3 Ways to Determine if Music Festival Sponsorship Is Worthwhile for Your Brand

Location insights show whether a target audience will be reached at certain events

Music festivals are a great opportunity for certain brands, but it's an investment that isn't necessarily worthwhile for everyone.
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While Beyonce’s epic performance solidified Coachella’s cool status on the national stage, it’s not the only show in town. Other regional summer music festivals like EDC, Bonnaroo and Firefly take place this month and next, and they attract quite the lineup of brand sponsors, including the who’s who of alcohol brands, protein bars, hotel chains, cars, beauty retailers and even household cleaning products.

This makes me wonder: with brand sponsorship spending on music tours, festivals and venues topping $1.54 billion, is this investment really worth it? With more than 60 brands vying for a slice of visibility among the mostly younger folks attending Coachella, EDC, Bonnaroo and Firefly, you have to ask whether music festival sponsorship moves the needle in awareness, influence and future sales.

I’m not present at these brands’ planning and budgeting sessions, so I cannot claim to understand their strategies and goals. But what I do know is that event-based location data should inform their decision-making processes. Why? Because from this kind of data (when aggregated and anonymized) we can learn a lot about where different types of people go, what they do there and the kinds of behaviors that signal purchase intent.

The following are ways you can use location-based insights to make more informed decisions about where, when and how much to invest in event sponsorships, with examples from our analysis of data from this year’s Coachella and last year’s EDC, Firefly and Bonnaroo festivals.

Determining the best audience

How much do you know about the people attending the festival you are sponsoring—other than the fact that they are music fans? For example, are they in the market for a new car? Do they travel? Where do they shop? Which other events do they attend? Location data can answer all these key questions so that you are working with facts instead of assumptions and ensuring your sponsorship dollars are reaching the people most receptive to your brand.

You have to ask whether music festival sponsorship moves the needle in awareness, influence and future sales.

For example, Toyota is a sponsor of the upcoming Firefly festival, but data from last year’s Firefly shows that its attendees actually over-indexed for visits to Acura dealerships. A missed opportunity perhaps for Acura to close the deal among people already considering its brand. Meanwhile, BMW’s sponsorship of Coachella this year was a good fit: Data shows that Coachella attendees are far more likely to be observed at a BMW dealership than attendees of EDC, Bonnaroo or Firefly.

Another audience mismatch example: Location data tells us that the biggest music fans attend EDC and Coachella festivals, however, music brands Jambands, JamBase, Fader and Les Paul decided to sponsor Bonnaroo in 2018.

Assessing short-term payoff versus future ROI

When you understand an audience on a deeper level, you can factor in important elements like their age group and behavior patterns to plan your ROI goals more strategically. Case in point, per the 2017 ESP Sponsorship report, wine and spirits brands were five times more likely to sponsor live music, followed by beer brands. But location data from these music festivals shows that approximately 75 percent of attendees were underage college students. What’s more, less than 35 percent of attendees could be characterized as beer loving personas and less than 10 percent as wine lovers. So, while I can appreciate the music festival appeal for household brands like Miller Lite, Smirnoff, Bacardi and Corona as well niche wine brands like Cupcake Vineyards and breweries like Crazy Mountain Brewing, I can only surmise they consider music festival sponsorship an investment for the future rather than an immediate boon to the bottom line.

Maximizing your sponsorship reach

Location data can help brands determine if they ought to sponsor just one type of event or several in the same category (especially since our analysis showed that very few people attend more than one music festival). For example, we give Adidas the thumbs up for sponsoring Coachella this year: Its attendees make a strong showing at their stores, per our data. Adidas could get an even bigger return on its music festival sponsorship by also sponsoring the EDC festival—but not Firefly, as data shows Firefly attendees are much less likely to visit Adidas stores. Additionally, while Sephora was a sponsor of Coachella 2018, our analysis shows that even more of their prospective customers could be found at EDC. So maybe Sephora would be better off sponsoring smaller, regional events in addition to national ones.

In my opinion, it’s a mixed bag. It’s clear that, for some brands, their music festival sponsorship investment was spot-on, but not for all. If event sponsorship is on your radar, look to location data for insights to help refine your research, ensure greater reach and, ultimately, a strong ROI.