In 2016, sponsorship spending on music festival, tours, and venues totaled $1.47 billion dollars. Now more than ever live events are becoming a hub for connecting brands and consumers. In recent years, the entertainment industry has seen brand activations, interactive sponsored spaces grow in popularity.

Launching a successful event marketing campaign as a sponsor no longer consists of only one way communication. Gone are the days where a branded stages and banners throughout the event were enough to connect with attendees. Be it an interaction online or one in person, consumers want to be a part of the conversation. They want to engage with the brand. Now advertising at an event is much more interactive.

Successful sponsorships attract consumers by creating a memorable experiences. Rather than passively absorbing the brand images, a brand activation at an event has attendees actively engaging with sponsors. This creates a positive association between the consumer and the brand that will translate into future brand loyalty.

A New Era of Brand Engagement

From interactive art installations to a cool place to rest your dancing shoes, brand activations can take many forms. At activations guests can be seen participating in a variety of marketing activities. Fans engage with brands by filling out surveys, providing email addresses, uploading branded images to social media. The entertainment industry, particularly live events like music festivals and sporting events like the Superbowl have seen many brands set up spaces that consumers actively participating and connecting with the company.  

The key is to make a memorable experience for the customer. This can be done by immersing them in a virtual reality experience, creating an imaginative space for them to take selfies, allowing them to create something, providing wifi or charging stations, and many other ways. One way to drive traffic can be by providing samples of the product or giving away something that attendees need. Sunglasses, hand fans, and rain ponchos are great examples of branded items that festival goers especially will find useful during the event. The intersection between art and technology is another way that brand activations are driving engagement. By getting to participate (be it putting on a virtual reality headset or creating an image), guests are more actively involved and therefore remember the experience more.

Generating Brand Activations and Engagement at Live Events - XLIVE

One of the most popular places to see brand activations is at music festivals. For those who attend four or more music festivals a year, 82% said they “are actively excited to experience the sponsorship activations there.” This is because the brands are now adding to the overall experience.

Examples of Successful Brand Activations

Generating Brand Activations and Engagement at Live Events

(Photo from Governors Ball Website)

Governors Ball in New York City is an example where many activations come together to display various brands in interactive and creative ways. From artists singing hosted by Honda to the Ray Ban viewing balcony, just about every activity is sponsored by a brand. Coca-Cola’s “Share an Ice Cold Coke” activation gave out free cans with attendees names on them. At the “braid bar” Complex and göt2b gave guests a hair makeover. They were then encouraged to show off their new looks on social media using the hashtag #got2standout.

The 2018 Super Bowl saw its fair share of activations as well. Sleep Number had a particularly noteworthy attraction. They created the biggest virtual reality multiplayer game. The game was aimed at showing participants how important a good night of sleep is, which is a great point when it comes to selling mattresses. Onlookers could see the screen of those playing across a 30 foot video wall. The space also treated fans to a pop up concert. Before he took the stage, Brad Paisley even participated in the game himself. Ford also had an interesting presence at this year’s game. Complimentary “Built Ford Tough Sleigh Rides” were offered to fans to various locations. Throughout the streets you could see a 2018 Ford F-150 pulling a sleigh holding up to 18 participants. In order to ride, fans had to register givign Ford valuable marketing information.

The winner of the 2017 inaugural FestX Award (hosted by XLIVE+Everfest) for Best Brand + Festival Pairing was Panorama Music Festival + HP, “HP Lab”. At the event, held in New York during the summer, HP set up a 70 foot dome with a variety of immersive installations. “The Lab”, as it is called, is an incredible mixture of art, technology, and music. Throughout the exhibit, guests were exposed to jaw dropping interactive artwork created by local artists. At the “Future Portrait” display visitors had their bodies digitized into colorful particles on a screen while a live drummer played in the background. The “Dome” exhibit stood out the most for its sheer size. Everyone was encourage to lay down and relax as a colorful display of abstract shapes filled the screen of the 70 foot dome. HP found a way to integrate its brand by displaying the HP products used to create each piece. Guests left the activation not only with a sense of awe from the impressive creations but also positive brand association.

At Comic Con 2017 in San Diego, attendees were completely immersed into the world of Blade Runner Los Angeles 2049. Upon entering the space, visitors were given VR headsets and jolted into a “spinner chase” through the skies. The rest of the 12,000 plus square foot area submerged the guests into the post-apocalyptic world of the movie. Many stayed for over an hour as they engaged with actors in full costumes, took pictures, and actively engaged with the environment. Giveaways were done through the exhibits RFID (radio frequency identification) -enabled vending machines. This also allowed for valuable information to be captured. Overall the exhibit created a huge buzz for the film. A full behind the scenes look at the activation can be seen here.

How to Measure Success

One way to measure success is the level of engagement between guest and the brand. At the activation, engagement can be seen in a variety of ways. It can simply be the level of  enjoyment that the visitors receive. Their happiness, comfort, or entertainment is valuable to them. A positive experience translates to a strong affiliation to the brand. It can also be in the form of filling out surveys or providing email addresses, two pieces of information that are very beneficial for future event marketing campaigns. RFID technology can also allow the activation to easily capture information on the number of attendees and collect useful demographic information. Content created from the event can also be extremely useful. Branded images posted by fans on their social media can help spread brand awareness. After movies, images of the event, and written word on the activation can create a valuable PR package for the brand.

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(Photo from Business Insider)

Tech companies like Aloompa, Klink and Thuzi are aiding brands through the use of mobile applications, iBeacons, RFID-enabled wristbands, and other new innovations. More information is being obtained in new and exciting ways. Aloompa is helping brands learn habits of the crowd through iBeacon technology connected to a mobile application.  Klink is creating innovations that allow wearable technology to be more interactive than ever. Thuzi is streamlining the way data can be collected on sight. These companies are revolutionizing the way technology connects brands to consumers at live events.

Brand activations are changing the way the brands engage with consumers at events. Music festivals in particular have seen an increase in experiential marketing. Building a successful activation involves engages the audience in creative ways and creating a memorable experience. This then drives the participant to build a positive relationship with the brand that is exponentially beneficial.


By: Amanda Cosenza