Have you ever attended a festival? If so, you probably have fond memories of the events that took place, the sights you saw, and of course, the delicious food you ate.
Festivals are popular events because they offer attendees a fun and engaging experience. Festivals can be especially effective nonprofit fundraising events because they help build stronger relationships with your audience members through in-person interactions.
One of the most important aspects of planning a festival is creating a festival marketing strategy. A solid marketing plan helps you recruit as many attendees and volunteers as possible, leading to more donations for your nonprofit.
In this guide, we’ll review the top strategies for creating an effective festival marketing strategy. We’ll cover:
A strong marketing strategy builds excitement for your event, encourages people to get involved and boosts your organization’s or event’s reputation within your community.
9 festival marketing strategies to attract attendees
Your festival marketing approach should be tailored to your target audience and wide-reaching enough to attract existing and new supporters alike. These strategies will help maximize your reach and boost attendance numbers:
1. Create a festival marketing strategy well in advance
Planning a festival requires lots of work, so it’s crucial to create your marketing strategy well ahead of the big day. Many organizations start planning several months in advance, and some even start the process a year or more in advance to leave room for any obstacles or changes.
Review your previous festival marketing strategies and see what worked and what didn’t. This allows you to determine which strategies to reuse and what you should do differently.
Also, take the time to build a festival marketing team. You might assign roles such as social media chair, email marketing lead and attendee experience coordinator. Assigning clear responsibilities ensures that all of your marketing bases are covered.
2. Research your target audience
Determine which demographic you’re trying to target and create an audience persona to help you reach this audience effectively. A persona helps you understand your audience members on a deeper level and determine the best ways to communicate with them.
For instance, you might determine your target marketing audience for your annual Apple Festival is people between the ages of 30-45 who have young children. Then, you can create your marketing materials based on what you think would appeal to this audience. For example, you might promote your festival’s kid-friendly activities, like face painting or pony rides.
When you understand what excites and motivates your audience members, you can more easily attract them to your festival.
Researching your audience will also help you determine which platforms to use to market your festival. For instance, if your demographic is between the ages of 18-24, Instagram is a great place to reach out. Or, if your target audience is working professionals, then LinkedIn would be a suitable platform. Researching the current trends and behaviors of your audience is vital in helping you reach the right people in the right place.
3. Craft an exciting brand
Optimize your festival’s brand by incorporating uniform elements to boost brand recognition among your target audience. This is a great way to make your festival stand out.
Here are a few event branding best practices:
- Create exciting, stylish event graphics. Visuals make a big difference in communicating event details effectively. Your graphics should use your festival’s color palette, logo and typography to maintain consistency. Including photos from past festivals in your graphics can also help generate hype for this year’s event.
- Ensure your brand is cohesive across all marketing channels. Cohesive branding across all marketing channels helps increase brand recognition. Maintaining a consistent look, tone and style presents an image of professionalism.
- Offer branded merchandise. Get creative by offering a swag bag for attendees complete with a complimentary branded water bottle or sunglasses. This will leave your attendees with something that reminds them of your festival and encourages them to come again next year. Also, when they wear or use your event merchandise, they’ll spread even more brand awareness within the community.
You can even make your festival entry passes memorable and exciting by giving attendees an event passport, lanyard or bracelet that serves as their ticket.
4. Leverage the unique features of each social media platform
There are approximately 4.89 billion social media users worldwide, and this number will only continue to grow. Social media platforms are a great place to interact with your audience using the fun and unique features of each platform.
Here’s a brief overview of popular social media platforms and the event promotion tools on each platform:
- Instagram: Instagram has become very popular, especially among younger audience members. You can promote your festival event on Instagram using features such as stories, Instagram Live, polls, Reels, and posts. Make sure to include your festival registration link in your Instagram bio for easy access.
- Facebook: Facebook is the largest social media platform, making it the most effective channel to connect with your audience. You can create a Facebook Event for your festival, post about your event in relevant Facebook Groups where followers can connect with you and each other, start discussions, and post frequent festival updates.
- Twitter: Twitter is all about quick updates and short posts. You can share links or photos with important information about your festival, such as the schedule or the link to buy tickets.
Review your audience research to understand which social media platforms your target market uses the most. Also, keep your social media outreach focused on platforms where you already have a presence. For example, don’t worry about posting to Twitter if you don’t have a large following or don’t have a profile in the first place.
5. Use a multichannel marketing approach
To effectively plan and market your festival, use more than just one marketing platform. Use a combination of digital and traditional marketing platforms to reach a larger audience. For example, in addition to social media, try these channels:
- Email. Reach out to existing contacts who attended your event in previous years to get them excited about your upcoming festival. Consider offering exclusive tickets and giveaways to stir even more engagement. Personalize your messages using recipients’ first names to grab their attention.
- Flyers. Design bold and exciting printed flyers with fun graphics and images. Post your flyers around town at well-trafficked locations such as the library, grocery stores and local businesses and restaurants.
- Local media outlets. Get in touch with local newspapers, radio stations and community bloggers to help market your event. If your festival is in-person, local individuals are more likely to buy your tickets.
