Savvy brands have discovered a secret sauce for engaging with today’s youth audiences: be where they are, and align with what they care about. But, to succeed, be non-obtrusive, authentic, and, of course, fun. Force the message, and kids will tune out. But integrate your brand seamlessly into something they already love, and they’ll tune all the way in.
This is why music tour sponsorships that include artist integrations are so effective and popular with marketers. Last year alone, sponsorship spending on music tours, venues, and festivals approached $1.5 billion – and that number is likely to swell this year.
But executing an artist integration as part of music event marketing demands creativity, careful planning, the right connections, and a smart strategy – it’s anything but turnkey. That’s where 4Fini comes in. With more than 20 years of experience connecting brands to bands, we can help facilitate artist integrations that rock.
Here are three brands we’ve worked with for years that are getting it right, earning the attention and loyalty of millions of young people across America.
For concertgoers at a hot, sweaty, all-day music festival, where the options for seeing, listening, and doing are endless, checking out a brand sponsor might seem like a fleeting afterthought. Just get me to the music…and the water! But for brands that can really hone in on their target youth audience, get to know them at the show, and demonstrate that their message is worthwhile and authentic, the rewards are huge.
The key, particularly when it comes to getting Generation Z’s attention, is to bring the music to the brand’s message, not the other way around. Something kids can see, feel, and share.
That’s exactly what the Keep a Breast Foundation does. The organization’s Traveling Education Booth has been a fixture at Vans Warped Tour for more than 15 years, connecting with hundreds of thousands of teens and 20-somethings every year and educating them on early breast cancer detection and breast health. It’s an event sponsorship activation that young fans – regardless of gender – adore.
But what really gets fans in the booth and passionate about Keep a Breast’s cause are the Vans Warped Tour artists. For example, its 2014 sponsorship activation, dubbed the “Keep a Breast Girlz Garage,” featured signings and special acoustic shows from the likes of Neck Deep, Yellowcard, Less Than Jake, and many others. And, to keep things fun while still spreading the message, bands and staff donned Keep a Breast socks and t-shirts on “Boobies Tuesday.”
In addition, the Traveling Education Booth has featured “Breastology Pillows” to demonstrate what a breast lump feels like. And there are social media challenges to #checkyourselfie, a hashtag campaign that spreads the Keep a Breast message across social media.
But perhaps no result is more powerful than this anecdote. On the first day of the 2014 tour, a 16-year-old boy visited the Traveling Education Booth. “I just wanted to thank you,” he said. “I dragged my mom into this tent last year; she just thought I was trying to be funny. She had a lump in her breast and if it weren’t for Keep a Breast and the Breastology Pillows she never would have gotten it checked out. She is going through treatment right now. Thank you.”
No doubt this secrecy is the result of society’s tattoo taboo. But Support Tattoos and Piercings at Work (or, STAPAW) is an organization that’s fighting hard to stamp out the stigma and stereotypes, especially when it comes to discrimination in the workplace. STAPAW petitions and partners with companies – most recently Costco and Starbucks – to change dress codes and hiring policies to allow tattoos and piercings.
Tattoo and piercing culture is inherently fused with rock and roll, so, for STAPAW, sponsoring Vans Warped Tour is a natural fit and a great way to engage with a youthful niche audience. Tats are everywhere at the tour: on concertgoers, on artists, on crew members, and even on fans’ parents.
The best way to do this is with pro-tat celebs. In 2015, models like Morgan Joyce – who will be back again for this year’s tour – attracted throngs of fans to STAPAW’s on-site activation. Here, fans could meet her, get signed merch, and take pictures. But they could also learn more about the STAPAW cause and sign a petition to join in its mission.
STAPAW firmly attributes its partnership with KLG and the Vans Warped Tour to be directly responsible for its explosive recent growth. From January to August of 2015, thanks to being featured on Vans Warped Tour’s website and social media channels, STAPAW’s own social following almost doubled; total followers across all its platforms grew by 40,000.
In addition, the organization reached its goal of collecting 100,000 petition signatures and recruited more than 1,000 new models and crew members on tour. It has also expanded its international presence, with boots on the ground in all 50 states as well as in 72 countries. But, best of all, as a result of its music tour sponsorship and artist integration, STAPAW influenced American companies totaling 35,000 employees to change their hiring and dress code policies to allow tattoos and piercings in the workplace.
One of the challenges that many brands, companies, and nonprofits face when sponsoring a music tour is that concert goers need a compelling reason to turn their ears and attention spans away from the music.
No brand knows this better than Truth. The youth-focused anti-smoking campaign is geared squarely towards teens, emphasizing early education about why smoking stinks. By nature, it’s not the cheeriest of subjects, so Truth has to strike a delicate balance to engage young audiences: deliver a serious message in a way that doesn’t feel too serious.
With 91 percent of attendees between the ages of 15 and 25, the Vans Warped Tour is the ideal vehicle for Truth to connect with young people. As part of its tour sponsorship activation, Truth literally becomes part of the show. The bright-orange Truth Truck – stationed in the “Truth Zone” – features a live DJ spinning tunes and kicking off epic dance-offs and lip-sync contests. The Truth Truck is also the backdrop for a special artist integrations, including special sets from bands like Motion City Soundtrack, as well as exclusive interviews with scores of other artists on tour. Games like “extreme hot potato” and “Sing it Loud” are fan favorites; people play for a chance to win prizes like t-shirts, hats, bracelets, and skateboards.
Truth is all about creating the ultimate party-within-a-party atmosphere, while educating concert goers in the process. And that’s key for getting Gen Zers psyched and interested. As one staffer said of the experience, “It felt as if the Truth Zone was another stage at the Warped Tour.”
For artists on tour, nothing forges a deeper fan connection than showing you have a some common ground with fans. And for fans, artist integration amplifies a brand sponsor’s mission and message. Talking to young people one-on-one, establishing a relationship with them, and earning their trust is a key differentiator and a huge competitive advantage for any youth-oriented brand.
With more than two decades of experience in youth marketing, music event sponsorship, and seamless artist integration, KLG is ready to help you amplify your message. So join us for the 2016 Vans Warped Tour – it’s going to an epic summer that you and more than half a million young music fans won’t soon forget.