Indias Festival Punch

Written by Anindita Sarkar | Updated: Nov 26 2013, 08:30am hrs
The organisers of the much-feted Kala Ghoda Festival 70 Event Media Group (70 EMG)is gearing up to launch Indias first yoga, music and life spirit festival in December this year. Called Zambhala, the event will be held on December 21 and 22 in Goa. The festival aims to bring together the best yoga experts, spiritual teachers, practitioners and healers from India and across the world and claims to be a curated mix of live entertainment, spirituality, music and dance. Meanwhile, curtains are up on the fourth edition of Tata Literature Live!, the Mumbai literature festival that launched on November 13. Over 120 writers and thinkers from all over the world are expected to participate in this event. The festival will also include music, performance poetry, dance based on stories and poetry to push forth a blend of literature and theatre. And of course, Sunburnthe famous electronic dance music festival organised by Shailendra Singh of Percept, recently ended on November 16 in Mumbai. With Hero as its presenting sponsor, it was the second time the city hosted the festival.

Evidently, the pace of change in the festival business in India has been remarkable over the past eight years. For the young and new-age global audience inhabiting the super-urban markets of this country, festivals are not just about Diwali and Dusshera anymore. It now extends to celebrating global cultural influences through music, art, photography, motorbikes, yoga and literature that amalgamate to form a cosmopolitan confluence to attract this multiplex generation. Industry experts note that India now hosts well over 60 private and corporate owned festivals annually. Frankly, when it comes to naming such festivals in India, examples are galore; and they are only growing in number. Reason Brands are steadily getting associated with these festivals to build up their marketing and promotional games and gimmicks.

The best example to validate this could be the Harley Davidsons sponsorship of Seventy EMG and Fox Travellers India Bike Week which launched its first edition in February this year. Harley Davidsons internal estimates suggested that the sponsorship lead directly to the sale of over 150 bikes. Well, if this was indeed the case, then the sponsorship was not just a marketing and branding success, but genuinely profitable.

Martin Da Costa, CEO, Seventy Event Media Group says, It is worth looking at the direct sales opportunity that an event such as India Bike Week provides -- there are over 50 brands on ground selling directly to a 12,000-plus audience made up of 30-40-year-old men (mostly), all of whom have spent a minimum of R15,000 including the R3,000 entry ticket to be there. This, quite apart from the digital amplification that festival sponsorship represents for brands. Festivals create stories, and stories are what digital and social marketing strategies require.

Now the second example could be that of Bacardis early sponsorship of Only Much Louders (OML) NH7 Weekender. Says Manish Seth, director- marketing and sales, Bacardi India, In 2010, we revolutionised the way we interact with our customers through the Bacardi NH7 Weekender by creating a platform to showcase local talent as well as invite international artists from across the world to perform on one stage. This festival is a perfect experiential platform for our entire portfolio of brands. For the record, the other brands associated with the event include MTS, Red Bull, Levis, Zippo, Dewars, Eristoff, Breezer this year.

Youth is a key audience for the Tata brand. Through various initiatives the brand continuously endeavours to connect with them, says Dr. Mukund Rajan, brand custodian and chief ethics officer, Tata Sons.

Experts note that festivals can cost R2-3 crore for a single edition to about R7-8 crore for a concert series; and if built right, can pay back in three or four years. Says Vijay Nair, CEO, Only Much Louder, an event management company and concert production house, Brands get to reach customers in an atmosphere that has very little clutter and where, if done right, fans are happy to engage with brands. Unlike almost all mass media where people just tune out brand messages, here a brand gets 6-7 hours of undivided attention from fans and allows them to sample their products and reach out in other ways. Also, the brand value itself goes up significantly when associating with a high calibre festival - recall and impact is high.

Festival design and management agenciesSeventy EMG, OML, Percept and others have been joined by brands, institutions, media agencies looking to capitalise on the festival boom. The motivations vary: From pure brand promotion and surrogate advertising courtesy Bangalores Smirnoff Experience later this year to tourism promotion at the Jodhpur RIFF Festival. The change has been seeded by the fact that Indian consumers are willing, at last, to pay for event tickets, allowing promoters to both fund and build festival brands, and to segment and focus on valuable consumer target markets.

But there is some danger too. The danger is that the market may be getting ahead of itself in much the same way that the 2000-2002 dotcom boom imploded through a lack of relevant content, executional mediocrity and over-ambitious revenue projections, says Da Costa.