A Guide to Experiential at Festivals

Festivals have long been considered one of the most desired destinations of choice for big brands, but why? Take a look at our definitive guide to experiential campaigns at festivals - which brands should invest; when, why and how. 

Which brands should go to festivals?

Alcohol brands have dominated the festival scene for a long while and with good reason. However, they are not the only brands who can engage their target audience at festivals.

For example, we’ve had significant success with Alpro – a plant based yoghurt and milk alternative – at festivals. There are of course a number of factors as to why this campaign was so successful. No brand should think they can just rock up with a few free samples. Consumers aren’t that easy to sway!

With Alcohol, Food & Drink accounting for 54% of the product sectors taking part in festival activity, there is significant opportunity for other well aligned brands to have a presence too. 

Surprisingly only 5.6% of the brands at festivals are Cosmetics products – and yet when we worked with Sleek Make-up on their Shades of Summer campaign, the synergy worked well delivering high numbers of target audience to the brand in a short space of time. Trained beauty ambassadors provided mini makeovers to festival goers and gave out goody bags filled with Sleek products. The experience attracted 78% of new consumers – a fantastic result for the brand.

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Why should you invest in festivals?

Festivals are popular because you can align your brand with a very specific type of consumer. If you’re after 16-24 year old energy seeking males, consider Board masters. However, if it’s environmentally aware families you’re after try Womad or Greenman. For foodies try Taste of London or Jamie Oliver’s Big Feastival and for the younger end of the mainstream market V festival or Lovebox may be best.


Festivals are now all about the experience; this is the best way to ensure your brand stays front of mind and truly engages your audience. There are a number of different mechanics to consider (which are very much dependent on your product), whether it be sampling, direct retail or sponsorship, you need to think about ways you can stand out from the crowds and encourage your consumers to engage with your brand.

Extend the Reach

Social and digital now plays an important role in the experiential mix, so think about how you can extend the conversation with your audience and encourage engagement post-experience. It might be data capture for future comms, or a nifty social media campaign that compliments your activation. Whatever you do, make the most out of your investment and ensure that your concept is unique to your target audience.

Exert caution when it comes to retailing at festivals. Be clear on your objectives going in to the activity. Unless you’re a food or alcohol brand you may find that you’re better off investing in a more entertaining experience and directing to online purchase rather than investing in stock and retail equipment. Festival goers aren’t there to shop – they’re there to party! You will only succeed at retailing if you can offer something totally unique and needed.

For our 2014 summer campaign for Westons Cider, we activated a silent disco at Taste of London, entertaining the masses using an engaging sampling mechanic and a 360 degree branded pop-up bar. This was hugely successful at bringing the brand to life in a highly competitive environment, as well as encouraging longer dwell time at the bar.

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When are festivals a bad idea for brands?

It is very difficult to create a truly engaging festival experience on a shoestring. Be realistic about your budget – this may be your single biggest marketing spend of the year so it’s really not worth scrimping on poorly trained staff or a stand that won’t withstand the Great British weather. There are however a few other ways you can align yourself with the festival season without the big outlay of becoming an official sponsor.

  • Guerrilla Activity – It is occasionally possible to activate a guerrilla campaign in the near proximity to festivals. However, this can be risky business. In our experience it only really works if your brand personality subscribes to the risky or extreme side of life. If you’re a wholesome family brand – this could just make you look cheap.
  • Transport Hubs – You can however have a legitimate presence at transport hubs or city centres close to your chosen festivals. This will allow you to target festival goers on their way to and from the festival. This could work well for a dry shampoo brand wanting to sample to women on their way to festivals or a milk brand wanting to target them on their way home to an empty fridge.

We took this approach with Mountain Dew Energy and saw significant success. They weren’t able to invest in full sponsorship, so instead we created a number of mechanics which bought the high octane brand to life but which could also roam and tour around.

Which festival is right for you?

There are so many different types of festivals across the UK, therefore understanding your target audience is key to finding out which festival is right for you. With the larger festivals site space is one of the most important factors to consider, but a good site space comes at a high price, so you’ll need to ensure you have the right budget to ensure maximum ROI.

Talk to the experts

If you’re looking at an experiential campaign over the festival season, why not talk to iD about which festival would be best for your brand and what we can do about making the most out of your investment.