Festivals and Alcohol Brands: the new Sonny & Cher?

As you may have read in my previous post/plea I am currently researching and writing my dissertation “What is the affect on brand value and reputation after sponsoring a major music event” I choose the topic because I wanted to write about something I am interested in and unsurprisingly I have been sucked in by the whole thing!

Music Festivals have become BIG business, with a decline in record sales the industry has seen live music attendances rise. This has not gone unnoticed by big brands most notably the alcohol companies. In researching my dissertation I came to notice that most text available, were on how alcohol companies are taking advantage of sponsorship opportunities to target younger audiences.

Although I am not concentrating on alcohol sponsorship in my dissertation I felt the subject did need some addressing. It is no secret that alcohol companies have latched on to the music scene as a vehicle for the promotion of their brands. Carling is one of the heavyweights in this category, sponsoring or being present at 24 UK festivals and four international festivals. For festival attendees their problem is usually being restricted to Carling being the only beer available, but ‘outsiders’ concerns are that by allowing alcohol brands to sponsor popular cultural events like music festivals is the breeding ground for the UK’s binge drinking problem.

The synergy between music festivals and alcohol brands is obvious, often when you think about a festival you are immediately transported to a muddy field stood in front of a huge stage with a warm pint in your hand. For many people this epitomises their festival experience and brands such as Carling and Gaymers recognised this and developed relationships and subsequently the sponsorship of music festivals. It really is a perfect match, the Sonny and Cher of sponsorships! Although festivals are big business they are also very costly, so large sponsorship deals ensure that the festivals can keep running year on year. In turn the brands sponsoring these festivals are getting a huge amount of intense exposure to their target audience over 2-4 days. From my own research I have already found that people are able to instantly recall the major sponsor of the last festival they attended. According to IPC research 16-34yr men are so passionate about music that they view brands more favourably who sponsor live music events (64%) while women are the biggest spenders on music, “with live music and music merchandise bumping up their annual bill to £803 versus men’s £793.” So it really is no wonder that alcohol brands are looking to music events as a sponsorship opportunity as well as the more traditional sporting events.

There are concerns over alcohol companies sponsoring events like music festivals where a considerable amount of attendees are under the legal drinking limit. There are regulations in place into how alcohol companies are allowed to advertise, one of the regulations is that their advertising campaigns shouldn’t target under 18’s. However there is substantial evidence that the companies are actively seeking ways to target underage audiences to forge a preference to brands before they are of legal drinking age so they can create brand loyalty. One of these ways is sponsorship. Research into the affects of alcohol brands sponsoring music events by Alcohol Concern have shown that young people’s awareness of these brands is heightened after such sponsorship. This on one hand shows the alcohol companies that their sponsorship methods are working, but on the other hand has become a great concern for charities including Alcohol Concern.

Sponsorship is a great promotional tool, attaching your brand to a high profile or popular event can be hugely beneficial. Of course their are pros and cons like any other form of promotion, and these need to be weighed up before entering into it. For the alcohol brands sponsoring music festivals, they are rather cleverly getting around advertising restrictions with this sponsorship activity, however it is naive to place the blame of Britain’s binge drinking culture solely on this. It is proven that these sponsorships do work and in some cases younger audiences are recalling these brands, but studies aren’t going far enough into seeing if the brand recall is the reason behind their drinking behaviour. The blame cannot lie solely with the alcohol brands, the festivals are aware that some of their attendees are below the legal drinking limit and they are agreeing to entering into the sponsorship deals. Alcohol brands are going to continue to sponsor music festivals and I think that’s great, the more money the brands are giving the festivals the better the acts they can book and hopefully the lower the ticket prices will be, win win in my book!