At Summer Festivals, Sponsors Increasingly Shell Out To Make A Buck

By Robert Channick
Chicago Tribune

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Sponsorship spending on music tours, festivals and venues was projected to total $1.54 billion last year, a 4.8 percent increase from 2016, according to research from Chicago-based IEG. Wine and spirits brands were the most active music festival sponsors, followed by beer brands.


The summer festival season kicked off in Chicago earlier this month with Spring Awakening, an annual electronic music event that drew about 100,000 mostly millennial attendees for three days of dancing, drinking and communing at a park in Little Italy on the near South Side.

While artists such as Alison Wonderland, Bleep Bloop and Slushii were the main attractions, mainstream sponsors were an integral part of the experience, paying upward of $100,000 to woo festivalgoers with pop-up dance clubs, branded giveaways and samples of their products, mostly booze.

From Monaco Cocktail’s “Silent Disco” to the Corona “Electric Beach,” sponsor “activations” are a creative way to resonate with attendees where traditional advertising can’t reach. But increasingly, festival sponsors are pairing their so-called experiential marketing efforts with some old-fashioned vendor sales, hoping for a more immediate return on investment.

“The trend is no longer just marketing,” said Joe Lucchese, founder and owner of Pro-Ject, a 5-year-old, Chicago-based experiential marketing agency that manages sponsorships for Spring Awakening. “Their goal is to sell as much product, in a thoughtful and unique way, as possible at each festival.”

Founded in 2008, Chicago-based React Presents produces Spring Awakening, Mamby on the Beach and other Midwest festivals. Lucchese said brands “have gotten a lot smarter” about leveraging the events to maximize on-site sales.

But this is not your father’s Chicagofest beer concession.

Creativity was on full display at Spring Awakening, where sponsors paid between $10,000 and $100,000 to participate in the event, Lucchese said.

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