The banking industry is directing more of its sponsorship dollars to music festivals and concert venues in an effort to attract younger clients with disposable income.
About 39% of the industry’s total sponsorship portfolio is now dedicated to music-related events and properties, up from 25% in 2021, according to a report from SponsorUnited, a data provider for the sports and entertainment industries. Over the past two years, bank sponsorships of music festivals surged by 165%, while bank sponsorship of concert venues rose by 94%, the report said.
That rapid growth is in contrast with the trends in major professional sports leagues. Bank sponsorships in pro sports grew by just 5% during the same time frame, the report said.
While banks continue to pour massive amounts of money into sports-related deals, there’s been a “rapid shift” into the music festival space, said Bob Lynch, SponsorUnited’s founder and CEO.
One reason: Music festivals often run for multiple days, which means that banks have lots of time and numerous ways to engage with existing and potential customers, he said.
“It’s not a three-hour game,” Lynch said in an interview. “It’s a three-day event, and it allows brands to do so much more on site. It’s a lot different from the stick-and-ball space.”
The banking industry’s sponsorship of music-related events isn’t new. Banks have been slapping their names and logos on concert stages, symphonies and chamber music events for years. But these days, the sponsorship deals for music festivals and concert venues are expanding to include a bundle of marketing and branding strategies.
The offerings include discounts on purchases during the event, bank-branded ATMs, Wi-Fi sponsorships and tented VIP hospitality sites on festival grounds for bank customers — usually with an eye toward attracting younger customers who may become lifelong clients.
Banks are prioritizing music festivals and concert venues “due to the singular opportunity these platforms offer to craft unique, expansive experiences,” the report said.
And unlike some more traditional events, attendees of music festivals have “notable disposable income” that “distinguishes them as valuable prospects in the competitive banking landscape.”
Citigroup has been one of the most active sponsors of music and entertainment events, supporting a variety of platforms both locally and nationally. The megabank is the longtime sponsor of the “Today” show’s summer concert series and the Global Citizen Festival in its headquarters city of New York.
Capital One Financial is also heavily active in the music space. The McLean, Virginia, company is returning for the sixth year as a partner for the iHeart Radio Music Festival, which is being held this weekend in Las Vegas. It is also the bank sponsor for City Parks Foundation SummerStage in New York City.
In August, Royal Bank of Canada announced a deal to be the “official financial services partner” and an “official ticket access partner” of Taylor Swift’s The Eras Tour when it comes to Toronto for six shows in November 2024. Members of RBC’s Avion rewards program had the chance to buy up to four tickets during a special access period last month.
Banks are likely attracted to the “coolness” of being associated with music festivals, said Josh Mabus, president and chief creative officer at Mabus Agency, a bank marketing firm in Tupelo, Mississippi.
But he warned that the more the industry focuses on music-related events, the harder it becomes for banks to differentiate themselves from other banks using the same strategy.
“Banks are creatures of habit, and they follow one another,” said Mabus, whose agency works with banks across the country. “If they’re all following each other, it’s easy to fall off the cliff.”
One wrinkle in the SponsorUnited report, which was based on an analysis of brands, music-related assets and social media posts between January 2021 through August 2023: Unlike traditional banks, fintechs and online-only banks are tending to stay away from music festivals, at least for now.
Instead, those companies are putting their sponsorship dollars into professional sports leagues like the National Basketball Association.
That strategy allows companies to introduce their brands to the “massive social media audiences” that follow the NBA, the National Football League and other major sports leagues, Lynch said. They also get “general broadcast exposure” that could lead to establishing a presence at other major events, such as the Super Bowl.
“It’s really hard to do that in the festival space,” Lynch said.