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Music Festival Sponsorships: All About Fan Experience

By Chris Olsen

In an effort to break through the clutter of the thousands of ads that consumers are exposed to each day, more brands are devoting marketing dollars to sponsorship and experiential marketing. It’s a valuable tool for making meaningful connections with consumers and providing them with memorable shared experiences aligned with a specific product or service.

These days, experiential marketing is particularly prevalent in the music event industry. From VIP glamping areas to chef-catered dining opportunities, music festivals are upping the ante on fan experience. And big brands are getting in on the action. Sponsorship spending on music tours and festivals continues to outpace any other category. According to IEG, it totaled $1.54 billion in 2017.

But fan expectations are high. Brands must continually innovate but also deliver on promises of a premium experience in order to truly connect and reap the desired rewards. The good news is that recent studies reveal 90 percent of live music fans believe that brands do have the power to make a concert or festival experience better.

As sponsorship marketers, Caravel team members work on both sides of experiential marketing, connecting iconic properties, venues and events with adventurous brands. We’ve been a part of and admired many activations that were created with fan experience as a top priority. Whether you’re an organization seeking sponsors for an upcoming festival or a brand in search of a new idea, here are a few music event experiences that may inspire you to think outside the box:

Bumble and South by Southwest

South by Southwest (SXSW) is an annual celebration of film, interactive media and music in Austin, Texas. At the event this spring, popular dating app Bumble had a significant presence on the grounds with an activation space that reflected the app’s three areas of focus—date, meet and network. Fans participated in five-minute speed dates on Bumble’s mini-golf course, had professional profile photographs taken, received profile advice from dating pros and enjoyed free healthy snacks and beverages. A Bumble gift shop featured inspirational products for sale. (Photo: Bumble)

Citi and Global Citizen’s Festival

Consumers have an affinity for events that support causes they care about and are more likely to invest in VIP experiences at those events. Global Citizen is an organization dedicated to ending poverty that hosts an annual music festival on the Great Lawn in New York’s Central Park. Citi has been a partner since the event launched, and each year it aims to deliver new experiences. One way it has achieved this is by offering exclusive pre-festival opportunities for cardholders. In 2017, Citi hosted an intimate Mumford & Sons concert for members to benefit partner nonprofits.

CLIF Bar and Pitchfork Music Festival

Many events have built their reputation around what’s offered in addition to the music, and Pitchfork Music Festival in Chicago is one of them. Interactive experiences have been a part of the festivities for more than a decade. In 2017, once again CLIF Bar went beyond product sampling and offered semi-permanent tattoos for a $10 donation to its nonprofit partner, Alliance Great Lakes. In addition to matching each donation, CLIF Bar catered to the event’s audience with a solar-powered charging station, adult coloring area, and a cassette tape art installation, which made an ideal backdrop for Instagram. (Photo: CLIF Bar)

HP and Coachella

Today’s tech-savvy audiences expect opportunities for recharging their devices. The HP Lounge at this year’s Coachella music and art festival in Indio, California delivered an experience that was far from typical. It featured HP products and vibrant digital art installations—perfect for sharing on social media. Fans could get out of the sun, create a GIF to share on social media, decorate a custom tote bag and listen to performances from big-name DJs. And, of course, there were ample charging stations inside the lounge and outside on an adjacent lush patio. (Photo: HP)

Perrier and Governor’s Ball

Keeping fans hydrated at outdoor music events is always a top priority. Perrier Carbonated Mineral Water seized the opportunity to partner with the Governor’s Ball on Randall’s Island in New York City to promote its new green apple flavor in 2018. The brand constructed a one-of-a-kind greenhouse on the festival grounds and loaded it with lights and décor that were the same color as its iconic green bottle. The activation also featured a bubble machine along with the free sparkling water. Perrier provided plenty of bright and bubbly opportunities for sharing and capturing moments with friends and family—both at the event and on social media. (Video: Mirrorball)


Extravagance is not necessarily the name of the game when it comes to fan experience. It’s about finding creative ways to meet event-goers’ basic needs (food, water, warmth, rest, safety), tapping into their psychological needs (relationships, status), and doing so in a way that helps to foster genuine connection.

About the author: Chris Olsen is a former broadcast media marketer and brand journalist who leverages her behind-the-scenes media expertise as a marketing and communications consultant to nonprofits and mid-sized organizations. A strategic storyteller and an inspired graphic designer, Chris helps Caravel clients understand, articulate, illustrate and elevate their brand and sales stories.