Brands and Festivals: Our Favorite Unexpected Activations

Brittany Thomas, Senior Producer – Shop Marketing and Creative Group

Festivals are a great place to engage with consumers for a number of reasons – aside from connecting with people while they’re already having fun and in good spirits, festivals are trendy, fashion forward, and they attract thousands of people to a single place, simultaneously.

From SXSW and X-Games to Bonnaroo and Coachella, brands across all industries are capitalizing on the chance to “wow” festival audiences and make an impression. Festivals are an obvious place for music, sport, and fashion brands to activate, but we’re seeing an increasing number of brands outside of these categories vying for the attention of the festival audience.

The list below showcases brands you might not expect to meet at a festival, but have created successful campaigns at them.

State Farm Here to Help: State Farm made their big debut on the festival scene with an activation centered around their “here to help life go right” motto. To connect with consumers, they seized an opportunity, much like insurance itself, to alleviate the inconveniences and unpredictability of festivals. For instance, at Bonnaroo State Farm offered roadside assistance with a side of toothpaste and shampoo for those who forgot the essentials. At Lollapalooza, they provided attendees with ponchos to counteract rainstorms. While at other festivals they provided storage lockers, Wi-Fi, and charging stations. We don’t know about you, but any brand that gives us shampoo and a poncho in a pinch, is a brand we can get onboard with.

Subway Green Room: FREE SANDWICHES! Need we say more? This past summer, Subway executed a summer festival roadshow offering free mini sandwiches and air conditioning to aide in the well-known lack of food and stifling heat many festival-goers suffer. The “Green Room, baked by Subway” provided an air-conditioned room for people to cool off, grab a snack, charge their phones, slather on some sunscreen, and engage with the national sandwich brand. At some stops, the Green Room even hosted meet and greets with artists, drawing more attention to their space and capturing consumers for a longer period of time.

Kohler “Shower Out Loud”: Kohler was the official shower head sponsor at Bonnaroo and activated a shipping container shower facility equipped with private showers and changing rooms. After a long day of dancing and sweating, a private shower sounds amazing enough, but Kohler didn’t stop there. In addition to the showers, they teamed up with DJs to offer exclusive music for “shower happy hours” and provided various gifts to their clean consumers. Kohler also left consumers with both pre and post shower photos to showcase just how refreshing their activation truly was.

Glad and Keep America Beautiful: Discarding trash and recycling at a festival is not a very sexy nor easy task, but it is an essential part of keeping event landscapes beautiful and safe. Glad capitalized on this necessary pain point by launching an activation at SXSW that made trash and recycling just a little more exciting. With the help of an artist, Glad created a mural of America out of trash to remind concert goers to think about the environment. In addition, they provided 13 trash, compost, and recycling areas throughout the festival to help divert much of the festival’s waste. Way to make an impact, Glad!

With the increasing focus on face-to-face consumer interactions, no longer do billboards or digital ads catch attention or evoke strong emotions. Brand activations have become a core component of festivals and we’re seeing a growing number of brands across all industries partcipating. State Farm, Subway, Kolhler, and Glad identified a few festival pain points attendees experience and created relevant and impactful brand moments around them.

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