Embrace the visitor as producer of your event

People visiting an event are increasingly becoming co-producers of this same event. This offers some great opportunities, especially with regard to content, for sponsors, social awareness, collaboration, increased reach and involvement.

Festival goers, spectators of sports events and participants in grass roots sports competitions create and produce as much as the watch and consume. This offers a whole new area of sponsor assets and possibilities for brands and events to engage with the "audience".

One of the most important recent developments in society is that creating and distributing of content has become accessible to all. Where 20 years ago we were stil dependent on media organizations (newspaper and magazines), we can now make and share our own content. The rise of the smartphone (with camera) and social media have launched this trend into warp speed. In a recent study by Dr. Roxy Robinson these developments have also made their way into the world of festivals. She makes a distinction between two types of festivals:

“That which is produced by the few for the many and has a clear differentiation between the producers and the audience, and that which has an in-distinction between the producers and the audience and is driven by a clear persona.”

Certain festivals use a pyramid model: few people at the top create the festival for the vast number of consumer at the bottom. Others are circular: everyone produces and consumes simultaneously, therefore there is no hierarchy. This is best exemplified by Burning Man in the US and Secret Garden Party in the UK. Creating is just as important as consuming content. This is entrenched in the DNA of all festivals and expresses itself in different manners.  Creating ones own content has been working its way into the festival scene over the past few years. Think back to the Magneetfestival and its predecessor the Magneetbar at Lowlands or the creative minds that build Solar. Likewise Soundboks sponsored Porto-parties at Down The Rabbit Hole which stems from the principle of self-creation. These developments have even been researched by the English organization for festivals (AIF), as reported in The Guardian: 

“58% of people cite overall experience and atmosphere as the main reasons for their purchase of a festival ticket. Participation is going to be the prevalent theme in modern festival-going.”

What is really exciting is that these creations by the festival goers create new content for the festivals themselves. The traditional content generated by the headline acts are always subject to legal restrictions that often make using the content outside the festival itself illegal. When the general public generates content however offers completely different perspectives: amongst other things you can use it for sponsorship, reach fans outside of the festival itself, can serve as a memento or be activated for a good cause.  Soundboks shows that sponsoring is a viable option. Besides that there are many more opportunities to use festival goers content. As this trend develops the bar is set higher and higher as I mentioned in the introduction. Everyone comes to a festival with their smartphone and everyone can thus generate content via social media. 

This trend is visible at festivals as well as in sports. Particularly in sports we see a coming together of the elite professional and amateur athletes. The many marathons and cycling races are a great example of this phenomenon: you come to watch the elite athlete at the front of the race, but your true engagement is with ‘your participant’ who is competing at their own pace. Often you yourself are the athlete and your participation is much more important than all the buzz surrounding the orchestrated professional event. The rapid growth of the large participation events in sports matches are essential in this development : the mud runs, sport weeks and running crews all offer the combination of a large event with private participation.

The difference between being a part of the action and being a spectator with regards to sport sponsoring has been wel researched: those who participate themselves experience more sponsorship effects than those who passively watch. Also engaging people by an sports event leads to more effective sponsoring. This engagement stems from visiting the website or social channels of this event. Combining these phenomenons, a new type of visitor or participant arises, who creates and shares content and thus becomes active and involved in the event. What’s interesting is that this new participant content adds value at sport events just as at a music festival. The content generated by participants isn’t tied down by legalities and thus adds value much quicker and simpler than traditional media content. 

The advantage, maybe even goal, of this sort of content is that it can easily be framed outside of the festival itself, with regard to both space and time. In other words, this type of content can be consumed by people that are not present at the festivals or the people who want to enjoy the festival later at their own convenience. In this way you create an entirely new sector of people who create content even if it is just a like, share, comment or retweet. This digital content layer surrounding the festival creates opportunities for sponsors of other commercial or social purposes. This creates a terra incognita caused by the rise of participation, both at the festival itself and in the digital layer around it.

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