Expanding your marketing reach helps you reinforce your message and capture your audience’s attention more effectively. If someone scrolls past just one Instagram post promoting your festival, they might not give it a second thought. But, if they see an Instagram post, email, and flyer, and hear about your event on the radio on their drive to work, they might be interested in checking out what your event is all about.
6. Partner with an influencer
Influencer marketing is growing in popularity as more and more people join platforms like Instagram. Influencer marketing is the process of working with external content creators or influencers to promote your message on social media.
You can partner with a social media influencer and ask them to promote your event details on their personal platforms. This form of marketing is highly effective because of the powerful amount of trust influencers have built with their followers.
There’s no agreed-upon definition of how many followers a person must have to be considered an influencer. However, you want to look for someone who has a relatively decent audience of at least 1,000 followers.
Also, look for an influencer who is relevant to your sector or industry. For instance, if you’re hosting a film festival, you can ask a local director to share your event details on their social media pages.
7. Promote exclusive opportunities
Some festival attendees like to feel like they’re receiving a special experience that they can’t get elsewhere. One way to add an element of exclusivity to your festival is by offering a VIP experience.
Your event’s exclusive opportunities could include a VIP refreshment tent, a meet and greet with the artists at your music festival or exclusive early entry.
Conduct audience research ahead of time by sending a survey to determine what type of VIP opportunities are most appealing to your event attendees.
8. Highlight your nonprofit’s mission
Nonprofits hosting festivals have two primary aims: to provide a positive experience for attendees and to raise awareness and funds for their missions.
If your nonprofit is hosting a festival fundraiser event, keep your organization’s mission at the forefront of your festival marketing strategy. Take the following steps to remind attendees about the larger aims of your festival:
- Let prospective attendees know what their tickets and donations will help fund. Get specific about how you’ll use the revenue you earn through your festival. For example, tell attendees that their donations will support your college scholarship program or help you buy necessary new equipment for your community garden projects.
- Share links to your online donation page. Include the link to your online donation page on your event registration page and within your emails and social media posts. Ensure the page is mobile-friendly and that it accepts a variety of payment methods.
- Publicize your fundraising goal. Share your fundraising target with prospective attendees and keep them updated on progress made. You might use a fundraising thermometer to show how much you’ve raised and how far you have left to go until you reach your goal. This can inspire attendees to contribute additional donations on top of their ticket costs.
The fact that your festival will fund your nonprofit’s charitable work is a unique selling point. Philanthropy-minded audience members may be motivated to attend to help you reach your goals.
9. Ask festival volunteers to conduct peer-to-peer marketing
Festival volunteers and staff can play an essential role in event marketing. Even if they aren’t full-blown influencers, they can still play an effective role in marketing your event to their groups of family members and friends. This is known as peer-to-peer marketing.
If your volunteers haven’t participated in peer-to-peer marketing before, offer some advice and guidance to help them feel more confident. You can ask them to create social media posts to invite family and friends to your festival and help you get the word out.
Be sure to thank your volunteers for their efforts. You can send them a prize such as a gift card or free t-shirt for going above and beyond.
3 tips for virtual festival marketing
Virtual festival marketing is slightly different from its in-person counterpart. Since virtual events take place entirely online, it’s more important than ever that you heavily promote the experience on your digital marketing channels.
However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use any in-person marketing techniques. You can easily use flyers, direct mail ads or ads in local newspapers to send audience members to your online event registration page using a QR code.
Here are a few additional tips for marketing a virtual festival:
- Share the event schedule ahead of time. Make sure attendees know when to tune into your virtual event. Share the full agenda so attendees can choose which events or activities they want to participate in.
- Ensure audience members know how to sign up and participate on the event day. Provide instructions for logging into or accessing your virtual event. You can even offer an email address that attendees can reach out to if they have any questions.
- Make your marketing process interactive, with audience polls and Q&As. For example, send out a poll on your Facebook page asking event attendees about which aspect of your virtual festival they’re most excited about. Or, host an Instagram Live Q&A session with one of your event’s performers or presenters.
These tips will help you create a virtual festival experience that feels just as engaging and interactive as an in-person event.
Using these tips, you should be able to create a festival marketing strategy that successfully builds hype for your event and helps you reach your attendance goals.
The most successful festival marketing plans are supported by a strong volunteer team. Volunteer management software can help you organize volunteers ahead of your event and assign volunteers to peer-to-peer marketing roles.
For more information about festival and event planning and marketing, check out these additional resources:
- How to Create a Volunteer Recruitment Plan: 5 Strategies. Recruiting active, passionate volunteers can help make your festival a success. This guide offers tips for finding the right people for the job.
- The Ultimate Nonprofit Event Planning Checklist for Success. Your marketing strategy is just one aspect of your event planning process. Use this checklist to make sure you’ve covered all your bases.
- The Smart Nonprofit’s Guide to Volunteer Management. Your volunteer management approach lays the groundwork for long-lasting relationships. Check out this guide for more information on how to optimize your volunteer management strategy.