Festival Promotion

Small Ideas for Big Success

It could easily be said that right now, somewhere around the world, there is a festival going on. The same holds true for festival planning. At the moment one festival ends, another is being planned somewhere else. As one festival starts planning, another is often already underway for its sequel a year later. This also translates to a wealth of festival promotion ideas, many of which translate very well regardless of the festival’s size, theme, or intended audience. The challenge is to sift through all of the available ideas to find those that are most universally applicable and most likely to boost vendor sponsorship and attendance at your next festival.

In this article, you’ll learn our favorite tips for promoting any kind of festival.

Tip 1: Set your festival title and theme first.
It is very hard to promote an event if you are not clear about what you are promoting. A great title and theme will tell you nearly everything you need to know about what kind of promotion to do, including:

  • Who your ideal audience demographic is (adults only, kids, families, pets, ect).
  • What type of vendors to approach.
  • Who to contact in the local media.
  • Where your demographic is most likely to hang out online.
  • What types of promotion is most likely to appeal to your demographic.

Tip 2: Study your demographic carefully.
Your title and theme will have identified the demographic most likely to be interested in and to attend your upcoming festival, both from a customer and a corporate/sponsorship perspective.

Now you need to research your demographic and learn everything you can about them, including:

  • Their average income.
  • Their average number of kids.
  • Their average proximity to your festival location.
  • Their preferred social media platforms.
  • Their daily schedules, including preferred vendors (this can influence who you approach to sponsor your festival).

This will tell you what ticket prices your demographic will find reasonable and the best ways to entice them to add your festival to their calendar (including advance ticket freebies, giveaways and contests they will eagerly participate in).

Tip 3: Put together your social media promotion calendar.
When it comes to festival promotion, there is simply no substitute for social media in terms of cost, potential reach, ease of implementation, and effectiveness. Even if your festival is happening for the first time ever and your marketing budget is non-existent- social media can deliver great bang for your non-existent buck.

When using social media for promotion, you need to know:

  • The days and times your demographic is more likely to be online.
  • The best social media platforms for your purposes (each has its own demographic as well).
  • The most relevant hashtags to attract followers who are seeking the information you have to offer (whether they realize it or not).
  • What types of media are best suited for each social platform. Instagram and Pinterest are particularly well-optimized for images. While Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook can better handle text information.
  • Who the influencers are in each social media platform so you can approach them to help you promote your festival.
  • How to create lists of users so you can segment your social media marketing to different interest groups such as customers, vendors, volunteers, sponsors, ect.

Tip 4: Get your headliners and key sponsors involved in PR.
If you are bringing in a big act or a huge local company just signed on to sponsor your festival, you want to tell the world (at least locally) about it. Better yet, you want to recruit the stars of your festival to help you promote the festival. After all, the better your attendance is, the more everyone involved will benefit.

Here are some of the ways to your headliners/sponsors can serve as effective promotions vehicles:

  • Radio, television and podcast interviews.
  • Guest blog posts and interview blog posts.
  • Short high quality video clips.
  • Feeds that showcase headliners’ and major sponsors’ festival-related social posts.
  • Pre-festival activities where customers have the chance to hear from/interact with stars.
  • Swag you can use as incentive-building giveaways.

Tip 5: Host an advance and/or same-day virtual festival.
Virtual events have become incredibly popular ways to generate buzz for a local event and wrap in attendees who are not able to show up at the live event. There are many creative ways to use a virtual event to generate advance buzz as well as to run a virtual event side-by-side with a local event:

  • Host a YouTube virtual event complete with live video streaming from the local event.
  • Announce a TwitterChat and Instameet where you will give away tickets, headliner and sponsor swag and other goodies to attendees.
  • Sponsor a blogger contest where the blogger who has the most shares about your festival gets a bank of free tickets or choice swag to distribute to their followers.
  • Conduct follower polls to find out why they are excited to attend your festival and give their feeds return shout-outs.

Tip 6: Reach out to local schools and universities and other organizations (as relevant to your desired demographic) for promotion opportunities.
Many college and university campus radio stations and newspapers are delighted to help publicize local events, and typically they won’t charge you a cent for the help.

Inviting them out to the event as local media representatives will also help ensure they talk up your event to their population.

Following these six tips for festival promotion will help you to build excitement, boost attendance, attract top sponsors, book the right vendors, and answer questions potential festival-goers have about your event. By designing and implementing a comprehensive pre- festival promotion plan, you can do everything in your power to ensure the most successful event possible.