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April 15, 2024

A Step-By-Step Guide to Festival Activations

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You’re busy, we’re busy. We get it. So here’s ‘A Step-by-Step Guide to Festival Activations: From Start to Finish' in four sentences or less:

These entertainment hubs are the perfect opportunity to reach a specific target demographic. When you activate at a large event or gathering place, you can break it down into 5 steps:

  • Research and understand your audience
  • Set clear goals and objectives
  • Create a detailed event plan
  • Festival activation execution
  • Post-event best practices

Dig Deeper

Summer is one of the best seasons to launch your events strategy. Outdoor spaces, gorgeous weather, and best of all? 

It’s festival season.

These entertainment hubs are the perfect opportunity to reach a specific target demographic. When you activate at a large event or gathering place, you don’t only raise awareness. You have an opportunity to:

  • Educate new audiences on your brand and products
  • Showcase your brand values in a fun, relatable way
  • Build your consumer database & secure marketing opt-ins to keep marketing long after the party ends. 

This timely, bombastic strategy tends to be overwhelming. Where do you start getting a Coachella or a Lollapalooza festival sponsorship and activation strategy off the ground? 

Consider this blog your comprehensive guide to festival season's strategy, execution, and even post-event best practices. You’ll also get a peek behind the curtain at how big brands, like an artisanal mezcal, approach their festival activations and define success.

Learn how events help big brands succeed through real stories.

Preparing for Festival Activations

Knowing where to begin helps build momentum, so let’s break down some key considerations before you start spending. 

Step 1: Research and Understand Your Audience

Before you do anything else, make sure you have a good understanding of your target audience. Your consumer profiles will give you the best guidance on where to invest and where to save for next time. 

For example, which age group are you targeting? Coachella (25-34 year olds) has a different crowd than Lollapalooza (18-24-year-olds), so which one would be a better fit for your brand’s strategy?

When you have a full picture of your consumers’ purchasing behavior, age, gender, location, and more, you can make the best, most targeted decisions for where your event will make the most impact.

There are a few reasons you might be having trouble deciding on a specific festival: 

  • Your definition of your target audience is too vague
  • You don’t have enough information about your consumers
  • Your budget is still undefined, which makes pricing tricky

If you already use events as a way to engage your consumers face-to-face, you can start using them to capture data. If you’re not getting the right kinds of demographic information and insights on consumer preferences and purchasing behavior, you’ll have a harder time telling which types of events are more likely to perform.

Incentivizing attendees to give you their data by offering product samples, swag, discount codes, or other value exchanges are great ways to learn more about your consumers. Here are a few of our favorite psychographic questions you can ask to get this valuable information. 


Psychographics is the study of consumer behavior and psychological characteristics, as opposed to demographic information like age and location. These questions mainly focus on determining your attendees’ traits, like their goals, preferences, and lifestyle choices.

These questions are great if you need to establish a customer profile but are hard to get answers to since it’s a little more invasive questioning than simple event feedback. 

You’ll want to create a table with the following list:

  • Strongly Disagree
  • Disagree
  • Neither Agree nor Disagree 
  • Agree
  • Strongly Agree

Frame the section as “Do you agree or disagree with the following statements?” and treat questions as traits your attendees can respond to from there.

Sample Psychographic Survey:

Please read the following statements and rate them based on how likely they resemble you. 

  • I like to know trends before others. 

This statement helps pinpoint the amount of awareness your event attendees need before they book tickets. It can also indicate a willingness to try new things or a preference for nostalgia or known products. 

  • I’ll go out of my way to find the best possible deal. 

Pricing matters to those who answer Strongly Agree. If most of your base is in this part of the value matrix (more on that here), you’ll want to start thinking about discounts, coupons, and more to entice returners and even new attendees of a similar mindset.

  • I will travel far for the right event.

Asking this question helps determine how far afield your attendees are willing to go. It helps when deciding where to take your event next, whether to host events in your space, which areas to focus your marketing on, and what radius is ideal. 

Step 2: Set Clear Goals and Objectives

Having a way to measure your success on the festival grounds is a no-brainer. You have to present some kind of goal to get your budget in the first place. However, those metrics need to go deeper than foot traffic

Why? Foot traffic has the same impact that impressions do on social media: not much. You can tell how many consumers stopped by, but then they vanish from view. There’s no way to tell how their opinion or perception changed because of your work or even where they came from in the first place.

To succeed in your festival activations, it’s important to consider your “living metrics.”

Learn more about living metrics in Jonathan's blog!

