Why brands want to join the festival

Attendees at the Governor's Ball music festival, Randall Island, N.Y.
David McGlynn | Getty Images

Instead of having to make a mental note to pay your friend back, eBay's PayPal is encouraging people to rely on good old fashioned pen and paper.

At the Governors Ball Music Festival in New York this weekend, the digital payment system is creating an IOU Wall where festival goers can write their debts on a sticky note. Once an hour, PayPal will select one memo to repay. In addition, it's working with Grubhub to help hungry attendees order ahead so they don't have to wait in long food lines, as well as providing lockers and freshening up stations so people don't have to carry cash.

"We're looking at Gov's Ball and other events partnerships like (San Francisco's) Outside Lands for consumer moments and events that we can reinforce with the consumer that we are the leader in the movement and management of money," said Pablo Rodriguez, PayPal's head of global consumer initiatives. "These are really good opportunities to insert a conversation about the digital wallet, and how it really makes the experience painless for the consumer."

Increasingly, brands are using the festival stage to expose their products to today's youth. The curated experiences demo their products for potential future customers.

"Millennials overwhelmingly value experiences over purchasing things," explained Factory 360 CEO Michael Fernandez, the experiential marketing agency that is working with PayPal for its Governors Ball activations. "They are all about spending their money on a cool experience as opposed to buying different goods."

Live event production company Digitour CEO Meridith Valiando Rojas explained that despite the fact that millennials and their younger Gen Z counterparts are hooked on technology and focused on their mobile devices, traditional digital advertising like banner ads don't capture their attention. Creating a memorable experience, however, can work. The company has helped create experiences for companies like Coca-Cola, Invisilign and Iconix Brand Group.

"We create best day of your life experiences for a brand," Rojas said. "(Attendees are) happy. They're engaged. They are seeing something that moves them. You are not forcing a brand message right down their throats."

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At various tour stops on during the 2015 DigiFest, a festival for social media stars that caters to the young preteen and teen crowd, clothing brand OP is creating a beach in the middle of parking lot venues, complete with palm trees and umbrellas. DigiFest will host some of their Q&As with talent at the idyllic location and challenges where contestants can win prizes.

"Especially for a younger audience, this is where they are a lot of decisions that will affect their spending over their lifetime," Valiando Rojas said. "They're picking the telecommunications company that they'll sign up for after their family plan. They're looking at the first car they will get after they get their license. It's hard to get their attention away from their mobile device. They're not paying attention to traditional TV ads or billboards."

It's not just about creating a memorable experience. The happy youth consumer is likely to share what just happened with their peers. A recent study from Zenith Optimedia found that 32 percent of millennials post photos on social media when they find "something new, interesting, funny or exciting," while 28 percent said they would write a statement on social media about what just happened.

Online ticket marketplace Stubhub creates exclusive, mini-concert stages within festivals like South by Southwest in Austin, Texas, and will be present at the upcoming Firefly Music Festival in Dover, Delaware; Outside Lands in San Francisco; and Project Pabst in Portland, Oregon. The experiences show off its digital products, while pointing out that it has the pulse on what's hip in live events. Not only do the shows-within-the-show help material for Stubhub's own branded editorial content, but it fosters user-generated content on social media. Stubhub encourages attendees to use certain hashtags, and then can re-purpose the photos, videos and tweets on their sites.

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"They help increase our brand perception, and these experiences help make these people promoters for our brand," Stubhub head of event marketing and sponsorships Justin Finn said. "Responders might be more willing to recommend a brand, and it can increase purchase intent upwards of 70 percent."

But Finn warns that it's not just about giving things away for free: It has to resonate or it can backfire.

"Fans will share brand experiences with others," he said. "They'll also share bad brand experiences, as well. This is the era of Yelp and liking things. It's got to be good, and it's got to have meaning."