple demographic analyses of ticket sales or social media following, but the more data you present, the more concrete your pitch will seem. Recent technological innovations like RFID wristbands offer a far deeper insight into guest behavior and that information is like gold to festival sponsors.

Boots and Hearts Music Festival

A further explanation: Jimmy is a 23-year old from the suburbs. With a data set provided by a well engineered RFID wristband, you can collect data on what acts Jimmy saw, what alcohol he purchased and when, and how much he engage with different aspects of the festival. A smart sponsor will be able to interpret this data to better plan a sponsorship arrangement and boost the value of your offering.

Consider the Benefits of In-Kind Sponsorship

Maybe you’re running a smaller event and the likelihood of snagging a major international brand feels a little out of reach. In-kind sponsorships with local food and drink companies are a great way to make good money.

This is how it works: The brand—maybe a local brewery or healthy juice company— will donate some product to your event, and you can then sell that to guests at a determined price. This bumps up your revenue while helping the exposure of another small local business, and is a good way of structuring a partnership if either side isn’t flush with a million dollar advertising budget.

Experiential Marketing Concepts

A big trend in marketing in recent years has been the shift towards experiential installations, and in the festival world that often translates to companies setting up stages or pop-up areas where guests can hang out, see music, and maybe score a couple freebies.

A recent example of a successful installation is Perrier’s “Green House” at Pemberton Music Festival. Their air-conditioned area featured a cool environment (out of the hot summer sun), free water, Perrier cocktails, and chill-out DJs. It was a success because it added value to the guest experience, while the branding was softer to appeal more subtly to the crowd’s sensibilities.

Do remember that in this arrangements, the ideas for installations are usually a product of the brand collaborating with an art agency, which is then approved by the festival. The added element of the ad agency can be useful if they are creative and well-attuned to your demographic, but can also complicate your partnership. Make sure that you’re agreeing to something that looks and feels right for your festival.

Get Your Socials Dialed to Maximize Content Flow

A branding partnership at a festival does not begin and end on the festival grounds. Often, the social media following of both the brand and the festival are mutually leveraged. If both are well-aligned, this can be a major boost both before and after the festival.

The way to best execute this is with quality, engaging content. A branded promo or recap video, ticket giveaways, photo-sets that are shared through both brand and festival channels can be very effective if the partnership has been well selected. Ideally, your festival and your brand partner will share a target market, so doubling down on the partnership with content will drill your festival’s image and narrative to a wider audience.

Masterclass Conclusion

Sponsorship has become an integral part of the business of festivals, and if you work with the right brands you can use their financial heft and thirst for access to your audience to truly enhance your event for the attendee. But make sure that they don’t encroach on your cool because once you lose that you’ll lose the sponsor.