The Co-founder of Bonnaroo Discusses His Best Program of 2012

Helping marketers tap entertainment

Bonnaroo is one of the biggest music festivals in the U.S. This year, Superfly Presents, the group behind the Tennessee bonanza and other events like San Francisco’s Outside Lands, bought The Distillery, a small Chicago creative agency founded by alum PJ Loughran. Adweek spoke with Rich Goodstone, co-founder of Superfly and head of its marketing group, about the growing importance of live events to advertisers; Superfly’s work with brands like JetBlue, Intel and Mattel beyond its festivals; and the recent acquisition.

Why buy an agency in Chicago now?
[PJ] has been a real innovator and pioneer in the social and digital strategy space. That melding with our deep expertise in youth-minded entertainment, and certainly experiential, it just was an obvious fit. He really expands our overall offering and brings a much more strategic approach and storytelling to what we do not only on the festival side, but also for our agency and brand clients.

Because social media amplifies live events and makes them more valuable to marketers?
Profound experiences change lives and build communities, shape perceptions, create relationships. When you have something like Bonnaroo, that’s a Super Bowl moment. It really is about what happens around the Super Bowl. It’s the before, during and after. So while these profound experiences change lives, they’re also the most shareable moments. It’s what most of this social dialogue is about; it’s about your experience.

How has your marketing at Bonnaroo evolved since the festival’s launch in 2002?
From the beginning, because the event sold out in two weeks in its first year—80,000 tickets—we’ve been able to pursue partnerships in the right way. We’ve understood the value of marketing as entertainment, and that the only way a brand was going to really win the heart of a consumer and the lifetime value of the audience that would be at something like a Bonnaroo was to add value to the experience.

What’s the best recent example of how you’ve done that?
Probably one of the best programs in 2012 or any year was our RFID that we built out with Ford. So basically, everybody who comes to the festival gets an RFID wristband. It’s their ticket, so they can register it online. It’s got a chip in it, so we understand when they’re coming into the festival site. It allows us traffic and logistical management. People could register them online, be entered to win a Ford vehicle, and also be able to attach that RFID to Facebook. Through a partnership with Spotify, after the event, we were able to send you a full set list from that show. To have that journal all in one place, all of it branded with Ford…[made for] 200 million impressions, 2 million likes and comments.

What about your work outside festival properties?
We help Jet Blue evaluate and navigate the entertainment space. We built a platform called Live From T5, which was delivering travelers concert experiences and content from the terminal—a place that was often looked at as a pain point because people have to wait—and the lines and everything else became something that we can use to surprise and delight. We were able to get acts like Taylor Swift and Robyn and The Wanted and Chris Daughtry to play at the terminal and feed their content onto Jet Blue in-flight screens. We’ve done things with comedy and theater and continue to explore other ways to make music even more core to the JetBlue personality.

@GabrielBeltrone Gabriel Beltrone is a frequent contributor to Adweek.