Glastonbury Festival: Bands Before Brands?

It’s that time of year again when 135,000 ticket holders stomp their muddy wellies upon Worthy Farm and pray for five days that it won’t rain. Glastonbury Festival, the largest greenfield festival in the world, has been running for 46 years and appears to show no signs of slowing down.

With the world’s best music artists in attendance (depending on your view of Kanye West) a guest-list of celebs which rivals a red carpet event, and a 900-acre site packed with people from all walks of life, there’s an obvious commercial opportunity for brands. Yet, Michael Eavis does a great job of avoiding the inevitable cattle market brand takeover, with the reality being that Glastonbury is very much a ‘rightsholder’ bucking the trend when it comes to brand involvement. So the question is, how does he do it?

FORCE FOR CHANGE

Since day dot (the ’70s), Glastonbury Festival has always attributed itself to being a positive force for change. With the likes of Water Aid, Greenpeace and Oxfam as partners, the underlining message of the festival is to protect the environment, often in alternative ways. This year will be another first for Greenpeace, with a virtual reality dome where you can experience David Attenborough’s spectacular visit to the Great Barrier Reef, to highlight how it’s under threat through climate change.

Although these ‘showpiece’ elements from such ‘not for profits’ definitely resonate with the festival’s values at large, if you look further into the other brands involved with the festival, they may have more in common with each other than you might think.

Having attended Glastonbury for the past three years, it’s only now when I sit and think about it, that a few brands stand out. Upon arrival, if you can still manage to muster a smile having trekked miles with your temporary home on your back, there are people offering you a mapped guide to the festival, in a Yeo Valley canvas bag. That canvas bag becomes a part of your body, and as a result, free marketing for Yeo Valley, as you march from field to field carrying around your tinnies.

This is  a great example of subtle yet practical branding, with no sign of yogurts or dairy products being pushed in ‘Yeo’ face! Notably, Yeo Valley are actually a local brand (being from Somerset), which demonstrates another element of Glastonbury’s ethos – to support local businesses.

CHAMPION THE LOCALS

I asked my fellow festival-goer housemate what brands have stood out to her, if any, when she’s been at Glastonbury. Her immediate reaction was Thatchers Cider, which probably says more about her own festival experience, but a great example nonetheless. Thatchers recently agreed a deal which extends their prominence as the ‘Official Cider of Glastonbury Festival’ for the next five years.

Again, Glastonbury succeeds in associating itself with a local, family-run business, supporting them in becoming accessible to thousands of international festival junkies. Yet, I can’t help but wonder – especially at a festival when food and drink is permitted from outside festival boundaries – whether Thatchers need to offer something more… An experience, perhaps, that says a little more about them to potential customers than just pitching up a series of bars across the grounds.

CREATE AN UNFORGETTABLE EXPERIENCE

One brand defiant in demonstrating their prominence at the festival is mobile network EE, who are truly living up to their name of ‘Everything Everywhere’. EE became Glastonbury’s Official Technology partner in 2014, and have certainly made themselves a brand that’s in demand by adding to the experience of festival goers.

Initially introducing the ‘recharge bar’, they gave revelers, and more so, millennials, the chance to become the envy of their friends by having instant access to social media throughout the festival with WiFi hotspots available across the site.

This, in turn, is of huge benefit to the festival itself, with Glastonbury being the talk of the town (or more so the country) across social media channels, as well as being a great success for EE. In fact, in their first year of sponsorship, they signed up nearly 900,000 users to the network between January and March, well on their way to the target of six million 4G customers by the end of the year.

This year, EE have taken it one step further by creating the ‘EE Festival Essentials Pack’, which has the addition of a waterproof phone case and a poncho, showing that not only do they know how to please potential customers, but also that they understand the British summertime! Although they’re somewhat of an outsider when it comes to fitting with the festival’s core values, they’re making their presence at the festival invaluable. By engaging with the festival audience, and allowing seamless social media sharing for customers they’re offering the advantage of free-marketing for Mr Eavis in the process.

IT’S NOT ALL FLOWER CROWNS & DANCING

Although Glastonbury Festival has appeared to strike a positive balance between brand and consumers, it doesn’t always work out for everyone. In 2008, Reading and Leeds called time on their partnership with Carling, who had a 10-year sponsorship with the rock festival series, after failing to connect suitably with audiences.

Carling took over in 1998, and rebranded the two festivals as the ‘Carling Weekend’ – although perhaps the fact that this didn’t catch on may have been a tell-tale sign of what was to come. The title sponsorship was fairly limited in what it brought to the party – merely making Carling available at festival sites wasn’t quit connecting suitably with consumers.

