Fruitful or flop: Are brands profiting off music festival partnerships?


As we move into October and the weather begins to change, it marks an end to the much-loved UK summer music festival season. Every year, as sunnier days appear, thousands flock to dozens of festivals scattered across the UK and placed at weekend intervals throughout the summer months. For the fans, these exhilarating events represent a chance to let loose in a whirlwind of music and culture; for the artists, it’s a chance to earn some cash, showcase their work and increase their popularity. But there is a third element who seek to profit off these well-attended events: brands.

Glastonbury Festival takes place in Somerset. (Photo/Wikipedia)

Glastonbury Festival takes place in Somerset. (Photo/Wikipedia)

The UK music festival industry has grown at an enormous rate in the late few years, a result that has encouraged a proliferation in music festivals across the UK. A study by UK Music estimated that four million people attended music festivals in the summer of 2016, and predicted a rise in that number for 2017. With such large numbers of people making the journeys to attend, it appears to be the perfect opportunity to showcase a brand, be it by sponsoring the festival or simply having an activation there. Yet since it is the artists who everyone is flocking to see, how much impact can a brand’s association have?

To find out if brands were spending wisely or wasting their time, Starcount’s wizards dug into the data to see what the real story told.

In order to see the correlation between the power of brands versus the musicians at festivals, we took two popular summer festivals and looked at the major brands that sponsor them against the major headliners that perform at them.

First up, Glastonbury, the UK’s most popular festival, with a 2016 attendance of 135,000 people (2017 yet to be announced), which took place for five days this year, from the 21st June to the 25th June. One of the major partners involved with Glastonbury, as well as several other UK festivals, was mobile network EE, which set up the UK’s largest temporary 4G network across the festival, as well as hosting the official festival app and providing multiple phone charging stations and wi-fi hotspots.

Starcount’s data technology revealed that, despite being one of the most recognisable brands during the festival, this failed to translate into a significant spike in followers on social media for the mobile network. However, the company did see a substantial spike in the leadup to the festival, specifically in the two weeks building towards Glastonbury.

However, if we look at the pattern for followers of one of the festival’s main headline acts, Biffy Clyro, we can see a reverse pattern. Whilst the Scottish rock band failed to make any significant gains in followers in the buildup to the festival, there is a tremendous spike in numbers for them during the time that the festival is happening, mostly on or after the Sunday night that they performed on.

Performance of EE and Kopparberg, as seen through social data.

Performance of EE and Kopparberg, as seen through social data.

Our second test is the London festival Lovebox, which took place in Victoria Park from the 14th to the 15th July. One of the festival’s major partners is cider brand Kopparberg, which featured their own pop-up stage at the venue, as well as a bar and seating area. Once more, the data shows that although Kopparberg experienced a rise in followers in the buildup to Lovebox, this failed to translate into a meaningful spike during the festival.

However, the data behind one of Lovebox’s main acts, Jess Glynn, who appeared on the Saturday night, reveals that she experienced her highest number of followers around the time of the festival, whilst not experiencing any major growth in the buildup to her appearance there.

Performance of Biffy Clyro and Jess Glynne, as seen through social data.

Performance of Biffy Clyro and Jess Glynne, as seen through social data.

Whilst it can be expected that major artists who headline music festivals are likely to experience large growth in their social media fan base as a result of their appearances, this data reveals that being a brand at a festival is not as powerful as one might expect. However, that doesn’t mean there’s no place for them in the music festival industry, as the proportionate rise in fans during the buildup to festivals testifies to.

So, the lesson for brands? Get involved in the leadup, but avoid splurging the cash on expensive pop-ups and activations during. No matter how hard you try, it’s always going to be about the music.

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