Brands & Merch Business Interviews

Q&A: George Kyle, Tennent’s Lager

By | Published on Wednesday 10 February 2016

T In The Park

This Thursday, the European Sponsorship Association stages its annual awards in London, celebrating the best in sponsorship and brand partnership activity from the last twelve months.
CMU is partnering on the music category this year, and in the run up to the big event we will speak to some of the nominees to find out about their shortlisted projects, what they involved, and how each brand worked with their music partners.
Today, George Kyle from Tennent’s Lager, which is nominated for its long running partnership with DF Concerts on T In The Park.

CC: Tennent’s has been a partner on T In The Park since its inception. Tell us a bit about how the whole venture first came about.
GK: Tennent’s co-founded T In The Park in 1994. We’d been supporting Scotland’s live music scene for years through our Tennent’s Live programme, and in the early 90s we began having conversations with promoter DF Concerts about creating a major outdoor festival for Scotland. It was a major undertaking for both parties, but we shared an ambition and a passion and T In The Park was born.

CC: The usual consensus is that brands will tire of any specific music partnerships after a few years. Why do you think that Tennent’s has remained so committed to T In The Park for so long?
GK: T In The Park is a passion of the brand and our drinkers, and it’s crucial that our founding partner role remains fresh, relevant and engaging for fans. We’re lucky in that we enjoy a highly collaborative relationship with DF Concerts, which enables us to evolve the partnership year after year. Some rights holders regard partners as a burden, but DF recognise the support we can bring in terms of wider activation. For example, in 2015 we promoted our role in the event and enhanced music lovers’ enjoyment of the festival via our integrated campaign – “at the heart of T In The Park”. We undertake on-going rigorous evaluation of our association with T In The Park to ensure that it continues to drive engagement with drinkers and to inform how we need to bring our role at the event to life.

CC: Naming rights are always an interesting talking point in the live music sector. The Tennent’s brand is right at the front of this festival’s name, yet it’s sort of subtle at the same time. Was that deliberate?
GK: The Tennent’s red T is recognised as a Scottish icon. Tennent’s is the ‘T’ in T In The Park, and our instantly recognisable red T brand has been adopted by fans as something of a badge of honour at the event. It’s an amazing thing to see thousands of fans arriving at the festival proudly sporting your brand having taken the time to customise their outfits and hairstyles with a red T. We’ve seen fans turn up in homemade Tennent’s can costumes, and with red Ts sprayed into their hair, painted on their nails and faces. Some dedicated fans even have real red T tattoos!

CC: Other than the naming rights and obvious branding that comes with it, what other elements of the T In The Park partnership are important to Tennent’s?
GK: Most importantly, our drinkers recognise our integral role in Scotland’s biggest and best music festival. T In The Park is something that Scots love and are proud of, and fans continue to value our contribution in founding, building and enhancing the event.

We always recognise that it’s important that we add value to the festival experience by bringing the brand to life through brand experiences and ‘on-site activation’. We’re heavily involved in the bar operation on-site, ensuring festival-goers enjoy freshly brewed, chilled pints that have been produced using the finest of Scotland’s natural ingredients only 36 hours before the festival, and we operate the Be Chilled service which enables campers to pre-order their beer online in advance and collect chilled cans when they arrive in the festival campsite, saving them the hassle of carrying heavy cans into the festival.

CC: Do you add new elements to the partnership each year? If so, how do they come about? How much is driven by the brand, and how much by the festival?
GK: It’s vital that the partnership remains fresh and relevant, and in 2015 we celebrated the festival’s move to its new home Strathallan Castle with a brand new campaign – Tennent’s Lager at the heart of T In The Park. Activations included warm-up gigs with T In The Park artists in bars across Scotland, a Tennent’s Lager app, and a brand new experiential bar on site – The Tennent’s Arms. The two-tier bar was hugely popular, with a stunning raised platform offering an open-air beer garden experience, plus a real party vibe thanks to a DJ line-up curated by Glasgow club Sub Club.

Our activity is very much driven by us as founding partner, however all plans are developed in collaboration with our partner DF Concerts.

CC: Do you seek to generate content from the festival, to take the promotion beyond the event itself? If so, how does this work?
GK: Absolutely – this year we released a bespoke souvenir app which enabled fans to share photos from their weekend within a personalised branded video edit. Across the festival weekend, we also released exclusive interviews with the festival headliners The Libertines and Kasabian as video edits on our social channels, providing fans with unique and engaging content.

CC: How hands on are you with the media and PR around the event, or do you leave that to the promoter?
GK: As part of our agreement with DF Concerts, Tennent’s appoints the PR agency for T In The Park. Our agency – Material_UK – work on behalf of ourselves and DF Concerts to deliver the consumer PR campaign for the festival, as well as our wider activation campaign. As well as comms, this involves everything from managing brand initiatives like T Break, Be Chilled and experiential activation – such as the Tennent’s Arms and the Hospitality Bar (Studio94) – to overseeing the logistics involved with the on-site bar operation.

CC: You have other activity in music – such as T Break, as you mentioned. How does that relate to T in the Park?
GK: Tennent’s Lager founded T Break in 1996 to create a platform for unsigned artists to showcase their material at T In The Park. Over the years the T Break Stage has played host to some now legendary performances, courtesy of the likes of Biffy Clyro, The View and Snow Patrol, and 21 years later, it’s still going strong. By offering acts the chance to play the T Break Stage at T In The Park, we provide grassroots talent with valuable exposure to both fans and influential music industry figures which they may not have otherwise enjoyed. It’s something we’re incredibly proud of.

CC: Tell us about some of the other music projects Tennent’s has been involved with over the years, and how they related to and complimented T In The Park.
GK: Tennent’s has a rich heritage in music which grew from the Tennent’s Live programme in the 1980s. T In The Park is obviously the jewel in the crown, with T Break demonstrating our commitment to unsigned music talent in Scotland.

But over the years these associations have been enhanced by festivals like T On The Fringe, which ran from 2000 to 2007. Again in an innovative move that enhanced the music landscape in Scotland, we partnered with DF Concerts to introduce a contemporary music strand to the world’s largest and most successful arts and cultural festival in Edinburgh across the month of August.

Then there was Triptych from 2001 to 2008, which came from our desire to innovate and enhance Scotland’s music landscape. We commissioned promoter and creative agency Better Days to build on our existing music programme and the result was Triptych, initially conceived as a three night (ultimately five nights), three city (Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen) festival which saw local legends and iconic talent rotate across the cities.

And then there was Tennent’s Mutual in 2008. Again a Tennent’s owned festival, we worked with Better Days to create a unique festival concept with the aim of empowering the audience to create, control and enjoy. From co-creation to social networking and new kinds of community to corporate social responsibility, Tennent’s Mutual tapped into current themes – and in doing so it aimed to energise Tennent’s much-loved music association for a new generation.

CMU Insights is presenting a masterclass aimed at brands working with music on Monday 18 April at the London HQ of law firm Lewis Silkin. The event will explain how the music industry and music rights work, and the different music companies brands need to form relationships and deals with depending on the nature of their music-based marketing activity. Places at the masterclass are just £125, including VAT and booking fee, and can be bought here.