INFLUENCE FROM THE INSIDE, OUT

This lends itself nicely to the last and final way, I believe, that brands who aren’t directly sponsors of the festival are able to succeed. It’s no secret that celebrities hold the key to giving your brand a boost, and with greater access to social media allowing fast and efficient product promotion, it’s a winning formula. Over recent years, much like its successful counterparts such as Coachella and Burning Man, Glastonbury Festival has become a celebrity hot spot, that plays host to a pool of influencer consumers, delivering brand opportunities in abundance.

The first brand success of its kind came in the form of British supermodel Kate Moss, who famously wore Hunter wellies to Glastonbury Festival in 2005 , which, much to the delight of Hunter, practically rescued the company from imminent administration. It is unreported as to whether this was merely a stroke of luck or genius, but nonetheless the trend has been picked up across the years from celebs attending the festival, with consumers naturally assigning Hunter to the festival itself.

Despite the potential celebrity endorsement takeover within Glastonbury Festival, this type of marketing has huge appeal for millennials due to their unbounded enthusiasm for Instagram trend-spotting and the like. This does its job of ticking the box of ‘creating a better brand experience’ for those in attendance. It is something which brands wishing to associate themselves with Glastonbury should have at the forefront of their minds, for not only the punters, but for the artists attending too.

What we’ve seen is that brands can succeed in adding value to the festival experience – which is, after all, the sign of great sponsorship in action. It’s clear that the sponsors that share Glastonbury’s ‘Love Worthy Farm, Leave No Trace’ ethos resonate well with their audience, creating a positive relationship between the festival, brand and potential customers.

The challenge for Glastonbury Festival for the future is to retain the balance of independence and positive brand involvement without getting stuck in the mud.

The Future for Women’s Sport: Learnings from our This Girl Does Event

Women’s sport is a really good investment. We have proof. It is time that brands understand what the opportunity is. Expertly hosted by Jacqui Oatley, MBE, Sport Presenter and Journalist, Synergy’s This Girl Does panel consisted of Tanya Joseph, Director of Business Partnerships at Sport England; Colin Banks, Head of Sponsorship and Reward, SSE; Ruth Holdaway, CEO Women in Sport; and Carly Telford, England and Notts County Footballer.Watch the video in full here.

Here are our 7 top takeaways from the day:

Untapped potential

Tanya Joseph, who orchestrated the widely successful campaign #ThisGirlCan, shared that the work was built on research revealing 2 million fewer women do recreational sport than men, but 75% of women say that they would like to do a lot more sport. As Joseph suggests, when women make up over half the population and are responsible for the majority of purchasing decisions made in the home, that’s a lot of untapped potential. Joseph claims that the campaign was so successful due to an acute understanding of the underlying fear of judgement that goes hand in hand with exercise for many women. Being able to liberate women from this fear of not being comfortable in their own bodies in a tone that is not patronising or preachy, has so far inspired 2.8 million women to get active.

Increase in role models

Carly Telford acknowledged that 2012 was when women’s football really got put on the map in this country. According to Telford, what the nation saw was the same as the men with regards to the passion they felt and the honour with which they represented the Three Lions. This, combined with the media putting them on a pedestal, encouraged record audiences. Before 2012 there were no female sports role models and in the past five years the nation has been inspired by the success of the Lionesses, Olympic and Paralympic athletes and our talented rugby union team (among many others).

The Opportunity

The figures show that a vast receptive audience exists. Women’s sport makes up less than half a percent of sponsorship going into sport, so “whatever you are looking at there will be an opportunity” says Ruth Holdaway. In the next three years the women’s Cricket World Cup (2017), the Hockey World Cup (2018) and the Netball World Cup (2019) are all being hosted in this country. According to Holdaway, the plan is to offer all three of these sports to every single school girl across the country which presents a real opportunity for brands to inspire our nation’s girls and reach their parents. It is also a great example of how innovative the rights holders are being working together to strengthen the offering.

Accessibility & Storytelling

Not only are our female role models so much more accessible they have really powerful stories for brands to tell. Superstars in men’s sport are shut off to their fans; they are a step removed by the PR teams managing their channels. Telford explained that female sports stars are far more accessible and more likely to engage personally with their audience. Their stories can connect, because ultimately they are women ‘like you’. As Tanya Joseph so aptly put it, ‘Women want to see themselves reflected in marketing.’

