This past weekend, more than 150,000 music fans descended on Randall’s Island off the coast of Manhattan for The Governors Ball Music Festival. And where people go, brands follow.
For this year’s Gov Ball—a three-day event sponsored by Founders Entertainment and its parent company Live Nation—nearly two dozen brands built on-site experiences to integrate their products into the music scene. The beauty brand OGX hosted styling consultations; Citibank had a massive viewing deck for card holders; Honda had a “belt forest” art installation; Asics had a shoe-shining area for muddy footwear and Aperol had a Spritz garden (despite The New York Times’ recent take on the Italian cocktail). Even the TSA was on hand to sign up people for airport pre-check.
“Whether we’re speaking about how to orient a certain space of an activation, to which location on site makes the most sense to place an activation, to the types of artists and special accoutrements, we work with them hand in hand,” said Alex Joffe, Founders Entertainment’s head of global partnerships & media.
As of Tuesday afternoon, companies were still tallying the total visitors to their spaces—which likely experienced lower attendance than expected because of a thunderstorm prompting a late start and an evacuation Sunday evening.
While brands are spending more time thinking about not just how to create experiences but also how to measure them, Live Nation and Founders are doing the same. Asked how Gov Ball measures sponsors’ return on investment, Joffe said organizers measure website traffic and social media impressions, but also can track RFID check-ins through larger activations. He said the company has also developed in-house geofencing technology that sends ads and other info to attendees who have the Gov Ball app on their phone and who have opted in for messaging and notifications.
Joffe declined to disclose how much it costs for a brand to have a presence, saying only that “you can imagine that NYC commands and NYC provides a certain value in returns.”
“We are not a gold, silver, bronze package type of company,” he said. “We are a ‘what is your idea, vision’ type of company, and let’s go big as we can with that.”
Live Nation has also begun using augmented reality as part of its own experience. For example, it used AR directions within the app to help guide people to each show and also had an AR lens on the Zelle ferry ride over.
Here are five of Adweek’s favorite brand activations from Gov Ball:
What’s a music festival without a dive bar full of music? In between stages, Anheuser-Busch built a small pop-up bar sponsored by Bud Light, which played host to a concert series with emerging musicians including Njomza, Tyla Yaweh, Jeremy Zucker and Lauren Sanderson. In a special kickoff ahead of New York City Pride, Bud Light curated a Saturday lineup to go along with its Pride-themed bottles benefiting the nonprofit GLAAD. (Bud Light donated $1 to GLAAD for each bottle sold.)
To show off the night mode on its new Pixel 3A camera, Google built an indoor photo booth and lounge where visitors could have their photo taken in front of various backdrops that highlight how the phone’s camera can take photos even in low light. Backgrounds included neon signs and a UFO abduction scene.
To go along with this year’s sponsorship of a main stage and an American Eagle line of Gov Ball merchandise, the clothing brand built a two-story structure that gave visitors a chance to express themselves through color and emotion. On the first floor, visitors picked from a screen three words that they felt best described their personalities. Then, based on the visitors’ selections, AE’s software directed them to a yellow, purple, pink or blue room. In these rooms, people could take photos and get color-matching fanny packs and temporary tattoos. On the roof, visitors who signed up for AE’s loyalty program could decorate their fanny packs—also known these days as a belt bag.
According to Kristen D’Arcy, American Eagle’s vp of integrated marketing and media, the idea was to merge “music, mood and color.”
“The way that we look at it is whether our customer lives in Chicago, San Antonio, New York or L.A., there’s really one thing they all have in common,” D’Arcy said. “They all love live music.”
Along with its large Instagram-worthy rainbow arch and swing toward the entrance to the festival, Pepsi created QR codes on Gov Ball branded bottles that activated AR overlays within the area.
The insurance provider built a row of tiny homes that composed its Neighborhood of Good, which focused less on insurance and more on how people can make differences in their own neighborhoods. Each house provided a music-themed experience along with ways to raise money for the the nonprofit Notes for Notes. For example, visitors could listen to songs recorded by underserved and undiscovered musicians, and each listen was converted into “currency” that added to State Farm’s donation. Another house had a silent disco, where dancing on an LED floor also led to contributions. One more let people record their own tracks in a “multi-sensory recording booth.”
Mandy Laux, who heads up State Farm’s societal impact and music brand content marketing division, said the company will have a presence at eight music festivals around the U.S. this summer.
“Ultimately, in music we find ourselves at the center of community and at the center of the music fan community with an incredible opportunity to help them have a better experience by being here to help and to be a good neighbor, and to inspire them to give back and make a difference as well,” she said. “State Farm wants to inspire fans beyond the event. We want to use music as a catalyst to connect people to do good in their community.”