Brands Go Digital in Extended Sponsorships With Music Festivals

On-site and online activations enhance concert experience

Summer music festivals are sometimes viewed as one-off marketing events that give brands a quick boost in awareness. But new campaigns from Jim Beam, Microsoft and Beats Music are making a big digital push that extend sponsorships long after the music stops playing.

One of the more ambitious efforts this summer is from Jim Beam, partnering with Pitchfork as part of a global “Make History” campaign. Pitchfork is producing and filming six after-show concerts at music festivals this summer, including the Pitchfork Music Festival in Chicago, taking place July 18-20. Content from these concerts will be pulled into a microsite and used in upcoming campaigns.

The spirits marketer is also a sponsor of the festival. Branded features include an arcade lounge with vintage pinball games and a VIP area where attendees can sample products. “We are creating contextually relevant creative from the events that we’ve partnered [with Pitchfork on], so all of that is in the digital space, and then we’ve been able to bring that outside the digital space to really connect with the Pitchfork readers, Pitchfork fans and Jim Beam fans live as well,” said Halley Kehoe, senior brand manager.

Beats Music is also betting on both on-site and digital activations to give the Pitchfork sponsorship the greatest punch. Brooke Michael Kain, head of digital marketing, explained that a backstage VIP lounge will let the company demo its mobile app to attendees and artists while a digital promotion dubbed “Beats Seats” will provide 20 free tickets for exclusive festival access.

Marketers are also experimenting this summer with campaigns featuring digital wristbands.

Bonnaroo, which took place June 12-15 in Tennessee, required attendees to register a ticket bracelet embedded with radio-frequency identification (RFID) technology before arriving for the festival. Microsoft promoted its cloud-based OneDrive software—which stores photos, videos and documents across devices—during registration. At the event, attendees could check-in and collect photos from live performances at six different stages. The photos were then sent to a OneDrive account so they could be viewed later.

Fifteen percent of Bonnaroo’s 100,000 attendees participated in the promotion, saving an average of eight photos each. Concertgoers used the wristbands continually throughout the weekend and kept returning to the same locations for different performances. Microsoft also ran a photo-sharing campaign.

“In the past, we’ve done something where you can connect your wristband to Facebook and Twitter and you’d be able to check in for different shows, but this is the first time that there was a content delivery piece associated with the program,” said Chad Issaq, evp, business development and partnerships at Superfly, owner and co-producer of Bonnaroo and Outside Lands.

Coming soon: Lollapalooza, in Chicago, Aug. 1-3, where concertgoers will for the first time wear wristbands enabling them to buy food and drink without cash.

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