Chicken & Egg

The barriers to investment were brought up by Oatley asking “do you need success first before investment comes, or do you invest early and be part of that success from the start”? It was fascinating to hear from Colin Banks at SSE about how they reached their decision to sponsor the Women’s FA Cup. He started off by stating that when developing their sponsorship strategy women’s sport rose to the top in terms of value for money, and meeting core brand and business marketing objectives. From a brand perspective, Banks pointed out that “commercial ventures need return”. For SSE women’s sport was a no-brainer and they have seen real, tangible return on their investment. Banks also said that when meeting with the rights holders there was true willingness to bring partners into the fold; “exposure is of course key, but the days of media coverage being the be all and end all are over, it’s about how you engage with your audience”. So far, so successful for SSE and The FA.

Authenticity

For brands to engage the key is to connect to their audiences in an authentic way; when you talk to people in the right way, they can’t help but want to get involved. #ThisGirlCan proved this by shifting women’s perception to feel like sport is a place where they can be. Open, honest conversations with all stakeholders and your audience are essential to ensure your brand connects. According to Telford, where you will find success is when you move away from this ‘puppet on a string’ approach to working with athletes. Brands also have much more to being to the table, to generate the much needed awareness to genuinely build the sport, instead of paying vast amounts of money in exchange for reluctantly handed over assets and limited access to players that is often the experience in the men’s game.

Don’t miss out

According to Joseph “in five years’ time people will be kicking themselves that they didn’t get involved earlier”. It’s becoming quite evident that SSE has set a historical precedent in this space and we at Synergy hope to see many more brands follow suit..

If you’re interested in discussing Women’s Sport further please get in touch with Synergy’s Lisa Parfitt – lisa.parfitt@synergy-sponsorship.com.

Why Brands Should Take Extreme Sports Seriously

I’m not ashamed to admit that I could watch ski and snowboard films all day. There’s something so alluring about the mountains; people have always loved being close to and at the mercy of nature at its most unpredictable and this has provided the perfect backdrop for a huge number of sports that we know and love.

When you think about the brands that associate themselves with these sports, the most ubiquitous tend to have a literal link, like energy drinks, alongside the relevant equipment and apparel brands. Undeniably Red Bull has become synonymous with extreme sports; it has stuck to its guns, made its presence known and created new events under its brand banner alongside existing ones within the category to truly cement its domination. It’s quite a niche world and one in which there aren’t many rules for traditional broadcast and dissemination of information. Red Bull Media House recently announced a partnership with Reuters to provide extreme sports and lifestyle sports content to their list of international news subscribers around the world, which will bring them a new level of exposure.

With domination of the category I can understand why extreme sports tends to get overlooked for sponsorship in favour of aligning with the tried and tested routes for generating the highest reach possible. You can’t argue with the 4.7bn global viewing figures of the Premier League, but according to ‘The Future of Sports’ report, extreme sports in the US will challenge professional and collegiate team sports for the title of most-watched category of sports content by 2020.And this is despite the fact that these sports are not routinely broadcast on TV, but consumed on YouTube as well as well-known outlets dedicated to their broadcast like Teton Gravity Research and Epic TV.

In my opinion here is a category of sports where all factors point to a large potential for growth, where the challenges provide exciting opportunities to be creative in order to break free from the dominance of Red Bull and reach new and loyal audiences for your brand.

Self-generated content & social media

The age of GoPro and YouTube has allowed us all to be film-makers, athletes included. Okay, so we may not be able to make ski films like Teton Gravity Research have been for years, but we can strap a camera to our heads whilst skiing through the trees or bouldering a technical route and the very nature of these activities makes our own curated outdoor content inherently more watchable.

Athletes have to generate large followings on social media to attract sponsors and increase the reach of these sports to the mainstream. This makes innovation and social media essential for the survival of these sports; the engaged audience has existed for years, but the wider audience opens up more possibilities for brands, participation and funding. Brands have a fundamental role to play here: they have the creativity and technology to take these sports to new audiences, whilst making the most of the influence you can have on the athlete’s own audiences using their heroism/heroinism to tell your story.

Cross-pollination of audiences

Skaters and surfers can appreciate ski and snowboard films (and vice versa) because they often emulate a similar vibe that resonates across audiences; for example, these skiers making use of the streets in Boston covered in snow will have taken inspiration from street skating. If you sign up to partner with one sport in the ‘extreme’ category, your audience is immediately wider than these seemingly niche sports would indicate.

