With the live events space proliferating, brands are going beyond vanilla sponsorships to drive engagement with audiences in India.
Attending a music concert or any other live event today is no less than a fun-filled day out. Right from specially curated flea markets to experiential zones to car karaoke and LED-powered seesaws, events are doing it all in association with brands across categories.
Gone are the days when brands would be satisfied with their logos as presenting sponsors on event hoardings or banners. “Audience engagement is no longer limited to the ticketing counter or main stage; it is about what is happening in the various experience zones,” says Sabbas Joseph, director, Wizcraft International. “In fact, the entire event has become an experience zone.”
Western markets have been a big inspiration in this space with their intrinsic associations with brands. Consider how Heineken has a dedicated global sponsorship director. However, unlike India, live events in most other international markets are not too dependent on sponsorships due to high ticket prices and organisers don’t aim to break-even with sponsorships. About 50-70% of the event cost is still covered through sponsorships in India. But brands are not complaining!
Experience and engagement
Vijay Subramaniam, co-founder and partner, KWAN Entertainment and Marketing Solutions says there is an omni-channel strategy coming into play at events. “Creating a zone is just activation; merchandise is picking up as a format in India and is used more for continuity in offline activations.” Although there are multiple touchpoints now at events, the format of the live event — music concert, stand-up comedy, etc have to fit in with the core brand value.
Vineet Gautam, country head, Bestseller India which markets, and sells Vero Moda and Only, states, “Live events serve as an exciting platform as they allow brands to connect with their target audience outside of the scope of business.” One of the first music festivals in which the brand engaged with its customers was Sula Fest in 2016. A Vero Moda experiential zone allowed festival-goers to pre-book their favourite styles from a collection that was launched through a fashion show while popstar Anushka Manchanda serenaded the audience. More recently, the brand launched the ‘Only for Bieber’ limited edition collection for Justin Bieber’s first Purpose Tour to India, where the brand was the official style partner. Nomit Joshi, director — marketing, Gionee India believes that one needs an opportunity to see and feel the brand to build it. Such activities help establish brand recall. “Even if we are able to get 10-20% people to experience and engage with us, it helps us connect,” he says.
In 2015, when Gionee was launching its M3 handset, built on the promise of a good battery life, it created special lockers at Sunburn where people could leave their phones for charging. It created a selfie circle at the YouTube Fan Fest with 17 phones; and at Supersonic 2017, it created a special stage and got music and artistes line-up that resonated with attendees.
“In India it is important to keep tickets affordable and since taxes are high, most events rely on sponsorships,” states Karan Singh, CEO, Sunburn Global. “We have developed long-term relationships with brands like Gionee, Renault, Ray Ban, etc and partner at a brand level throughout the year.”
Citing some examples, Vijay Nair, founder and CEO, OML (Only Much Louder) says, “When Swiggy associated with NH7 Weekender, it made a sit down area where delivery boys delivered food to people.” Furthermore, two years ago, Mercedes also renovated its cars to create a carpool karaoke wherein people could experience cars from inside. For the Electric Daisy Carnival, Budweiser curated a special village and influencers from across the country flew in.
Beyond the horizon
Every live event needs to have some cool innovation to engage with audiences even before the event, believes Neale Murray, co-founder and COO, Fountainhead MKTG. “Brands should be aware and not create something too cerebral as people then don’t get involved. Do something simple and reward them.”
But one event does not work wonders. It is continuous engagements over a period of time that help in addressing change in volumes and shares of the brand. For brands like Kingfisher, which operate in a regulated advertising environment, innovations in this space are heavy.
Samar Singh Sheikhawat, SVP — marketing, United Breweries explains, “For the 2016 Sunburn in Pune, we created a 25ft Kingfisher wall near the main stage; there was also a Good Times Bus in which people from different cities travelled to the event who won our contest. The result was that we saw a 3% market share gain in Pune in the same year.”
Most partnerships are not limited to the multi-day event itself with content generated during the fest being used for activations throughout the year. For example, Viacom18’s Supersonic conducted a Twitter banter to announce the event line-up with Budweiser along with a post-event film — it created a six-part web series for Gionee talking about the developments in the music space and a fashion film for Ajio.
Saugato Bhowmik, head, integrated network solutions and consumer products, Viacom18 says, “Fifty percent of what we delivered was content before and after the main festival.”
He adds that due to innovations at Supersonic 2017 like the Beer Garden, LED seesaws, ball pit, etc, 60-70% of the audience was inside the venue by 3pm. Millennials generate content on their own which can sometimes act as a multiplier effect too.
RoI and more
While brands don’t see activations translating into big numbers immediately, engagements help build the buzz and the brand name. While Gionee allocated 10% of its annual budget towards live events last year, Joshi feels that there are only a couple of events that help and brands need more opportunities.
In fact, Sunburn plans to roll out a new format in the next few months that is targeted towards youth under 21 years and make the experience more affordable. But as Sheikhawat emphasises, RoI is the metrics of engagement — likes, shares, etc which are done before and after the event. With 25% of its budget set aside for live events annually, United Breweries plans to do fewer events, but on a large scale.
Attending a live event has evolved as a lifestyle choice for audiences. Thus, brands consider live events, such as music concerts, as a neutral platform to connect with customers, learn about their preferences and build the desired brand resonance. As Murray puts it, “In advanced markets, the listening audience is more, people are willing to pay a higher price for tickets; but here, people are still warming up to it. Gate revenue and merchandising revenue is what drives live events as it enables them to sustain the expenses. India is evolving but it needs to be supported by large sponsorships.”