Liam Gaskin

After 14 years blowing the ear drums off Irish music fans and masochists who enjoy outdoor concerts in torrential rain we are to be starved of Oxygen this year. Sponsors Heineken and Vodafone may well be disappointed for different reasons. If 3 get their way and take over 02, Oxygen would have been a great brand boost for Vodafone when they could do with it most. How do Heineken replace the volume consumed by 50,000 fans over three days?

It will take a hell of a lot of balmy summer evenings to get that volume back. So where else are Heineken and Vodafone partying this year? Heineken are sponsors at Electric Picnic, the Westport Festival and Longitude. Vodafone will step out with Body and Soul, Castlepalooza, Sea Sessions and Electric Picnic. It gives Vodafone a geographic spread from Westmeath to Donegal and Laois to Offaly. No doubt, all the merry makers will have a superb signal for tweeting, Facebooking and phoning home to tell everyone the rain is not proving a dampener.

Looking at Longitude in Marley Park, Body & Soul in Westmeath, Castlepalooza in Offaly, Sea Sessions in Donegal, the Westport Festival in Mayo, Indiependence in Cork, Electric Picnic in Laois and Groove in Kilruddery Estate in Wicklow, only one festival does not have a drinks sponsor on their website. Groove, take a bow. Drinks firms should be allowed to sponsor theatre, the arts, music, festivals and sports events. As long as a product is legal, decent, honest, regulated and contributes as much in tax revenues to the state as alcohol does, no loud mouth minority group ought to be allowed tell them what they can or cannot sponsor.

But being a sponsor of a music festival once a year is not a strategy but rather is a disguise for buying the pouring rights. When was the last time research reported a consumer saying they thought a drinks brand had enhanced their festival experience by their presence or that they felt a closer bond with the company for partnering the festival? It just doesn’t happen.

Heineken and Guinness understand the logic as through the title sponsorship and ongoing investment in events such as the Heineken Cup and the Guinness Jazz Festival enhance brand equity, engender consumer loyalty and help with recruits. As Diageo seems to have withdrawn from music festivals, or, at least decided not to compete for hugely overpriced pouring rights, perhaps they realise it does nothing for their brands or their consumers. Kopparberg cider and Bacardi rum each sponsor three festivals, including Castlepalooza in the 17th century Charleville Castle in Tullamore. Maxol and Aer Lingus are at Indiependence in Mitchelstown and at Westport House. Names lined up for Westport in June include Bryan Adams, David Gray, Kool & the Gang, Bell X1 and Sinead O’Connor.

Electric Ireland and Unilever’s Sure deodorant are at Electric Picnic. In the case of Sure, if they are sampling they should do so from inside a cage as otherwise the brand team could be crushed in the stampede. For one-off annual festivals, whether they be music or not, unless a brand is the title sponsor and leverages the assets to build awareness, drive sales, recruit new consumers, reward existing ones and leverage association with the trade, then you are basically a partner or a supporter, but that too has defined benefits.

Being a website sponsor does little for a brand and doesn’t fool consumers. It is how the brand acts and interacts with the audience that gives it the status and empathy with the event that can deliver rewards the investment deserves. So let’s be honest and from now on just say “and our pouring partner this year is…” Have yourself a sun-drenched, music-filled summer.

Lily Allen


Lily Allen is among those performing at Electric Picnic. The eclectic mix of music, food and other activities makes for a welcoming, upbeat atmosphere. Other acts due to take to the stage in Stradbally Estate at the end of August are Beck, OutKast, Pet Shop Boys, Chic, Paulo Nutini and trip-hoppers Portishead. Brand sponsors include Heineken and Electric Ireland.

Share with friends:

Privacy Policy | Cookies Policy