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SOS: How can brands help save our summer?

Entertainment will be in demand from audiences deprived of the traditional festival circuit.

To read the full article, head to Campaign published 26th January 2021.

As we struggle through the long dark days of winter, the potential of a return to normality this summer is keeping a lot of us going during lockdown. The mere thought of a vaccine-enabled festival free-for-all is enough to bring tears of joy to your eyes. But with the recent news that Glastonbury 2021 is officially cancelled, and talks of other much-anticipated events like Euro 2020 hanging in the balance, what might this summer actually look like?

While the likes of UK Music lobby the government to put plans and realistic timeframes in place to give event organisers the confidence and foresight needed to plan their return safely, the fact is that the measures needed to do so mean that it is going to be immensely challenging to hold these kinds of events in the way that we know and love. Even boutique, socially-distanced events look set to be shifted back to later in the year.

The fallout from a cancelled summer is as catastrophic for the entertainment industry as it is for Britain's culture-loving population. With our future shrouded in uncertainty, how can brands prepare and do their bit to help save the day?

Boutique experiences

At this stage, it's probably wise to limit our expectation of the scale of summer events. But that's not to say that IRL experiences will be completely off the table. Taking a digital-first approach, with small-scale experiences that can flex to open up to small crowds as restrictions lift, will likely be an effective way for brands to not only help provide opportunities for the sector – from venues to artists – but also serve up some much-needed entertainment for audiences deprived of the traditional festival circuit.

Outdoor entertainment

As the weather improves and people take to the outdoors (hopefully in groups again), there's an opportunity for brands to be there and help amplify the experience. Whether that's embracing OOH as a medium for brand experience – from outdoor exhibitions to QR-enabled content portals – or embracing audio, such as activating radio broadcasts or podcasts to soundtrack long summer nights, nomadic brand experiences look set to become a go-to strategy for brands as the event industry continues to adapt.

Platforms for performance

According to UK Music's latest report, up to 80% of music creators' income was lost last year, with up to three-quarters of musicians in danger of leaving the sector altogether. In the absence of festivals, artists up and down the country have once again been deprived of a vital source of income and important platforms to help them reach new audiences. Brands with a stake in music and culture can give back in their absence, supporting creators with financial opportunities and new platforms.

Amplify existing events

With larger events looking increasingly unlikely, it's probable that we'll see some tentpole events pivot to digital or "bubble" activations. In this case, brands can be clever in the ways they activate around these, providing an added layer to elevate the at-home experience.

Even though it's looking like summer '21 will set too ambitious a timeline for a return to carefree normality, there will still be opportunities for brands to stay culturally active. Whether creating opportunities for an at-risk industry or providing entertainment for audiences hungry for experience as they emerge from lockdown, brands can play a pivotal role in ensuring this summer isn't a total wipeout.

Simon Richardson is strategy director at Amplify.