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Published on August 31st, 2009

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Blog: Reading goes back to branding basics

As the dust settles on what must be the most successful Reading festival yet – and fans scramble to get their hands on the limited number of 2010 tickets at 2009 prices – it’s interesting to note Festival Republic’s approach to brand partnerships at this year’s event. Namely, there weren’t any. Well – none of any significance. Whilst Coca Cola, Relentless and NME & BBC Radio One all had their branding featured on the event posters it was only the media partners that gained any significant audience exposure through stage branding etc.

Following years of uncomfortable wrangling with sponsors such as Carling, Orange and Strongbow, Festival Republic has made the clear decision to take a back to basics approach to the basic commercial model for the festival and focus on artists, massive promotion (through the BBC broadcast deal) and tickets. By returning to the core values of the Reading (and Leeds) brand – the very best current alternative entertainment – and not so subtly introducing their own ‘Festival Republic’ identity to consumers, Festival Republic have delivered something rare in the UK festival market – a commercial free zone.

On walking around the packed Reading site I was really surprised to see no mobile network or handset sponsors. No activity by Tuborg or Gaymers and minimal branding in the bars. Whilst the other staple sponsor of today’s music festival – the energy drink – was restricted to a installation in the guest area – impressive though the Relentless tent was.

Melvyn Benn has clearly set out his stall to strengthen the core Reading and Leeds brands and shun the lucrative naming rights deals that must be knocking on his door. He’s not allowing any commercial partners to dilute a brand that he has helped build up over 25 years of delivering the very best festival experience to consumers. It’s a brave promoter that can turn down that level of sponsorship deal, especially in today’s climate. But then again – what other English festival can put a healthy number of tickets for next year’s event on sale without announcing any acts? Only Scotland’s T in the Park can match that kind of confidence from the fan in a festival brand – fans know they are going to see the hottest bands of next year and they know they’ll have a great time with their mates doing it.



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