by Rachel Freeman

Can you think of a new, trendy way to connect millennials with brands? Music festivals offer the perfect opportunity to reach large, young audiences through engagement marketing.

Between the massive stages, food booths, live music, art installations, and crowds of excited people, there is room for the important influence of brands. Brand sponsorship at music festivals, venues, and music tours totaled 1.22 billion dollars in 2012. This number is expected to steadily increase over the next few years.

As festivals grow increasingly in popularity, marketers are beginning to maximize the marketing potential of these culturally rich, pop-up environments. Brands like Bacardi Rum, Tito’s Vodka, Coca Cola, Vitamin Water, and Godiva Chocolate were all spotted at New York City’s Governor’s Ball festival last summer. Their engagement marketing strategies included initiating direct conversations with festival attendees and creating memorable experiences for them. This often materializes into photo-ops with recommended hashtags, free samples of food or branded merchandise, shaded structures to help relieve the daytime festival heat, or special music performances.

At Governor’s Ball festival, Subway built a Green Room complete with air conditioning, photo booths, temporary tattoos, and a tasting area with free sandwich samples. They also scheduled pop-up performances from different DJ’s inside their tent. They often had a line of people wrapping around the outside of the tent, due to the installation’s popularity.

Hair styling brand göt2b set up a booth at Governor’s Ball, too. They created a “braid bar” where attendees chose from selected hair braid styles including colored hair attachments and various accessories. After the hair-do, festival-goers snapped some pictures in göt2b’s special photo station, and shared them with a special hashtag. The booth was a huge success, with the brand completing hairstyles for over 400 people and receiving tons of user generated content from the photo station. Some attendees stood in line for up to 3 hours to get their specially curated hairdo.

Last year at Bonnaroo, a popular 4-day summertime Tennessee music festival, Garnier Fructis had a booth. They gave away free shampoo and conditioner samples – an awesome free gift, if you ask any festival-goer. Nothing is better than getting clean and smelling fresh after camping for days!

Ford Motors was also at Bonnaroo last year. They promoted the Ford Fiesta by creating a ‘garage’ lounge hangout space in the middle of the venue. Attendees could kick back in cozy lounge chairs, relax, and listen to special live music performances. Ford also offered free customizable t-shirts and photo booth opportunities.

Music-obsessed millennials love to engage with these carefully curated experiences. Research shows that 74 percent of music streamers prefer brands that engage them through music giveaways, sweepstakes, and sponsorships. According to a report by Music 360, 76 percent of festival-goers say they feel more favorable toward brands that sponsor a tour or concert.

Festivals offer the perfect opportunity for brands to connect with excited attendees, who are there to make memories. Branded experiences help young people remember specific products. Integrating brands into the music festival experience is extremely effective when it comes to engaging millennials.