There are opportunities here for brands to speak to audiences across sports. Luxury brands have started to do this particularly well; this short film that we made for luxury whisky brand Royal Salute blended polo and surfing in Hawaii. The strategy was to demonstrate polo as a lifestyle that brings people together; the comparison of the unpredictable nature of horses and the ocean gives both sports new dimensions and, therefore, an appreciation from new audiences. Tag Heuer’s free riding series is similar and highlights the technique, power and fearlessness of free diving, trail running and mountain bike free riding. It’s about finding amazing people with incredible untold stories and telling them through a brand or campaign filter, e.g. Tag Heuer’s #dontcrackunderpressure.

Participation

Sports that we may class as extreme at the professional level are characteristically lifestyles at their grassroots. For the average person activities and hobbies like skiing and snowboarding, scuba diving, surfing, climbing, skate boarding, etc. transcends sport as a leisure activity. They can deliver on skill and competition, but they also provide a platform to feel connected to something greater and ultimately get closer to nature.

Snowboarding essentially didn’t exist 30 years ago and now boasts 5 million participants worldwide, whilst skateboarding started a style craze. It could be a specific lifestyle that leads you to one of these sports or just our obsession with the extremes of human experience – you don’t necessarily need to get involved at school. There are opportunities here for representatives of these sports as a way of life to get involved as brand ambassadors, particularly if you are looking to channel the ethos of one of these sports to make them more humanly accessible. Indeed many of these athletes are not international superstars and so are arguably more accessible as inspirational and aspirational figures.

CSR

The great outdoors is irrevocably changing. Whether you notice it or not, snow in the Alps is gradually becoming a more finite entity. For any sports that depend upon the way that we treat the planet, there are inevitable worthy and high profile initiatives that present opportunities for partners and sponsors to support. Ben + Jerry’s alongside New Belgium Brewing have teamed up with Protect our Winters (POW) with new products that pledge a donation to the cause. The point here is that brands who choose to invest in these sports and the issues they face will buy stronger and deeper loyalty and advocacy amongst participants and fans of extreme sports than you could ever imagine.

With extreme sports there are obvious superficial barriers to entry: there is risk attached and the entire genre seems to be completely owned by Red Bull. The former can be managed by a controlled and measured approach, the latter is pure perception; their association is dominant, but this does not mean that there is not enough room for ownership and a different approach. With extreme sports, despite its niche nature, the opportunities are infinite and the fans endlessly supportive, grateful and loyal.

Heart Over Head: Spotlight turns on sponsors after Sharapova ban

In the 48 hours following the news that Maria Sharapova has been banned for two years for taking banned substance Meldonium, the spotlight has invariably shifted to her sponsors to see their reaction.

Many would have expected Nike, Head and Evian to pull the plug on their sponsorship deals with the former world No.1, but all three have done quite the opposite. Nike announced it will be continuing to partner with Sharapova, citing that she did not dope intentionally and is appealing the ban. Originally Nike had suspended its relationship with the Russian pending the investigation.

Evian, likewise, had first said it would follow the investigation closely before making a decision, but has now come out in full support of Sharapova and will continue to work with her despite the ban.

Head, though, took things a step further – a big and controversial step further – by challenging the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and the International Tennis Federation (ITF). Head has claimed that the ban was based on WADA’s flawed process and was therefore a flawed decision, and so the brand will be sticking by Sharapova and continuing its sponsorship.

Quite why a tennis racket manufacturer is challenging WADA’s global drugs policy is baffling. What expertise does Head have to make such a criticism of WADA and doping in sport? A well-advised sponsor would steer clear of such a move and comment only on its relationship with the athlete, certainly not taking on a governing body that is trying to keep the sport clean and fair.

This follows the original statement Head released back in March when the failed drugs test first arose in which the company nailed its colours to the mast and came out in support of Sharapova without knowing all the facts or what the final outcome of the independent investigation would be. This did not sit well with one of its biggest athletes, Andy Murray, who openly criticised Head’s position in supporting Sharapova.

Sharapova is a Head ambassador

At the same time, another Sharapova’s sponsors, Tag Heuer, took the non-emotional route and put loyalty to one side by announcing it was suspending renewal talks and cutting its ties with the tainted tennis star. Tag has reaffirmed this stance and said it is not in a hurry to discuss any new contract, signalling the partnership will wind down

Porsche took a similar approach to Nike in suspending all planned activity with the former Wimbledon champion and has now said it will hold back final judgement until the outcome of the appeal is known.

Avon sensibly chose to remain silent back in March, but has now confirmed the sponsorship will expire at the end of the current contract without renewal, pointing at a limited engagement window for activity being the reason as opposed to the doping situation.

