Nowadays large-scale events are not only an excuse to celebrate but are one of the most effective platforms for promoting artists, groups and territories.
‘A time of festive celebration or merrymaking; a feast day. A series of theatrical or musical performances, films, etc., of special importance.’ These are two of the meanings of the word festival, that conjure up images of joy, revelry and feasting. Yet, beyond its semantic meaning, the concept of festival has evolved to meet needs increasingly more ambitious than those of mere entertaining. The fact is that nowadays, large-scale events, important meetings that are conceived as an excuse for merrymaking, have become the most effective platform for promoting artists, groups and communities, but also territories, regions and even countries.
Greand celebrations design specific cultural programmes; in particular, large-scale spectacles set against the backdrop of public urban space are a much more effective communication tool than any advertising campaign. As territories and societies are shaped by what takes place inside them, the significance and variety of their programmes are their best letter of introduction!
Without leaving our own city, Madrid, we find successful examples that endorse the strategy of using festivals as promotional tools, over and above large-scale musical events. Suffice it to think of the commemoration of the Gran Vía Centenary in 2010. The ‘birthday party’ held in honour of the most emblematic street in the capital counted on large open-air concerts, cultural actions and other activities thanks to the collaboration of the City Council and over forty-two companies and organisations. The initiative had the same repercussion in national and international media as an advertising campaign with over 637 million impacts, which would have cost over €20,000,000 as opposed to the €500,000 the programme actually cost.
But such celebrations don’t only generate promotion, they also provide great support for the economic fabric of territories. Such is the case of gastronomic festivals like Madrid’s Gastrofestival and New York’s NYC Restaurant Week, where culinary culture steps outside of restaurants and invades the cities’ cultural and leisure programmes. In the case of New York, the NYC Restaurant Week employs over 200,000 people and raises annual sales worth over $12,000,000,000. During its celebration the city offers more eating options than most American states!
Such is the trend that any town or village that prides itself today has its own beer or tapa festival, and even traditions such as the grape harvest become feasts. Cities and countries compete to capture international events, which are then taken over by brands. And yet, is all this sustainable? Are we on the way to saturating our schedules? When will this unconventional sort of publicity begin to be more common than traditional advertising campaigns?
Let’s dance … while we hear the music.