What are living metrics?

A living metric is a trackable measurement that showcases not just your consumer in the moment, but the full picture of how your activation altered their behavior or perception.

Why are these better than static numbers? For one thing, they showcase the actual impact of your event from the beginning to beyond. These changing metrics give you additional insight into the consumer journey through your brand. That way, you have concrete evidence that you can present to stakeholders that their investment paid off for the entire brand

Living metrics include purchase intent, net promoter score during and after the activation, and more.

Which metrics should I be considering? 

One size doesn’t fit all, so you have a few options for approaching living metrics depending on your specific strategy. Collecting metrics just for the sake of it is more of a hindrance than a help. After all, at the end of the day, someone has to sort through everything you’ve collected. 

Static (but still important) metrics include:

Step 3: Create A Detailed Event Plan

“It’s not science unless you write it down” can apply to Myth Busters and your activation strategy. 

Developing a plan for activating at festivals can happen before or after you receive your budget, although it’s recommended that you have at least something prepped to show your stakeholders. Being prepared increases your chances of getting a better budget. 

When building your plan, you should include, the goal of each activation, how you’ll prove success, and how you’ll make it happen.

Your Goals

Why do you want to activate at a festival? Whether you’re trying to increase a specific product’s sales or create a more robust marketable database, detailing your success metrics early will help you lay the groundwork for the rest of your plan.

Your Vision

Whether you bounce from festival to festival or plan to make a big splash at one, you aim to make an impression. A big part of your plan is adding your mood board, design ideas, and detailing what the activation will look like and how it’ll work. 

Your Choices

At this point, you have a good idea of who your audience is; time to tell the rest of your team and stakeholders what you decided on and why. Walking the necessary people through your thought process gets you on the same page early and helps you show what’s possible and what might not be a fit for the specific festivals you’ve chosen.

Your Onsite Execution

You’ve explained the ‘what,’ ‘where,’ and ‘why’; now it’s time for the ’how.’ Depending on how big your vision is, you’ll have plenty of work ahead to make this campaign happen. 

List out your major to-dos, from advertising to brand ambassador training to set up and breakdown, and use your chosen festival date to inform the more specific details, like shipping swag and advertising. 

Your Budget

Breaking down your budget, even if it’s not approved yet, helps you keep track of your limits and allows you to account for every piece of the campaign. You can show your stakeholders a proposed budget to get approval or explain how you plan to use the budget already given to you. 

Don't forget your budget calculator!

Step 4: Execution of Your Festival Activations

As you work on your strategy, something larger looms in the distance: getting the dang thing done. Assembling all your brand activation pieces in place is easier said than done, but here are a few practices we learned from the best.

Set up the space effectively

Building an impressive event isn’t enough; effective and meaningful design makes the difference between an okay festival experience and a great one. This is your chance to bring your brand message to life.

Set up a couple of collection angles to make the experience easier for consumers to give you their info without lines. 

  1. iPad registration - Your brand ambassadors at your event collect registrations and capture data via your iOS devices
  2. QR code registration - Consumers scan your QR codes and self-register on their mobile devices while waiting in line.

Incentivizing your staff to collect data is another way to set up your experience to make the most use of your strategy.

Motivate your on-site staff to approach more consumers and collect more insights using the following tactics:

  • Minimum daily collection quotas
  • Bonuses and prizes for top data collectors
  • Payouts for every captured consumer record  (e.g. $1 per record)

Consider your brand values and use those principles to guide your design planning. When your consumers visit this booth, what kind of experience do you want them to have that connects them to your brand?

Data collection with a backup plan

Festivals are tricky to execute onsite for many reasons, including building logistics, fire codes, and even keeping an orderly line to your booth. But there’s one emergency that all marketing teams fear: not being able to operate on spotty Wi-Fi. 

If key parts of your setup require Wi-Fi, such as an iPad kiosk to capture registrations or data from attendees, having a backup plan for when the Wi-Fi inevitably dies is essential. You don’t want to scramble for a pen and paper while you try and keep your visitors patient. Some experiential marketing platforms have offline functions, making collecting consumer information easy. 

Sampling and Giveaways

No one is going to give their information away for free. In fact, stats show that 63% of consumers view brands as the biggest benefactors of data exchange. 57% of US consumers would rather do without the marketing personalization it can enable and protect their data. 

Offering a value exchange is a great way to encourage consumers to share their details with you, including their zip codes, names, and even feedback about their experience. A free giveaway of perceived equal value to your consumer’s data will incentivize them to offer their details. 

