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Sponsorship trends in music – Part 2


The music industry is going through a time of rapid change, and that can have an impact on how brands approach corporate partnerships. Here we take a look at trends in music events.

Read “Sponsorship trends in music – Part 1”

Fading into Sponsorship Darkness

Forget the 2017 hype about virtual reality (VR) at music events. This technology resulted in a terrible experience. And what’s more, it is irrelevant to attach a brand to a VR live stream or VR concert. Music is about the live experience. That’s why we’re seeing live concerts getting so much traction, despite the fact that access to recorded music is so easy through streaming sites. Going to a concert is an experience that simply cannot be substituted by gadgets.

While tour sponsorship is still alive for massive acts, its importance is fading. Ten years ago, Research in Motion (BlackBerry) announced its sponsorship of the U2 360° Tour through a TV and online campaign promoting BlackBerry’s App World, which proved to be a success.

Though tour sponsorship is not dead, most of the players are from the financial sector, namely credit cards or banks that can provide sponsors with a platform to reward consumers with tickets, rebates, presales, hospitality initiatives, exclusive content, and other money-can’t-buy benefits across multiple markets at once. Examples include Capital One and the Foo Fighters or the Rolling Stones’ 50 & Counting tour« sponsored by Citi in 2013. Amex is also heavily involved in music events with its American Express Music platform (formerly Front of the Line) and its partnership with Live Nation (Ticketmaster).

A quick reality check: activating a tour sponsorship is tricky if, unlike what the financial sector has created, there is no structure in place. The media doesn’t generally cover tour partners. There is little space and time for on-site activation and, regardless, it would be extremely onerous to activate every venue on a tour. And, finally, how would you make your brand presence relevant?

Experience, Experience, Experience

Though it happened in 2017, the industry is still learning from the Fyre Festival fiasco. What the non-event proved was that there is an appetite for premium events, exclusivity, and unique experiences, and, more importantly, that people are willing to pay for it.

A lot of festivals are becoming a mishmash of passion points. To contribute to the attendees’ experience (a trend we expect to continue), music and the arts have made their way into all kinds of other events: the NASS Festival (extreme sports), Boardmasters (surfing), Snowbombing (snowboarding), MAGfest (gaming), Cocktail Magic (mixology), or Outside Lands (music, art and food).

Experiences hold the key to reaching consumers, and music is a fantastic way to bring that experience to an audience through festivals, concerts or brand activations.

Coachella is not only the highest grossing festival in the US. It is also the leader in bringing brand experiences to life. For instance, Amex’s Platinum Collective, created by their advisory board of entrepreneurs, established a highly curated and very Instagrammable space at the festival for American Express Platinum cardholders. This let festivalgoers relay the message themselves—and it meant that Amex could avoid relying on advertising. Even non-sponsors such as Revolve, an online fashion retailer, wanted to have their brand bask in the Coachella aura by creating an elaborate experience in parallel to the event to host A-celebrities and influencers.

For its part, Outside Lands focused on food and craft beer to carve out a distinctive identity and create an elevated experience for guests. British Summer Time went as far as to create a whole village—something straight out of a movie set—to entertain eventgoers.

Experiences through Music

Interestingly enough, Spotify and Sony have created music experiences outside of the concert environment either to promote an album launch or drum up buzz around new products.

The sold-out Billie Eilish music experience was held in Los Angeles for a single weekend as an interactive launch for her first album When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? The event invited fans to discover the album’s 14 songs, each one in a room of its own and with a distinct mood created through scent, texture, colour, and temperature. The event was tied to the launch of special merchandise available on their website and through NTWRK, the mobile experiential “retailtainment” store.

Sony created a pop-up experience in New York’s SoHo neighbourhood as part of its Lost in Music campaign. The space showcased Sony products and concerts, and offered live streams of shows.


Brand Activation and Music

To reap the hoped-for benefits, an experiential activation has to be good. And, let’s face it: there are lots of ho-hum and poorly designed brand activations out there. The problem: tons of music events still sell the standard 10×20 space, and agencies have to develop their experience to accommodate an array of locations.

The other issue with brand activation is the misconception that popularity will achieve brand objectives. While many giveaways and photobooths may be popular, so is giving away $20 bills on a street corner—and that doesn’t mean that people will love you or that it will do anything for your brand or your business.

Mid-sized Music Venue Sponsorship on the Rise

While many large music venues have naming rights partners, very few mid-sized venues do. This gives brands an opportunity to stand out in an uncrowded space. Think about the concerts that you remember the most fondly. Were they the more intimate shows before a band got their breakthrough moment or were they the big arena affairs?

Smaller venues, which are not unlike boutique festivals, have more distinctive programming. This attracts music fans from different genres and is an effective way to reach a broad audience. Furthermore, these venues generally offer more than 200 days a year of concerts to reach an overall audience in the hundreds of thousands. The naming rights opportunities of smaller venues also tend to include large coverage from media outlets and event producers who promote the acts. Brand presence in such spaces can be a good Trojan Horse strategy in a cluttered market—all at a fraction of the cost.


Photo by Austin Neill on Unsplash


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