This year, Splendour in the Grass celebrated its 21st birthday. Some 40,000 revellers returned to Byron Bay — hoping that the rains that washed out last year’s festivities would stay away — to hear some of the biggest artists in the world.
Updated 26/7: Clarification on the number of attendees at this year’s festival compared to last.
Lizzo, for example, proved a hit on Friday night with a dramatic light show, stunning vocals and feel-good vibes. She even took the time to sign a woman in the crowd’s arse.
Sam Fender and King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard were the highlights from Saturday, with the Aussie rockers playing a non-stop high octane hour-long set. Fender, meanwhile, brought his exceptional repertoire of singalong anthems to northern New South Wales (and left one pom B&T journo very hoarse in the process).
Despite the drop in attendees from last year — around 50,000 — Kristy Rosser, founder and managing director, Secret Sounds Connect and senior vice president, marketing solutions and client services at Live Nation ANZ, told B&T that it was still a “strong result” and they expected more people to return next year.
Away from the three stages, attendees were able to sample brand activations from some of Splendour’s longstanding partners — Red Bull, Smirnoff, Byron Bay Brewery, Rimmel, Mumm and Platypus — as well as newer faces Garnier, Modibodi and Casamigos Tequila.
Some were simple but effective. Casamigos, for example, had a well-appointed bar serving up very quaffable tequila-based cocktails.
Others were a bit more involved. Rimmel had a London bus offering makeovers and Modibodi had “life-changing loos” for the first 150 guests every day. Byron Bay Brewery had a full-scale beer garden with games and a stage for smaller intimate (but still rowdy) sets from local bands. As one would expect, Red Bull pushed the boat out with a replica airport departures lounge serving as a secret late-night dancing spot.
“There has been record interest this year with new brands across diverse sectors wanting to engage directly with the audience Splendour in the Grass attracts from across the country,” said Rosser.
Secret Sounds Connect, the commercial rights, experiential & creative services agency for entertainment giant Live Nation, was responsible for guiding brands with their activations with research and planning.
“What we can see from our recent research study ‘Love Song’ is that Australians are craving more connection than ever before,” added Rosser.
“People want to invest in these social moments, particularly when it comes to established brands like Splendour in the Grass which has transcended generations and built a strong reputation of supporting local and international artists.”
That Love Song research identified some compelling, if slightly predictable trends, about Australians in the wake of COVID.
Almost four-fifths of the 6,000 respondents said that they work to live, rather than vice versa. Nearly three-quarters of Gen Z respondents said that they look to have as much fun as possible now and “let the future look after itself.”
An overwhelming 92 per cent of respondents said that “Shared experiences with friends are essential for my happiness and wellbeing” and just over four-fifths said they were “seeking out real-world connections now more than ever.”
“They’re desperate to experience more of life following a few years of lockdown. At the same time, they’ve grown up through the ‘permacrisis’ giving them the feeling that the future is uncertain and causing them to value experiences and moments even more,” said Frances Deighton, strategy lead for Live Nation Entertainment.
These attitudes mean that brands can easily activate at live music events — and without it feeling particularly contrived.
“We work closely with brands and agencies to understand their objectives so we can best define how we represent them across all key touchpoints – be it on-ground activations, digital content and social. There is no set cookie-cutter partnership, every client partnership is bespoke to their needs. Our team sets very clear KPIs and we constantly measure success throughout the campaign period,” said Aimee Stewart, head of brand partnerships at Secret Sounds Connect.
“Our partnerships offer brands category ownership and allow each to have their own moment in the spotlight, creating new brand fans through our online and on-site audiences.”
Of course, it is easier for alcohol and makeup brands to activate at a festival than say, a car brand. Popping into the Byron Bay Brewery after watching Loyle Carner’s excellent (but AV-impeded) set on the Mix-Up Stage was great. Similarly, popping into the Red Bull airport for a late-night boogie was equally fun.
However, with two-thirds of Gen Z respondents saying that their health was more important than having a good time, that might be slightly concerning for the big brewers. Does this trend require marketers to rethink their activations?
“Although they are more health-conscious than their predecessors – both their mental and physical health, they still want to have good times, but they’re doing so with greater purpose and intent,” said Deighton.
“I think there’s a huge opportunity for brands to think about how they can be a part of those rare, real life, ‘highlight reel’ experiences that mean so much to this group. Rather than battling for a piece of their attention whilst they’re disengaged or avoiding brands, think about those moments where they’re fully present and welcome the brand’s involvement to add to their experience.”
From visiting Splendour, it was clear to see that the brands which tried the hardest with their activations received the biggest rewards. Smirnoff’s two-storey club-cum-rooftop bar was always busy, for example, and the Rimmel bus and Garnier hair stations were well-attended.
“There is limitless scope for new brands to engage with music fans in unique and creative ways and by doing so, establish a new fan base for themselves,” said Stewart.
“Depending on the objective of a brand, we will construct an integrated campaign targeting specific audiences using our first-party data, that spans multiple channels and allows us to measure a range of outcomes.
“If a brand is aiming to grow their audience we will prioritise email sign-ups, QR code scans and/or social mentions. If a brand is more focused on lower funnel activity, we will pay more attention to helping them increase on-ground sales. Each brand receives a comprehensive report throughout and post-campaign which shows actual results, social and digital engagement and awareness based on core activity,” she added.
From visiting Splendour this year, it was clear to see that despite last year’s rain and Gen Z’s apparent health kick, brands can still create success at music festivals.
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