Coachella 2012: taking sponsorship to the next level

 

Music festival Coachella has recently wrapped up the second of its two long weekends. Taking advantage of the relatively warm climates of the Californian desert, the famous event jumpstarts the summer festival season. This year’s event has seen sponsors step up with innovative marketing ideas, whilst Coachella (itself a brand) has also provided a brilliant example of maximizing social media presence.

Boasting an eclectic line up of artists over the two weekends – none of which are overtly commercial and many of which have gained popularity by the release of free music – bombarding festival goers with brand messaging and products with a lack of relevance to the surroundings could have backfired. It appears that this year’s sponsors were aware of this and delivered innovative solutions for their brands, enhancing consumers’ festival experience.

Heineken launched its cold storage room, allowing Coachella attendees to store up to two cases of Heineken in their own personal coolers accessed via the owners’ thumbprints. Helping to avoid frequent queuing throughout the day and, worst of all, warm beers (the bane of a festival goer’s life!). Meanwhile several fashion brands, such as Lacoste and Guess, hosted after parties near the festival site, with an array of entertainment options, including performances from some artists featured at Coachella, to support the launch of new products.

As mobile phones have become an increasingly popular replacement to a lighter in the air, illuminating the arena at the request of the artist, sponsoring a festival has become a logical choice for phone companies – particularly in light of research that suggests 66% of concert goers nowadays take pictures via their smartphones and about 32% send Facebook updates or tweets from a show. T-Mobile took advantage of this, bringing their ‘Neon Carnival’ to Coachella. This included carnival games and thrill rides such as bumper cars, an enormous Ferris wheel and a giant slide. Again, the reason for this event was the launch of a new product (new beats by Dre sound technology for the HTC one mobile phone) – however, it was placed in the context of a funfair, allowing those attending to receive a memorable, positive brand experience.

In a bid for cultural relevance (topic discussed in my previous blog post) Hyundai presented their Re:Generation music documentary, placing artists from different genres together in creative collaboration. Hyundai’s Advertising Director David Matathia hopes this approach is a “more effective model that appeals to that audience more than pushing ad messages at them”. It would appear these brands have headed the warning of Scott Lucas, executive director of Interbrand Cincinnati, who advised “the experience needs to be carefully planned to ensure not just execution but relevancy”.

 As for Coachella itself, the now infamous Tupac hologram generated a huge buzz across all social media platforms during the first weekend, as mentions of the hologram exceeded 2.3 million tweets during one evening alone. The festival’s embracement of viral output (the whole weekend was streamed live) and notable online presence helped it amplify the buzz. Through developing a YouTube channel, and Tumblr, Twitter and Pinterest accounts, the festival had a presence across 9 social media platforms. As a brand itself, Coachella has laid the blueprint for those in the consumer market to follow when thinking of creating consumer engagement, product content and generating buzz. The only difficult part is coming up with the creative idea to get people talking.

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(Sub) Culture Marketing

Brands seek cultural capital by aligning themselves with underground talent

The use of celebrity endorsement has been a long established technique for brands looking to expand, create a buzz or gain some level of fame. However, an obvious disparity between the values or interests of the chosen endorser and those of the brand may lead to public cynicism. In addition a misjudged communication strategy can lead to infamy rather than fame, highlighted by Snickers’ promoted tweet campaign which received an unfavourable response.

Avoiding these concerns, many brands are focusing instead on investment in culture rather than on any one particular individual to endorse their brand or product. Colin Drummond of Ogilvy West argues this approach is ‘established by a brand looking to be a facilitator of culture, broadening the horizons past simply focusing on the benefits of the product alone’. Red Bull have been the pioneers in the way of culture led marketing, establishing a music academy in 1998, involving participants from across the globe and notable artists running seminars every year.

There have been other notable examples of brands looking to connect with consumers in a broad cultural landscape. These include the Smirnoff nightlife exchange project featuring Madonna and Garnier’s pop up salons at summer music festivals. However, recently some brands have been directing their activities outside of the mainstream, as an alternative strategy in pursuit of cultural relevancy. Here are some examples:

In promotion of a new Sportswear range, Nike’s ‘Always On’ campaign included a multitude of vignettes featuring up and coming unsigned artists, creating original tracks to accompany visuals that starred athletes of varying degrees of popularity from a number of sports. The video below focuses on the annual Dyckman basketball tournament in Harlem, New York which is organised by the community and features amateur stars within the sub culture of streetball. The soundtrack is provided by Harlem artist Vado. It features no overt product messaging and integrates the brand into the storyline. The focus is on cultural relevance among a sub-genre and, in a broader context, support of local community.


 

Moving further away from any kind of product placement (besides a not-so-subtly worn baseball cap), Reebok have recently partnered with unsigned New York artists Action Bronson & Party Supplies. Part of Reebok’s classic sessions campaign. They financed an entire project available for free download, establishing Reebok’s investment in music and the creative process. Again, there is an absence of any product messaging, besides casual references dropped into conversation in the below video. As you will note, the only overt branding is the Reebok logo at the beginning and end of the video. The focus is on entertaining the consumer’s cultural interests, creating a greater possibility of sharing the content.


