Cutting Through the Crowds at Festivals: How Advertisers Can Reach Summer Groupies

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Cutting Through the Crowds at Festivals
Mike Buttigieg

From Coachella, to Bonnaroo, to Lollapalooza and Burning Man, music festivals attract some of the biggest artists and crowds all summer long. According to Billboard, over 30 million people attend at least one music festival in the U.S. each year. This gives artists a lot of opportunities to connect with their fans.


It also means festivals themselves and advertisers have plenty of chances to connect with consumers. When fans use their mobile phones to travel to or around the festival, or when contacting their friends on-site, they’re giving brands valuable information about where they are and what they like. And if advertisers know how to capitalize on this data, they’ll be able to identify and reach their ideal audiences.

With festivals offering tons of headline sponsors and hundreds of stalls to choose from, here’s how advertisers can cut through the noise at music festivals and build relationships with fans.

Make Friends at Festivals

With tens of thousands of people gathered in the same place, music festivals are a great chance to make new friends with potential customers. Brands can meet and get to know consumers by recognizing them and introducing themselves to each and every attendee.

One method for this is geo-fencing. This means identifying attendees by collecting device IDs located within the perimeter of the festival grounds. It is important to note that 3/4G GPS data is unreliable at festivals due to their remote locations and bad service. Hence, many festival organizers now routinely offer temporary Wi-Fi to keep their revelers connected. This means the number of mobile devices a marketer can access increases massively when using a location technology provider with the ability to dynamically identify Wi-Fi addresses in real world locations. In a custom study we conducted on this year’s Bonnaroo festival, we proved that any marketer using industry-standard GPS geo-location technology could only ‘see’ 27% of mobile devices at the festival. Dynamically identifying the festival Wi-Fi’s IP Address was needed to discover the missing 73%.

Once advertisers know who’s at the festival, they should strike up a conversation right away. For instance, a beverage brand can deliver an ad inviting fans to enjoy a cold drink when they make their next trip to the bar.

Stand Out From the Crowd

Music festivals are busy places, and consumers are likely to be bombarded with sponsorship logos and advertisements at every turn. So how can brands make sure they stand out from the crowd?

Brands that target consumers using Wi-Fi can more accurately target people thanks to additional behavioral insights. This also means that marketers can advertise using richer media to better engage consumers and stand out among the static ads and logos. For example, brands can offer fans interactive games or videos ads which get higher completion rates on Wi-Fi. These could be tailored based on behavioral location histories, for example showing a clip of the Weekend to someone who recently attended an R&B gig, or a voucher for the vegan food stand to someone regularly seen shopping at organic stores.

They can even get creative. Rather than simply enticing attendees with an image of an ice-cold beverage, a soda brand can offer an ad that’s both useful and inviting: it can give the thirsty consumer a handy map that shows them how they can get to the nearest bar.

Keep in Touch

Festivals like Coachella last a few days and Burning Man a week, but should that mean that an advertiser spending branding dollars on sponsorship should lose touch with those fans and potential customers once they have gone home?  Of course not.  Once brands have identified device IDs at a festival, they can use that data after the event to learn even more about who those fans are, including demographic and geographic details that indicate where they spend time and what they like to do.

Our Bonnaroo study monitored the devices we saw at the festival for a week and a half after its completion. We determined that the demographic makeup of the audience was 28% business professionals with the top industries indexing in technology, advertising and finance. The remaining 72% were college students, mostly from the University of Tennessee, Rutgers then University of SoCal. In terms of the festival attendee behavioral characteristics, they mostly frequented coffee shops such as Starbucks, clothing stores like H&M and electronic stores such as Best Buy. These insights help advertisers paint a much clearer picture of who their festival audience is so they can target appropriate messages at the right place and right time whether it be before or after the event.

This is the strategy personal care brand Gillette employed to boost sales for a range of Venus products. First, they collected data from female festivalgoers aged 18 to 34. They then delivered ads when the women were near a drugstore that stocks Venus products (compared to at the festival), or when they were at home and could browse Venus’ full product range online. The stores targeted saw a net footfall rate increase of 1.42%.

This targeting strategy to reach the festival-going audiences at the opportune moment drives high engagement rates, in-store traffic, and extends the life of the brand dollars spent on the festival branding campaign.

Assess Your Performance

The last part of our Bonnaroo study tested the impact of a sponsor’s brand awareness campaign to see if it ultimately drove in-store foot traffic and sales. We monitored their retail locations in the United States for 10 days following the festival and found that only 1% of the festivalgoers visited a store location within the time frame. While low, this begs the question: Could the sponsor have made their Bonnaroo sponsorship work harder for them? We wanted to see what the difference would be if we expanded our geo-fence to a two-mile radius around the thousands of store locations. This revealed that while only 1% of Bonnaroo festivalers made it through the restaurant door, 30% of them came within two miles of the sponsors store location during those ten-days. A small budget dedicated to sequentially targeting them with a mobile ad would have capitalized on the initial sponsor branding at Bonnaroo and provided that final nudge to convert to store, greatly increasing that 1% foot-traffic rate.

So in conclusion? Festivals don’t just provide advertisers with a way to reach music lovers while they’re enjoying the event; festivals also give them the time and place to begin forging what will become long and ongoing relationships with this key audience.

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Mike Buttigieg Michael Buttigieg is Senior Sales Director at Blis, the global pioneer in location data. Having been at Blis since 2013, Buttigieg moved out to New York in 2016 to help establish Blis’ New York office where he specialises in the sales of Blis’ proprietary technology and platform.

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