A screen shot of the iHome-sponsored Identity Festival website banner.
After a respectable 2011 debut that sold 150,000 tickets over 19 dates behind headliners like Kaskade and Skrillex, Live Nation's touring Identity Festival is back for a second year. The tour kicks off July 19 in Cincinnati, Ohio, with headliners Eric Prydz and Wolfgang Gartner. And while ticket sales are up, and still moving briskly (the Jones Beach, N.Y. show sold out the day it went on sale), its most impressive bullet point might be its marketing success.
Despite Identity's youth (both in its own existence, and amongst its audience), the potentially risks often associated with electronic dance music, and a lean event sponsorship market overall, Identity 2012 boasts 18 media and corporate partners, including a new title sponsor: Electronics manufacturer iHome. It's the company's first presenting sponsorship of a major touring music festival.
"[Identity attendees] are younger, more tech-savvy, online, and we know that they're using smartphones," says Allen Santa Maria, iHome Marketing Manager. "It's a natural tie-in with our products, and all a part of making iHome more social and experiential; to build us into the community so we have a connection with our fans through music."
Logos of the Identity Festival's 2012 18 media and corporate partners.
"We are enthusiastically looking forward to sharing our breadth of innovative products with such an engaged audience of music and technology lovers," says iHome CEO & President Ezra Ashkenazi.
The New Jersey-based company, which makes music playback devices for Apple products, like the iP4 Retro Boombox, is Identity's sole new sponsor for 2012: Other than headphone manufacturer Skullcandy, which bowed out of year two reportedly because of changes within its marketing department, every 2011 sponsor signed on for more, including Jagermeister, Slurpee from 7-Eleven, Rockstar Energy Drink, and Miller Genuine Draft.
"Everyone came back this year," says Identity producer John Reese of Synergy Global Entertainment (SGE). "That says something about how they felt it worked."
While Reese's history in hard rock festivals like Mayhem, Uproar and Taste of Chaos, Identity is his brainchild. "Live Nation needed content in their amphitheaters," he says. "We questioned whether it would work and if the dance community would embrace it. Turns out they have."
He established Entertainment 3Sixty in 2009, to sell not only SGE tours to potential sponsors, but others as well, like Michael Bublé and Blake Shelton. It was through this arm that iHome, which handles its marketing in-house, met Identity, initially at this year's Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. Santa Maria, himself an EDM fan, flew directly to CES from Ft. Lauderdale, where iHome had sponsored Holy Ship!, a three-day cruise featuring artists like Skrillex, Diplo and Steve Aoki, produced by Hard Events (an event company recently acquired by Live Nation). "It was an amazing experience for the brand," he said, and left iHome primed to extend its EDM footprint - with little concern for the genre's potential pitfalls, like fan overindulgence.
"It's not really been a concern of ours," says Evan Stein, iHome Marketing Director. "We're in it for the fans. I hate to say we'll cross that bridge when we come to it, but it's certainly not stopping us from moving forward."
In addition to naming the main stage on all of Identity's 15 stops, iHome also has a branded tent, containing glowing tables and chairs; a photo booth; DJ mixing stations, where attendees can create remixes on the fly from provided stems; product raffles; and numerous opportunities to hold and hear the iHome line. This "direct touch" is what sets event sponsorships apart in a potential marketing mix, says Reese.
"With digital or traditional media, there's not that handshake - that's the best word I can use to describe it," he says. "When you're out with a product in customer spaces that assimilates with their culture and lifestyle, there's absolutely an effect. If you're someone who listens to electronic dance music, and there's iHome supporting it, that inspires a certain brand loyalty."
In addition to the on-site space, iHome is backing the "Wall Of Sound" iP4 Boombox Custom Skin Design Contest, which invites fans to create custom skin designs for the iP4 for a chance to win an "exclusive festival prize package," including merchandise, meet-and-greets, access to official Identity after-parties ("Identity Afterdark"), and iHome products. The ten winning designs will also be featured within the company's Festival tent alongside designs by Identity artists, displayed on 20 custom-skinned iP4's, creating a literal "Wall of Sound." The content is being promoted via both Identity and iHome's social media channels.
"If you don't have social media in your proposal, and don't propose an incent social media campaign, you won't get sponsors on your festivals," says Reese. "At Identity, we integrate artists, do playlists; we try to make it more about lifestyle and less about saying, 'Go buy this.'"
While iHome will be tracking its social media growth over the course of the tour, Stein admits that directly measuring ROI is difficult. "If your name is out there on the banners and skrims and tents, it's more likely that the fans will hear the product and how good it is, and go into the store and buy it. Can we measure that? No," he says. "We have coupon codes so that we can track from the event, but really for us Identity is more of a qualitative, experiential kind of thing."