SPONSORSHIP: The youth is out there - Reaching the younger generation via sponsored music festivals is a high-risk strategy, but the ongoing survey ROAR could supply the answers. Andy Fry writes

The marketing community is gearing up for a summer of sponsored festivals aimed at reaching elusive young consumers.

The marketing community is gearing up for a summer of sponsored

festivals aimed at reaching elusive young consumers.

Virgin’s V97, Tennent’s T in the Park and Carlsberg’s Wembley

extravaganza are just a few of the high-profile music festivals at which

advertisers will display their cool credentials. Gordon’s Gin, Lilt and

Beck’s are three more brands that will seek to target youth by

demonstrating their understanding of ’modern culture’.

Unfortunately, it is a high-risk strategy that, for many clients, is

doomed to failure. Get it right and you are in brand heaven. Get it

wrong and you look about as with-it as the Avon lady at a Prodigy


Most failed sponsorships start with the basic misconception that all

young people are alike. Any client who utters the phrases ’15- to

24-year-olds’ or ’Generation Xers’ should put a pound in the swear


Thankfully, for those clients stuck in youth marketing’s Jurassic

period, recent developments in the research business have sought to

target the young with greater precision. Notable among these is ROAR, an

ongoing tracking panel run by the RSGB, a subsidiary of the Taylor

Nelson AGB research group, and funded by Channel 4, The Guardian, Kiss

FM, EMAP Metro, ad agency BMP and Carlton Screen Advertising.

Channel 4 business development manager Sean Kelleher says: ’Originally

when C4 looked at this market, we did one-off snapshots. But when we

revisited the subject, results would be completely different, making it

difficult to correlate data. We wanted to develop a better understanding

of the market and felt there was a gap in the market for ongoing

audience research.’

The data allows C4 to monitor the relative appeal of the channel and the

impact of high-profile properties like Friends. ’We can look at the

programme’s relationship with people rather than seeing television as a

commodity,’ he says.

The Guardian’s head of planning and research, Alison Hall, says that the

newspaper reached similar conclusions. ’The youth market is important to

us because we need to regenerate readers and help those of our

advertisers who want to target youth. But 15- to 24-year-olds are not a

homogeneous group and we were frustrated with piecemeal surveys. We

needed an ongoing survey to be able to identify trends.’

Joining forces

Tracking studies cost money, however, and that was how the ROAR

consortium came about. ’We decided that if we pooled expertise and

resources, we could do something much bigger,’ says Hall. ’So we teamed

up with companies that represented each sector of the marketplace.’

ROAR data is based on a panel of 1000 in the target group. It is a

mixture of quantitative and qualitative research which is released in

four waves a year. Clients can also request bespoke data.

Its findings are potentially dynamite. As clients fall over themselves

to create or sponsor events attractive to the youth market, ROAR

suggests that 48% of the market believe that sponsors attach themselves

to inappropriate events.

Virgin’s V96 worked, but Lilt’s association with the Notting Hill

Carnival did not, says the survey. Tennent’s was seen as a driving force

at T in the Park, but Carlsberg was seen as cashing in on established


In sporting circles, the Coca-Cola Cup made a link with supporters but

the Gillette Cup did not.

The success of T in the Park was clear from the ROAR panel. In a

debriefing to the consortia by RSGB, views of the target audience were

distilled into the following conclusion: there were no good music

festivals in Scotland and Tennent’s created one; every year it is well

supported and cleverly branded; Tennent’s is synonymous with the music

industry in Scotland; it is a Scottish brand that is very well-respected

and liked.

The other extreme, said the research team, is ’when you just add your

name to something’. Although Carlsberg expressly decided against being a

headline sponsor at Reading’s Monsters of Rock and at Phoenix in order

to avoid the more unpredictable impact of music festivals, it did become

involved as official beer. This simply made the target audience ask why

the company was there at all.

The Guardian’s Hall says: ’The ROAR data shows that young consumers get

pissed off if a company is just going to make a lot of money out of

them, or if they can’t see how a brand’s relationship with an event

works. Lilt, for example, was regarded as having tried to take over the

Notting Hill Carnival.’

Whitbread’s head of sponsorship, Jeremy Wilton, also adds a note of


’We were the originators of big-scale music concerts, with the Heineken

music festival,’ he says. ’Our events drew crowds of between 20,000 and

50,000 over four days at venues like Swansea and Nottingham. The USP was

that it was free.’

The problem was, says Wilton, that it was difficult to get the big


’We believe we did adequately but came out because we didn’t believe we

had found the right formula. And it cost a lot of money.’