 

Besides simply investing in the normal activities of an artist, some brands are looking to involve cultural figures as creative directors. Expanding on the role of simple endorser and providing a platform to put their talents to work on behalf of the brand. Again, there are examples of this on a grander scale, such as Lady Gaga designing a product for Polaroid or Jean Paul Gaultier for Diet Coke.

Contrastingly, Sony, in their bid for cultural relevance, has looked towards underground personalities enlisting Prodigy (New York rapper), Mike Posner (singer/songwriter) and Steve Aoki (electro house musician) to curate a cover for their new Sony S Tablet, in a social media tie in with fashion magazine Complex. The interviews featuring each artist involve both the product and personality in equal measure; the value created is in the selection of those individuals, helping to leverage cultural respect and authenticity. It will be interesting to see if other brands follow suit and value cultural marketing as a key component of brand promotion in the U.K.

March Madness: inspiring cross-platform campaigns from the U.S.

The month of March ushers in the closing period of the Premiership and commencement of training for all cricketers of the country. However, across the Atlantic it means one thing: March Madness, the annual College basketball tournament which continues to garner huge interest, captivating a TV and, increasingly, a social media audience. This provides an opportunity for brands to get in on the action as official sponsors or otherwise. To put the scale of March Madness in perspective, the TV deal with the governing body the NCAA is currently $10.8 billion over 14 years (bear in mind that’s just 14 months’ worth of coverage!). Although all current activity is primarily for the U.S. market, I thought it would be interesting to run down some of the innovative campaigns over this period, as brands look to integrate their promotions across of forms of media.

Coca-Cola has introduced a multitude of platforms to encourage engagement via social media, including texts for prizes during live games, and is also the sponsor of the official social arena, which allows fans to share game content and discuss games with others, accessed via the Coke Zero website.

It has also used the opportunity to invest in the marketing of its energy drink Powerade, launching a commercial alongside a Facebook page which offers the chance to win tickets to the Final Game. In addition, they have also teamed up with convenience store chain 7Eleven to produce souvenir cups which hold a QR code providing a link to the Powerade website and a video of a selected memorable moment of the tournament, hosted by former players.

The Nissan-owned car firm Infinity has launched a campaign involving social marketing and philanthropy. Announced via a promoted tweet, it promises to donate money to the American Cancer Society for every correct tournament bracket pick made via its website. 

Other sponsors Dominos, Reeces and UPS find their Facebook pages now dominated by March Madness, with opportunities for prizes, encouraging engagement with the brands page during games.

Unilever launched Dove’s ‘Journey to comfort’ campaign featuring stories from former and current basketball players. The ad is accompanied by a Facebook page where people are encouraged to share their own stories, a dedictated website and also an app which allows you to send a personal message to Shaq (featured below), interacting with the brand and the personality.

As you can see, these ‘corporate champions’ have come up with some original ideas, enabling them to engage the consumer by idenfiying shared values and or interests despite there being no immediate connection to basketball itself. They provide inspiration for future campaigns focused on cross platform engagement.

Google Re:Brief – Re-imagining TV adverts for the digital age

In light of changing screen based media behaviour, Walker Media recently brought together our TV and display teams to form the new Screen Team. By uniting the best of broadcast and digital display we can ensure that we offer a cohesive approach to the consumer journey, reflecting the ever increasing connectedness of screen based media behaviour.

To mark the changing nature of consumer interaction with screen media and to celebrate 18 years of Internet advertising, Google designed Project Re:Brief. Google challenged four global brands to remake iconic TV ads as digital campaigns to show how online media can be used creatively to engage and entertain rather than bombarding the consumer with sales pitches.

Coca-Cola chose to bring alive the feel good charm of the “Hilltop” TV ad from 1971, in which a group of people sing about wanting to buy the world a coke. This was done via Google’s display advertising platform and a series of bespoke vending machines around the world. Users can record a message and send it along with a Coca-Cola to connect with someone on the other side of the world. The recipient can then respond with a text or video message to thank the sender, completing the connection.

It is a rare occasion to see someone tweet about a new display ad or for someone to wax lyrical about a pop up online ad in the same way they would about a great TV ad. Projects like this are encouraging as they highlight the need for a new wave of digital advertising which captures the imagination of people.

The Medium Is the Message: Three Creative, Unusual Media Spaces

In the past few weeks, I’ve come across a few creative and rather unusual media spaces used by advertisers to get their message through when people are exactly in the right mindset to receive it. The first one is from Sweden, where Ikea placed sofas in real-estate ads, catching would-be home buyers’ attention when they’re looking for or dreaming about their future houses.

This brilliant ‘bumpvertising’ campaign for Medecins Sans Frontiers uses pregnant women’s bellies as media space to highlight the work MSF does to make sure women in developing countries can give birth safely.

In the US, CollegeInvest, Colorado’s non-profit education savings plan,has bought advertising space in school report cards, communicating their message to parents at a moment when they are very likely to be thinking about their children’s academic futures.