President, UK Marketing Partnerships
‘Our Year In Sponsorship’ is a new blog series from the European Sponsorship Association (ESA), offering members an online platform to reflect on a single year or season of sponsorship activation. Please contact Jonathan to book a slot.
Festivals continue to be powerful environments for brands to engage with fans and introduce new products, educate them about existing ones or offer simple, straightforward fun. The 2023 festival season saw the Live Nation UK Sponsorship team and their partners work hard towards each of these ambitions, consistently going above and beyond for festival fans across the country.
What were the highlights of this year’s 2023 festival season?
The UK festival scene is as vibrant and thrilling as ever, with live events tailored to every taste, age range and income bracket. From May to September, the UK is truly home to some of the most varied, exciting music festivals in the world.
From a sponsorship perspective, watching festival fans appreciate and engage with our partners is a joy to see and the ultimate culmination of our combined teams’ hard work. Observing how a partner’s presence can make a valuable impact on the fan and festival experience is always the most meaningful highlight of the season.
From a personal point of view…highlights of the 2023 season include Metallica at the amazing Download Festival. Travis Scott at GoPuff Presents Wireless. And a particularly excellent Cajun chicken and rice I had at Camp Bestival!
What makes working with Live Nation special and unique for sponsors?
We care about our partners’ businesses and their success. I’m endlessly impressed with our team’s ability to work flexibly, professionally and successfully alongside the festival teams to achieve both long-term strategic objectives and short-term goals for partners.
Something else I found our team does particularly well is listen. We listen to our fans and our partners to get to the core of their needs. Our relationships, and therefore understanding, of partners’ often-changing needs allows us to expand our relationships into more avenues and build on already successful agreements.
Our drive to deliver success for our partners is exceptional.
What worked well this year and what resonated for fans?
Adding value to the attendee’s experience overwhelmingly drove engagement. 2023 was not without its challenges, and many partners thoughtfully considered what additional benefits they could offer fans through their partnerships. For example, Barclaycard’s on-site spend incentive gave fans discounts on food and beverage at several of our festivals, leading to the programme’s most exceptional year yet.
We also saw an increase in partner collaborations. Partners in different categories looked to join forces to complement each other’s presence and add further value to the fan experience.
For example, Co-op offered discounts at their festival popup shop for Three customers, Pepsi Tower visitors could tap into Three’s free wifi, Veuve Clicquot connected with IHG at Wilderness Festival to offer guests complimentary champagne upon arrival, and fans who booked transportation with Big Green Coach were gifted a free Greenall’s Gin token to redeem once they arrived at select festivals. Sometimes 1+1 equals more than 2!
What areas of growth do you see for your business and what are the new opportunities for brands?
We know it’s the multi-festival, multi-season partnerships that have the power to create positive sentiment with audiences and revolutionise the way brands show up at festivals. Combined with our festival network and our ability to reach relevant audiences across the country, the opportunities for partners to build positive engagement and scale are limitless.
Of particular interest right now are our research-led engagement programmes focusing on families, Gen Z and Gen X. We are also always looking at ways for brands to connect with fans through shared values such as beauty, wellness, loyalty, diversity and inclusion, and sustainability.
Can you share a few specifics?
As one example, we’re creating opportunities for brands to engage with families by offering ‘family hubs’. The hubs are welcoming and judgement-free spaces providing families with everything they need to ensure the best possible festival experience.
Not only will the family hubs allow partners to strengthen their reputation as brands that put families first, they also provide a moment to reach busy parents in a high-dwell environment where they are engaged and receptive to messaging.
We’re also working on new opportunities that engage our Gen X and Gen Z festival audiences. Partners interested in connecting with our Gen X audiences have the chance to be a part of a network of our outdoor shows with major headline-level artists in intimate, stunning settings across the country. The fan driven demand for this network to expand is extraordinary and we’re adding over 10 new locations nationwide in 2024 for these unique and special events.
In terms of Gen Z, there’s no better way to genuinely connect with this audience than festivals. For brands serious about engaging with this audience on a national, relevant scale our festivals and digital platforms offer unrivalled channels to meaningful speak to this savvy group of fans.
In terms of values, we also know our Gen Z audiences prioritise self-expression and want festivals to provide them with ways to both experiment and maintain their looks. This is paving the way for new wellness and beauty and grooming offerings across our festival sites.
Finally, sustainability is a hugely important focus for us, and our audiences are overwhelmingly receptive to ideas and partnerships in the space. From power to transportation, waste and beyond, we’re looking at every aspect of festivals so we can work with partners in new ways and ensure fans can enjoy live music outdoors for generations to come.
As one example, Latitude Festival successfully implemented an off-grid electric vehicle (EV) charging station, one of the UK’s largest festival EV charging offering at the time of creation. The station, powered using hydrogenated vegetable oil (HVO), allowed festivalgoers to charge for free so long as they pre-booked their space – and the spaces sold out within an hour.
Photo credit: Barclaycard Presents Latitude Festival
How does digital play a role within your programmes?
All of our partnerships are supported across our digital platforms (social platforms, festival apps, festival and ticketing websites, ERCM). Depending on the partner’s goals, we ensure the digital side of our partnerships are always amplified within highly specific media programmes to reach the most relevant and engaged live music fans. Digital is truly a core component of our partnerships, allowing us to consistently drive behavioural change through rewards, incentives and smart comms.
How do research and insights play a role in your team?
Partnership success is a two-way street, ensuring both the partner and the fan experience the benefits of an engagement. Much of what it takes to guarantee those exchanges are successful is informed by research and insights.
We tap into Sound Board®, our proprietary online community of 5,000+ music fans from across the UK. We’re able to work with our fans on custom quantitative and qualitative research, constantly learning about the behavioural and attitudinal differences of our fans. Sound Board® also allows us to conduct concept testing, run product and messaging tests, hold discussion forums and polls, etc.
Our research and insights team works year-round on proprietary research and data. For example, we embarked on a Fan Journey study last year entitled Fan X, digging into the behaviour of UK fans across each phase of the live music experience. We’ve also conducted thought leadership research into live music and wellness, beauty, sustainability, festivals and food culture, and the power of live entertainment.
With our partners, effectiveness measurement is at the heart of everything we do. We collaborate early to ensure the correct KPIs are measured throughout the partnership. Our approach enables us to measure impact across both physical and digital activations.
What are you and the team looking forward to next year?
We’re looking forward to working with new and existing partners on more opportunities across festivals, delivering benefits that drive their business objectives across the entire live music fan journey.
We’re also looking forward to advancing new, innovative ideas with our long-term partners and showing up at festivals in unexpected and exciting ways.
And, personally, I am counting down the days until I can enjoy another excellent Cajun chicken and rice in a festival field.