Whitbread puts most of its sponsorship into sport and TV and believes

that other companies have found music just as hard to crack. ’T in the

Park has been a benchmark of a good festival, but it may struggle this

year because it has lost an act, The Prodigy. A lot of companies, like

Coke and Pepsi, have tried music, but it is a high-risk strategy. You’ve

got to be very clear about your objectives.’

Critical mass

Even if you are clear about what you want, the youth market remains

notoriously difficult to satisfy. ’They are the most media-literate

generation ever,’ says Kelleher. ’They are the harshest and most

demanding critics, but trying to understand them is desperately


The ROAR group has drawn up a basic list of dos and don’ts as a guide

for clients. Most are self-evident, admits Kelleher. ’Often, the data

bears out gut instinct, but that is useful when presenting a case to

clients. And there are times when it also reveals insights into

lifestyle and behavioural patterns.’

Of ROAR’s key observations, the need to target an event accurately is

important, as is the need to work with those who understand the creative

property. An attempt to overshadow an event or bandwagon an activity

will be interpreted negatively.

The success of Beck’s Contemporary Art sponsorship reflected the fact

that the activity relied on the judgement of people who understood the

environment, says the ROAR panel. Instead of centralising control with a

brand manager, experts were used as advisors.

The importance of getting the right association cannot be


ROAR stands for Right of Admission Reserved, and young people are

described by Kelleher as ’brand bouncers’.

He says: ’There is only so much room in their lives for commercial


Hall agrees: ’There are actually nine clusters of individuals within the

15-to-24 age group which respond to attitude statements in different

ways. We’ve given them names like ’corporate clubbers’ or ’new


It is important for us to demonstrate to advertisers that they don’t

necessarily need to reach all nine groups.’

Getting the boot

Examples which came up in research underlined the complexity of the

target market’s relationship with brands. ’It used to be cool to wear

Caterpillar boots, until the manufacturer put the brand on school bags,’

says Hall.

The point is to know where you want to position your brand.

In some cases, the youth market uses a product even if the advertising

is not aimed at them. ’Jack Daniel’s whisky is popular because Guns ’n

Roses drink it and the bottle neck is a gothic shape, not because of its

TV commercials,’ says Hall. Other clients have a lot to learn about

targeting, however. ’Banks fall down again and again. You can’t

patronise the youth market by putting a jungle track on a dull


Although the youth market is style-led, it has high expectations about

the intrinsic values of a product. ’Levi’s came up in the research as

being in brand heaven,’ says Hall. ’But there was also a rational reason

for purchase, which is that they are good, hard-wearing denim.’

In TV sponsorship, ROAR has identified the need for caution when using a

programme to redefine a brand.

The research cites Del Monte’s sponsorship of Gladiators. Because many

people have not yet absorbed Del Monte’s desire to position Fruit Burst

as an energy drink, the latent association is with the man in a white

hat. ’Del Monte has always aimed at the middle-aged and is suddenly

aiming at a younger market,’ says the RSGB. ’This is seen as


Negative reactions were also evident for advertiser-supplied programmes,

says the report. ’No one knew that Pepsi had paid for Passengers or

Heineken for Hotel Babylon. But there seems to be a bit of hostility

toward brands paying for programmes at the moment in case they are

controlling editorial content. Tread carefully.’

Clients should seek associations with media owners that have established

credibility. MTV and Q magazine are brands that can launch industry

awards with a degree of credibility. Kiss FM is a good example of a

radio station trusted by its audience. As long as it does not become too

mainstream, clients, which have included Foster’s, can trade on the

station’s kudos.

’We want to use ROAR to build a bigger picture that can provoke debate,’

says Kelleher. ’We’ve found that by adding qualitative research it adds



Response                                  Agree  Disagree   Neither

I find sponsorship intrusive                 21        31        46

sponsorship complements ads                  61         7        32

I feel better about a company if they

sponsor something I am interested in         50        15        35

Companies often sponsor

inappropriate events                         48        16        34

Sponsorship is a good way to

increase awareness of a brand                82         3        13

Source for all tables: ROAR



Tennent’s                 T in the Park

Virgin                    V96

Amnesty International     Phoenix Festival

Beck’s                    Contemporary Art

Lloyds Bank               Film Challenge

Gordon’s                  The Edinburgh Festival

Coca-Cola                 The Coca-Cola Cup



Lilt                      Notting Hill Carnival

Carlsberg                 Monsters of Rock, Phoenix

Gillette                  Gillette Cup

Two Dogs                  Cream


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