Page last updated at 23:01 GMT, Tuesday, 28 April 2009 00:01 UK

Sponsors sing the festival tune

By Simon Atkinson
Business reporter, BBC News, North London

The Holloways play a Gaymers Grassroots Gig at the Camden Crawl 2009
The live music scene remains attractive to sponsors and fans alike

The mirror in the gents toilets of the Bull and Gate pub is a fine example of the most basic music industry advertising - plastered with homemade stickers for up-and-coming (or perhaps been-and-gone) bands: Zeropunk, Separator, The Lovely Brothers.

In a nod to the digital age, another plugs their group's MySpace page address - scrawled on the soap dispenser in thick black marker pen.

But just above the hand basin is a more familiar red and green logo, that forms part of a considerably more costly campaign.

In a seeming disregard for the recession in the UK - its only significant market - the Gaymer Cider Company is spending its entire £5m marketing budget around live music this year.

And in the pub's front bar, managing director Peter Spencer is confident that the outlay - £1m more than last year - will be money well-spent, despite the perilous financial climate.

'Positive associations'

The deal includes so-called pouring rights at many of the UK's biggest festivals with a potential audience of 800,000 across the spring and summer.

Music, it appears, is the perfect advertising fit for Gaymer's target audience of both men and women aged between 18 and 24.

Peter Spencer
We want our cider to be something people have when they are in a more normal, everyday environment, not only when they're standing in a field for a couple of days each summer
Peter Spencer
Managing director, Gaymer Cider Company

"If we can get them to try our product when they are really enjoying themselves then hopefully they will buy it when they are out socialising, or in the supermarket," says Gaymer's marketing director Peter Spencer.

"We want to build positive associations between Gaymers and having a good time."

Last year's first foray in music sponsorship resulted in a 200% sales growth - albeit from a low base - and Mr Spencer is looking for similar results as it battles the likes of Magners and Bulmers in the mainstream premium cider market.

And he feels the target audience is reasonably recession-proof, despite the downturn.

"Most people in that age group don't have mortgages yet or even credit cards, so while clearly they know there's a recession on, it isn't really impacting on them at all," he says.

"They are still going to festivals, so it's a market we can aim at, and one we're going to invest in."

Urban edge

Gaymers will be the official cider at Glastonbury, Reading and Leeds and Bestival among others this summer.

And at the Lovebox Weekender, in London's Victoria Park, it has designed an 8,000 capacity arena, where festival-goers can clamber into a tree house (naturally, equipped with a bar) and overlook the site, or perform karaoke backed by a live band.

It has also pumped money into The Great Escape in Brighton, Liverpool's Sound City and last weekend's Camden Crawl - the reason for Mr Spencer being in North London (and his firm's logo being in pub toilets).

Such urban festivals see gigs held in pubs and music venues across a city.

Not all can, or will, stock the sponsor's brand, but these events could be more important for driving long-term sales than traditional festivals, Mr Spencer argues.

Glastonbury 2008
Some brands have long associations with festivals

"At festivals you are watching bands and having drinks as part of refreshment but in urban events you are drinking in the places you would ordinarily drink, namely in the pub," he says.

"That's important because we want our cider to be something people have when they are in a more normal, everyday environment, not only when they're standing in a field for a couple of days each summer."

Stock levels

Mr Spencer says while Gaymers had "done well" last year, there were plenty of lessons to learn.

At Glastonbury, for example, branding on the hundreds of thousands of paper cups used in the bars did not stand out amid that of a rival drink.

Also "completely overlooked" was getting products into shops near festival sites and ensuring those which did stock it were kept supplied during high demand.

This meant that despite marketing efforts, people buying alcohol to take in to camping areas did not have the choice to buy the product on which millions is being spent in advertising.

'Fewer risks'

Logistical difficulties, hard-to-gauge audiences and the tight economic times mean that not all brands have been as bullish as Gaymers in their music sponsorship.

Drinks firm Diageo has pulled its Pimms Bus from festivals - including Latitude - this year, while promoting Gordon's gin and Jose Cuervo tequila at events have also been cut back.

For those who do have concerns about jobs and mortgages and savings, festivals are still a fairly cost effective escape from real life and woes
Steve Jenner
VirtualFestivals.com

Diageo told the BBC it still saw music as an important part of its marketing mix in the UK and overseas.

But festival industry insiders say the move could costs organisers millions of pounds in lost revenue.

Overall, these events remain attractive to sponsors, says Steve Jenner of music website VirtualFestivals.com.

"Pretty much everyone who was sponsoring is still doing so, but perhaps they are spending less, taking fewer risks and being a bit cleverer about how they do it," he says, adding that despite the recession the festival scene remains healthy, with ticket for most major events selling faster than they were last year.

"The weak pound is possibly helping because people are not going abroad for their holidays," Mr Jenner suggests.

"And for those who do have concerns about jobs and mortgages and savings, festivals are still a fairly cost effective escape from real life and woes".

Justin Billingsley
People are there for their passion. Brands can interrupt that, and if we get in the way of that passion we get annoying
Justin Billingsley
Director of brand, Orange

'Huge opportunity'

Another long-term sponsor of music festivals, mobile and broadband provider Orange, says continuing its involvement with Glastonbury was "never in doubt".

True, it is in a long-term contract with the event, so pulling out its financial obligation was not really an option.

But director of brand, Justin Billingsley, says its spending on activities at the festival in June will be raised by 20% from last year.

This includes developing its Glasto-Nav mobile phone application, that will allow people at Worthy Farm to communicate in a way similar to the increasingly popular Twitter website.

Meanwhile its Chill n' Charge tent, which allows people to recharge their phones whatever network they use, will again be prominent.

'Passion'

A fan at Camden Crawl
Most fans seem able to enjoy themselves, even if a festival is sponsored

The downturn is a huge opportunity to invest in relationships with existing customers and potential new users, Mr Billingsley says, adding that "when smiles are scarce, they are more valuable" to a business.

Like most brand managers, Mr Billingsley says he is conscious that not everybody wants big sponsors at events - even though most punters appreciate that their presence helps keep the price of tickets lower, especially in times when wallets are being squeezed.

"People are there for their passion. Brands can interrupt that, and if we get in the way of that passion we get annoying," he says.

"But if we offer something, if we help someone find out where their friends are, make sure their phone's not dead and if it rains, give them somewhere to come under cover if they want to, then people appreciate that."



Print Sponsor


SEE ALSO
Festivals spend despite recession
20 Mar 09 |  Entertainment
Recession claims another festival
01 Apr 09 |  Entertainment
Festivals fight to boost bottom line
15 Apr 08 |  Business
Why just a logo is now a no-no
21 Jun 07 |  Business

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