The Nike positioning is interesting when you look at the business value and the brand’s reputation. Supporting an athlete banned for doping damages the reputation of the brand, although a precedent was set by Nike’s renewed support of two-time drugs cheat Justin Gatlin. If there is a huge business value attached to the athlete that outweighs the reputational risk in the long-term then you could understand Nike supporting Sharapova. However, she is approaching the end of her career, especially by the time she can return to the court, and when put alongside the other stars on Nike’s books she no longer has the revenue pulling power.

We now await the verdict of Sharapova’s appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport and to see what the sponsors do next. Will Murray and other top stars with Head or Nike partnerships speak out publicly against Head challenging WADA or Nike sticking by Sharapova?

10 Themes To Watch At Rio 2016

The tears of joy that marked Rio’s winning Games bid are a distant memory, replaced by troubled preparations, crisis in Brazil and the spectre of doping. But it’s going to be a great party – right?

1. Back in 2009, Rio’s winning bid was sold as a showcase for Brazil’s booming economy and the Carioca vibe. Seven years on, Brazil’s economy has tanked, the Petrobras scandal has engulfed the Government and big business, and civil discontent is raging. And if all that wasn’t enough, along came Zika. No modern Games has been staged against such a crisis-riven domestic backdrop. The showcase has become a spotlight on a country in crisis.2. Athletics is uniquely important to the Olympics’ image and credibility. And the spectre that haunts the Olympics is doping – in particular of athletics. So, following the IAAF’s disgrace and the exposure of Russia’s state-sponsored doping, the IAAF decision later this month on whether to allow Russia to compete in Rio is of huge significance. Whichever way it goes, it will be key to the Games story – and the Games’ credibility.3. On the track, one man above all will once again carry athletics, and the Games itself, on his shoulders: Usain Bolt. Rio’s story will also be the story of Bolt’s last Games. Few, if any, have been as important to the Games, to their sport, and to sport itself, as Bolt. Rio will quite rightly be a celebration of that. But the Olympics post-Bolt? Big shoes to fill.4. A great Games off as well as on the track is critical for the IOC. Worldwide, cities and their citizens are increasingly sceptical about the benefits of hosting the Games, leading to fewer and fewer bidders. Rio’s legacy – chiefly, its effect on the city’s image and infrastructure – will therefore be a major talking point. But the biggest scrutiny will be on Games-time operations. Organisational failures continue to dog the preparations: failure at Games Time however is simply not an option.

5. Famously, the 'Olympic Ethos' is that the most important thing is not winning but taking part. Whereas, if you know Brazil, you’ll know that for Brazilians, sport is all about winning! The interplay between these two contrasting philosophies will be fascinating, especially given the huge importance to Brazilians of winning the Olympic football tournament — the only major football title they’ve never won — and the probability of Brazil winning far more Paralympic than Olympic medals.

6. Creatively, this Games could be special. The creative collisions between Brazil and Rio and the Olympics and Paralympics should be really inspirational for all the brands involved in the Games. I’m hoping they rise to the occasion, particularly the global Olympic Partners, and raise the bar for Olympic and Paralympic Marketing.

7. With the average age of an Olympics fan now over fifty and rising, 2016 is Year Zero for the IOC’s new digital channel – an attempt, above all, to sell the Olympics to the young. How well the Olympic Channel performs in reaching new audiences will, in terms of the future of the Games, be the story of this Olympic year.

8. Rio will be a testing ground for one of the biggest changes to the Olympic sponsorship ecosystem in years – non-sponsors of the Games being officially allowed to use athletes in marketing campaigns around Rio, following the IOC’s decision to bow to athlete pressure and relax Rule 40. Which brands are given waivers, and to what extent their activity impacts Games sponsors will be one of the biggest Rio sponsorship stories to follow.

9. London 2012 was the first truly Socialympics, but Rio will take this to new heights given how social Brazilians are – Brazil leads the world in time spent on social media. And for the Brazilian consumer, one platform will be an incredibly influential force during the Games – WhatsApp, which is used by 100 million Brazilians. Rio will be the first WhatsApp Games.

10. Every Games evolves the Olympic and Paralympic brands. Some leave particularly fond memories — LA, Barcelona, Sydney, London. Some, for varying reasons, the reverse — Munich, Moscow, Atlanta, Athens. All the signs are that Rio will have a more profound effect than most, with the outcome uncertain. Rarely has so much been at stake for the Games, for its host city, and for the IOC. Rarely, if ever, has sport been in such crisis. So let’s hope that when we look back on Rio, we remember it for all the right reasons.

And for being a great party too.

This article originally appeared in the 2016 edition of ‘Now, New & Next’, Synergy’s annual look ahead at key issues in sports and entertainment marketing.