Amping Up FreeFest Pays Dividends for Virgin Mobile
Music fans were wowed several years ago when Virgin Mobile announced that its annual music festival at Columbia, MD’s, Merriweather Post Pavilion would be free to the public. FreeFest continued to thrive, and it continued to offer up A-list bands each summer. A few years later, Virgin Mobile banked on that brand equity to create an even more extravagant event—while keeping tickets free of charge.
For the reboot, Virgin Mobile brought in headliners like Deadmau5, The Black Keys, Cee Lo Green and Calvin Harris, but that wasn’t all. With presenting sponsor Kyocera, Virgin Mobile created a series of Japanese-themed entertainment zones throughout the grounds that tied to Kyocera’s heritage. One of the main attractions was the Echo Temple, an interactive music installation where fans’ bodies controlled the music. There were also stations where attendees could donate to Virgin’s charities, including Re*Generation, in exchange for a personalized calligraphy festival t-shirt. A giant Ferris wheel provided a visual centerpiece, and there were appearances by Richard Branson and Spencer Falls and Sarah Carroll from Virgin Mobile’s celebrity couple campaign.
In all, 50,000 fans packed the venue, a 20 percent increase from the previous year. And because fans had to “like” the brand’s Facebook page in order the get their tickets, Virgin Mobile saw its Facebook fan base increase from 56,000 to more than 200,000 in one week. The event generated 500 million p.r. impressions, provided 86,000 live streams on the day of the fest and raised $200,000 for Re*Generation, and 700 volunteers donated about 10,000 hours of community service to the charity. When attendees were surveyed, 40 percent said they were more likely to consider Virgin Mobile and Kyocera