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?


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


BMW England Rugby


Make BMW and its vehicles central to England Rugby and the fans’ experience, and drive engagement and leads.



Famously, England rugby fans’ favourite song is ‘Sweet Chariot’. And notoriously, the fans’ travelling experience to and from Twickenham Stadium for England games is difficult. We leveraged these two insights with the BMW Sweet Chariots campaign. A launch film featuring the England team on the road singing Sweet Chariot went viral, and was followed by the appearance of the BMW Sweet Chariots, a fleet of England Rugby-liveried BMWs which offers fans chauffeur-driven rides to and from matches at Twickenham via digital and experiential promotions.



The launch film achieved over 500,000 views and national media coverage, and the BMW Sweet Chariots have become a fans’ favourite at Twickenham and generated thousands of leads.

Penalty Champions


Create a campaign to integrate Betfair's FC Barcelona and Manchester United sponsorships, dramatise the Betfair exchange, and drive digital engagement at scale with the clubs' fans.



A once in a lifetime opportunity for Barca and United fans: the chance to score a goal in front of a sell-out matchday crowd at Camp Nou and Old Trafford.

The Betfair Penalty Champions campaign took Barca and United fans on journey from placing a bet, to a home and away half-time penalty shoot-out between fans from the two clubs.

Every £10 football bet entered fans into the campaign, driving incremental revenue. Ten entrants from each club were chosen to take part in exclusive penalty training days hosted by club legends at Barca and United’s training grounds. The contestants’ best penalties were filmed and posted on the campaign hub, for a vote to decide which fans would become Penalty Champions.



Promoted through FC Barcelona’s facebook page, Manchester United’s digital channels and an extensive social media campaign, over 142,000 Penalty Champions votes were cast, resulting in six finalists being chosen to represent their clubs in the two-legged shoot-out.

Through the recruitment, selection and shoot-out phases, we helped to deliver significant incremental revenue, new customer acquisition, engaging online digital content, and 19 pieces of UK media coverage. The Synergy Events team managed all on-the-ground activation at the club training grounds and, of course, the matchday shoot-out experience for the six lucky winners at Camp Nou and Old Trafford – won by Manchester United!

Bringing Style Back To F1 – Terrazza Martini


In 2014, we successfully brought the iconic Martini Racing stripes back for the Formula One grid, launching Williams Martini Racing to the world’s media at an event in central London. Using Formula One as a platform, our challenge was to reinvigorate the Martini brand – getting a new generation to fall in love with the brand.



We re-imagined the Terrazza Martini, integrating local cultural tastes, music, art and food to create the ultimate aperitivo destination in race cities across the world from Barcelona to Milan, Liege, Mexico City and São Paulo.

Our challenge was to move Martini from sports back pages and into lifestyle press and the consciousness of a new millennial audience, using Formula One as the catalyst. In order to do so, we engaged local and international influencers and ambassadors, including appointing Israeli model Bar Refaeli as Global Race Ambassador and model-turned-photographer Cate Underwood as Official Race photographer, giving a new and fresh take on life in the paddock.

At each Terrazza event, we ran live social newsrooms and developed partnerships with global content producers such as Vice, LeCool and DrinksTube, to help spread the reach far outside the confines of the city.
With high profile outdoor media and a strong on and off trade presence, we took over race cities with the iconic Martini Racing stripes, introducing Martini to a new generation and making it the most talked about brand away from the circuit.


The Terrazza Martini series provided drinks in hand to over 41,000 people and was visited by 50,000+ people globally.

Through our partnership with Bar Refaeli and Cate Underwood as ambassadors of the Terrazza series, we secured over 2,000 pieces of coverage globally, moving Martini from the sports pages into lifestyle.

The total combined audience reach including PR, influences, OOH and digital and social media reached over 507m.


Find the Flag, Fly the Flag


Use Emirates’ exclusive rights to RWC 2015 matchday Flag Bearers to build an emotional connection with RWC fans in the UK.

Emirates Rugby World Cup Chiya Louie


We created the ‘Find the Flag, Fly the Flag’ campaign for rugby fanatical, digital-native teens to become Emirates RWC 2015 Flag Bearers. The campaign featured clues to the location of hidden flags in RWC host cities around the UK being released on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, offering teens who snapped selfies with the hidden flag the chance to be a RWC Flag Bearer, and a light-hearted film featuring Ben Foden putting winning Flag Bearers through an All-Weather Training Boot Camp to test their flag-bearing ability.

We also replicated the Flag Bearer experience at the RWC Fanzones. The Emirates 360° Experience used innovative bullet-time technology and 40 cameras to film fans flying their national flag, with every participant receiving an instant animated 360° GIF of their moment of glory to share on social media, and was replicated in stadia with a roaming Emirates Cabin Crew.

Emirates Rugby World Cup Chiya Louie


220 pieces of national and regional PR coverage.

12 million impressions and engagements on social media with minimal paid support.

15,000 rugby fans took part in the Emirates 360° Experience, with 80% saying they were more likely to fly with Emirates afterwards.

And the experience of a lifetime for 101 Emirates Flag Bearers.

Instagram collageLR