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In the 21st century, music festivals are a large part of popular culture, not only do they attract a younger audience but also older generations. They are a place where anyone can enjoy themselves.  In the United Kingdom alone, 3.9 million people attended at least on music festival in 2016 (UK Music, 2017). Due to these numbers, one could say that there is potential for companies to use sponsorship of music festivals as a way to promote a product or service to a large, varied, audience. The following is therefore an analysis of —

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What is sponsorship?
Sponsorship can be defined as when a “corporation creates a link with an outside issue or event hoping to influence the audience by the connection” (Rifon et al, 2004). By financially supporting an activity, for example a music festival, the company or organisation aim to satisfy specific marketing objectives (Smith and Zook, 2016). In other words, it is when an organisation pays to be associated with events to generate awareness and positive public relations.

Sponsoring music festivals
The benefits for companies
We can see that there are a number of reasons why a company would choose to sponsor music festivals. One reason is that sponsorship can potentially raise awareness of the company or brand, as in exchange for founds, services or resources, the festival would  provide a platform for advertisement of the product or service. (Baines et al., 2017) In doing so, there is a possibility that the target audience would create an association between the event and the brand. This could be especially important if the sponsoring brand is relatively small or newly established, as interest may be generated amongst potential customers. Given how popular music festivals appear to be, and how high attendance numbers are, there is a possibility to reach a large audience. 

Apart from reaching a large audience, sponsorship of music festivals could also holds the potential to create positive public relations. We can see this in alcohol manufacturers, who are the most popular sponsors for music festivals (Rowley and Williams, 2008). Assuming that most attenders of music festivals are of drinking age, alcohol brands may appeal to the primary audience. Since people go to festivals as a form of entertainment, by advertising the product as a part of the social element and culture or the event, the perception that music, fun and alcohol go hand in hand with each other can be exploited. This could allow the brand the opportunity to create strong relationships with their customers through the positive association.

The benefits for festivals
The music event itself can also benefit greatly from sponsorship deals, as it provides financial aid and a stream of revenue. As music festivals are not publicly funded, this is required for start-up, investment and expansion of the business (Getz, 2002). Sponsorship can therefore give them opportunities to run new ideas, pay artists to perform, and promote the event. This in turn, can generate interest in the event, increase ticket sales, and bring more people to the festival, giving the sponsoring brand more exposure in the process. 

The influence of sponsorship of music festivals – The study by Rowley and Williams (2008)
The aim of the study conducted by Rowley and Williams (2008) was to investigate the awareness of, and attitudes towards sponsoring brands, as well as attitudes towards potentially negative effects of sponsorship among attenders of UK festivals. 

As previously stated, sponsorship provides an important revenue stream for festivals and brands perceive them to be an effective channel for targeting their audiences (Oakes, 2003). However, prior to this study, relatively limited research had focused on the impact of sponsorship on awareness of and engagement with brands (Rowley and Williams, 2008), despite there being a suggested need for “understanding the quality of consumer engagement with brands in the context of mediated entertainment” (Hackley and Tiwsakul, 2006)

The sample used in this study consisted of people who had recently attended music festivals and were chosen through snowballing. In addition, an electronic version was distributed to students in a UK university and posted on music-related message boards. In total, 138 respondents between the ages 16 and 35 participated.

Rowley and Williams (2008) used a questionnaire to collect quantitative, measurable data, as well as internet forums to collect qualitative data for interpretation by the researchers. This way, they could study both the holistic system and specific variables. The questionnaire was divided into four sections: the first section: The first section was intended to provide demographic profiles of the respondents. Age, gender, home and university location, as well as taste in music were some aspects of this profiling. The second asked the respondents about the last music festival they attended (Table 1), this section provided the basis for further analysis of how they recalled and attitudes they  had towards the sponsoring brands. Expanding on this, the third section asked about respondents’ brand recall, awareness, attitudes, and if there had been any change in their usage of the brand since the festival. The fourth section asked about attitudes to alcohol sponsorship as well as potentially negative effects of sponsorship in general. 

Brand recall, awareness and attitude
Rowley and Williams found that 73% of respondents could correctly recall the sponsoring brand of the last festival they had attended, 16% recalled incorrectly and 11% did not know. This could suggest that the sponsorship was successful. 

On the question concerning whether sponsorship had affected respondents’ brand awareness, a majority answered “not at all”, as we can se in Figure 1, “some” and “very little” being the second and third most common answers. As we can see, there appears to have been a stronger impact on respondents’ attitudes to the brand than their awareness of it as more than twice as many participants answered that their attitude had changed “a lot” than their awareness. In addition, much fewer answered “some” when asked about their change in attitude. Although this could suggest that the brands were well enough known prior to the festival, and that the sponsorship aided in affecting the audience’s perception of them, we must also keep in mind that these could potentially be negative changes, as the questionnaire did not ask respondents to specify if the change was positive or negative.
Changes in brand usage
The study did find that following the festival, there is a slight negative effect on respondents’ usage of the product. As figure 2 shows, the most drastic change is the increase of respondents who “never” use the product after the festival, and decrease of those who use it “rarely”. Some  respondents argue that “the more it’s shoved in your face, the more you associate it with such events” and that this would increase their likelihood of choosing the brand in the future, whilst others argued that this extreme exposure, or “over selling” of the brand at festivals, combined with the lack of free choice as to what to buy, made them less likely to buy the product afterwards (Rowley and Williams, 2008).
Concerns about sponsorship
Respondents were asked to indicate the level of their concerns regarding potentially negative effects of alcohol sponsorship, the results of which can be seen in Table 2:
There appears to be relatively little concern amongst respondent regarding the potentially negative effects linked with alcohol sponsorship. 54% said that they were not at all concerned about increased alcohol consumption as a result of this sponsorship, and 25% were only a little concerned. Responders appear to be more worried about the commercial pressures connected to sponsorship, and the risk of increased violence at the festivals.

In addition, as Table 2 also shows, there was a greater concern regarding the potential impact on underage drinking. One respondent commented that: “… it’s very irresponsible because they are attended by many under 18’s and I believe Carling is targeting these underage drinkers.” (Rowley and Williams, 2008) One could argue that by creating an association between an alcohol brand and the music festival experience, younger attenders might perceive alcohol to be a vital part of the experience. This would be concerning as it promotes alcohol as a necessity at a festival. In 2006, The Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) recommended to ban alcohol advertising and sponsorship (news.bbc.co.uk, 2006), however only 16% of respondents in Rowley and Williams’ study agreed that alcohol sponsorship should be banned, whilst 73% did not.

Respondents were also asked about their attitudes to the potentially negative effects of sponsorship in general, here, the researchers found that 52% had no concerns, whilst 35% were worried. In other words, there is a higher level of concern regarding effects of sponsorship in general than when it is specifically related to alcohol. Rowley and Williams suggests that this could be linked to the appropriateness of the sponsoring brands from the perspective of the attenders, and the values they associate with these brands. This could suggest that respondents did view alcohol as a vital part of the festival experience, as they deemed alcohol sponsoring appropriate for the event, and therefore not a concern.  
Values associated with sponsoring brands
Table 3 shows some of the values that respondents associated with brands sponsoring some of the festivals investigated in the study:  
Whilst it is evident that most brands are associated with positive values, such as “fun”, “young” and “interesting”, suggesting that these succeeded in transferring some of the enjoyment of the festival to their brand by association (Hackley and Tiwasakul, 2006). However, some of the brands have both positive and negative values associated with them, for example Kerrang!, whilst some, such as Tennents and Oxfam noticeably does not appear to have generated a positive image through sponsoring their respective festivals.

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