The Drum: Glastonbury - purpose, passion & possibilities

Glastonbury. The pinnacle of the UK festival scene. A cultural stalwart and the envy of some 2.5 million people who tried to secure a ticket through the ever-frustrating online ballot, as well as the reported 21.6 million people (up 7% year-on-year) who tuned into the BBC’s coverage this year.

  • Since 1970, the Eavis family has curated the ultimate festival of cultural convergence, combining music, art, fashion and creativity over five action-packed yet simultaneously relaxed days, to resounding critical and commercial success.

    The carefully constructed experience taps into the passions that make us human, stimulates every one of the senses, and teaches us lessons in life, love and connection. So, what can we learn as marketers from this global tentpole event and the brand capital Glastonbury has built with its loyal and devoted fanbase?

    1. Purpose

    In an age where principles and passion outweigh pounds and pizzazz for many, Glastonbury embodies what a purpose-driven brand should look like, remaining true to its founding beliefs to encourage and stimulate youth culture from around the world in all its forms and to support humanitarian causes which enhance the fabric of our society.

    This is realised in both artist curation (through initiatives like the Emerging Talent Competition, which gives grassroots talent an opportunity to perform on a main stage), and brand partnerships.

    Unlike the majority of modern-day festivals, the site isn’t littered with brand activations jostling for attention and footfall. Any brand that appears at the festival has been carefully selected based on its values and the value-add it offers to both the festival experience and broader social impact.

    Vodafone, who succeeded EE as the connectivity partner this year, provided a much-needed phone signal boost to festival goers looking to connect with one another, as well as all-important battery power for their devices.

    Meanwhile, consumer-owned retail group Co-op, whose pop-up store provides food and essentials, was carefully selected in 2019 based on their “shared ethos of co-operation, community support, ethical values and campaigning to make meaningful change”.

    The Eavis family also partner with charities, giving them exposure and championing their work. The Greenpeace Field, for example, is a unique dedicated space to “support Greenpeace’s mission to bring activism, social and climate justice to the forefront of their campaign work”.

    Cementing their position as a purpose-driven powerhouse is the fact that Michael and Emily Eavis donate more than £2m every year to their charity partners. They put their money where their mouths are, living their brand values and authentically connecting with the issues that matter most to the festival audience.

    2. Passion

    One of Glastonbury’s greatest strengths is its ability to connect and cater to such a diverse audience. From global headliners (like Sir Elton John, whose set racked up a record 7.3 million viewers on the BBC) to the craft field, there’s something for everybody at Glastonbury.

    No two people at the event have the exact same interests, nor the same experience. Nor should they. One minute you could be singing your heart out to a headline act on the Pyramid Stage (a special mention to everybody at Lewis Capaldi's set, who heart-warmingly sang with and for the artist who is currently battling with his physical and mental health), the next learning to juggle at the circus.

    For the foodies, there’s an abundance of delicious cuisines. For the parents, more children’s entertainment options than you can shake a funny stick at. For the ravers, an unmatched offering of DJs and sound systems.

    By tapping into our diverse passions – the very things that define who we are as people – brands can connect with audiences in the most authentic and meaningful way.

    3. Possibilities

    The event provides a brilliant balance between giving the people what they want and letting them experience something new. The ethos of Glastonbury is one of discovery: an uncurated, unexpected journey that follows your heart (and sometimes the direction of the traffic). For festival newcomers, there’s a seemingly endless array of possibilities and experiences. What do you prioritise? How can you see everything?

    Well, the beauty of it is that it’s impossible to do everything in the time you’re there. The festival recommends you don’t arrive with “a head full of preconceptions and a notebook full of plans”, instead encouraging you to be a bit more fluid.

    Perhaps the worst-kept secret of this year’s festival came in the form of Foo Fighters’ ‘surprise’ set on the Pyramid Stage, listed as ‘The ChurnUps’. The allure of mystery, and the need to discover more, keeps people hungry and wanting to come back – a key lesson for brand campaigns.

    Glastonbury provides a beautifully handmade blueprint for how we can genuinely connect with audiences in the most authentic and meaningful ways. The festival has stood the test of time by diligently sticking to its guns (okay, values), tapping into a wide variety of audience passions and continuously providing the surprise and delight that keeps audiences coming back for more.

    All of which will compound in the inevitable oversubscription to tickets and another fantastic year on the farm, a worthy reward for the global phenomenon.

    Until next year, Glastonbury.