QR Codes

So many event marketers love QR codes but aren’t sure how best to use them in an activation setting. The key is to have two different methods: an iPad or touchscreen and your most charming employee. 

Their job is to walk the iPad (or printed QR codes) down the line for your consumers to scan and fill out their information. That way, when your festival attendee gets to the front of the line, they’re ready to show their proof of survey submission and get their free swag or sample. It prevents bottlenecking and keeps the activation under your control.  

Step 5: Post-Event Best Practices

The event isn’t over when the festival attendees are on their way home. Part of a solid festival activation strategy is the follow-up: how will you use the information you gathered? Here are a few ways savvy marketers can double down on their wins, create brand loyalty, and identify areas of opportunity.


Sending follow-up emails to those who’ve opted into marketing is a great opportunity to keep consumers engaged even after the event ends. Encourage post-event purchases by sending out special offers or discount codes for attendees.

When you want to grow your brand community, using this opportunity to promote loyalty programs is an even better follow-up. Either way, ensure you can track any action from follow-up emails back to the event – for example, offering a discount code specific to that event only. That way, you know what purchases and behavior your events influenced.

Analyzing Data For Insights and Improvements

You collected all these amazing consumer insights. Now what? Pulling out meaningful patterns and trends can provide a window into your next strategy. 

If you were trying to raise awareness among a younger demographic, but most of your attendees were a bit older, that’s a sign your strategy might need some tweaking. You can even use trends in location to help distribution pinpoint their next new market. 

Incorporating Post-Event Feedback into Future Activations

Collecting feedback isn’t only about understanding what went wrong; it reveals what went right. Using your feedback to improve your future activations, from mid-strategy tweaks to all-new future campaigns, effectively delivers exactly what your consumers want without guesswork. 

If you have too much feedback to sort through manually, artificial intelligence can help analyze attendees' responses to surface themes and sentiment trends across all responses.

A Festival Activation Success Story

In 2023, an artisanal mezcal brand collaborated with agency POPLIFE to develop and execute a best-in-class festival platform to introduce consumers to the wonderful world of mezcal. 

Through activations at key festivals, like III Points (FL) and Portola (CA), the brand aimed to drive awareness, win over more brand champions and get “liquid to lips” among target consumers in key markets.

  1. Captured valuable insights from festival goers onsite—regardless of Wi-Fi availability.
  2. POPLIFE could quickly surface trends and key metrics on event success to the brand's stakeholders. Their automated reporting meant they could understand success immediately and saved the POPLIFE team hours in analyzing data manually

The Takeaway

Remember to take a breath and go through the steps when you’re struggling with where to start with your festival event activations. Starting with a solid firm plan, you can use best practices to create an experience that drives your specific goals. You can double down or optimize during the post-event stages, building loyalty and keeping your campaigns successful. 

When you consider each step of your strategy, your activation becomes an immersive part of the festival culture and celebration, creating brand awareness and beyond. 

Step 1: Evaluate Your Scheduling Software Needs

Before researching online booking systems, evaluating your business needs is essential. After all, you don’t want to overspend on bells and whistles when you only need an online form. For newer events looking to scale, a more sophisticated system might be the goal but not the starting point.

Consider the type and size of your business, the nature of your services, and the volume of transactions you handle. For instance, if you run tours and tastings, you should look at solutions meant for high-volume enterprises that can include add-on shirts, beer steins, and more.

Scheduling Software Flowchart

We made a helpful flowchart to help you decide if you’re ready to invest fully in online bookings or look into a free scheduling app, like Google Forms, as a better starting point.

As someone trying to make smart investment decisions, you don’t want to buy a booking and ticketing solution that doesn’t meet your needs. Use our guided questions to determine where you are in your investment journey.

Booking System flowchart
Use the flow to gauge where you are on your journey!

2. Compare Booking Page Features and Pricing

Booking Page Features

Once you have a clear idea of your business needs, you can compare online booking systems that meet your criteria. Have a list of your most essential needs and what would be nice for you to have. Some features you should consider including on your list include:

  • Website integration
  • Branded booking page
  • Configurability to match your brand
  • Payment processing and add-on sales
  • Automated reminders
  • Automatic data analysis
  • Feedback collection and analysis
  1. Website integration
  2. Branded booking page
  3. Configurability to match your brand
  4. Payment processing and add-on sales
  5. Automated reminders
  6. Automatic data analysis
  7. Feedback collection and analysis






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