Setting the Stage for a Safe Return to Music Festivals

How brands can re-engage with fans on site

Festivals are making a major comeback in the second half of 2021, with Bonnaroo, Lollapalooza, Outside Lands and others announcing their lineups. This is great news for musical artists, attendees and event organizers, but brands aren't singing the same tune just yet. When will things return full force?

Music is a universal language. It offers community and freedom—both qualities of life that people are desperately missing after over a year of lockdown. But is it too soon for some?

Many brands, for instance, are hesitant to take the fiscal and reputational risk of being involved with an experience gone awry. Can you blame them? Even though things are technically opening up, there is still room for error with Covid still spreading, albeit slower than last year. But for some, it does make sense to re-enter the event world. For example, sanitizer/cleaning products and beverage and food companies will likely be the first to come back because of the need for attendees to consume those products on site.

The other brands that will return to the live-events stage are those that focus on sustainability. With the need for staying sanitary during the pandemic also came the increased use of plastic in the way of utensils, cups, gloves and other products. As a result, the emphasis on being environmentally safe took a backseat. But consumers will surely return to their pre-pandemic concerns for Mother Earth, providing an opportunity for brands to promote their CSR efforts.

As live events come back slowly, hybrid experiences will be the way that festivals transition from non-existence to slowly re-emerging. Different parts of the world are at varying timelines when it comes to reaching herd immunity. For festivals to still have a global presence, they will need to invite and engage other countries to take part in the festivities, even if global audiences are unable to attend in real life. But the boring "virtual" experience is a thing of 2020—streaming virtual platforms have evolved dramatically as the music industry has pivoted, too, having to find ways to still make bodies and hearts sway to their favorite bands.

When brands do sign on and head out into the crowds, here are a few ideas for connecting with consumers:

Engaging on social media.

As the world opens up, there are great ways to use social media and mini teasers to get people excited about events and engage them long before they attend. Mini concerts with confirmed musical acts on TikTok, or using influencers to start seeding festival outfit ideas, are ways to fuel early excitement.

Encouraging good health.

Brands can be part of state/citywide vaccination campaigns to encourage people to get vaccinated. Free products or services can be provided on site at events to encourage attendees to remain committed to the greater good—whether that means on-site vaccination if they haven't yet been vaccinated or remaining committed to healthy/sanitary practices. And even if masks might not be mandatory, they should always be readily accessible on site.

Easing social anxiety.

Brands can help with the social anxiety we are all starting to feel as we stop hiding behind Zoom calls in our homes. Brands can have fun being part of ways to "break the ice" or encourage people to open up and talk to strangers who are attending a festival.

We are all eager to get back to normal, but things will likely never be the same. However, if we work as a community, and engage in collective experiences where brands, attendees, promoters and artists are helping each other, we are bound to bounce back in a way that feels authentic, aware, fun and positive. 

Profile picture for user Gabriela Merrihue
Gabriela Merrihue
Gabriela Merrihue is executive producer/new business development at Thinkingbox.

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