Much like dating apps, music, food and wine festivals seem to grow in number each year. But the increased volume doesn’t necessarily make it easier to source events … or viable dates. So how do you find the best events for a client’s activation? And seriously, will I ever have a successful date?


Sourcing and booking events on behalf of a client is a lot like dating (or what I imagine dating would be like if I actually went on dates). In both cases, you need to know what you want out of the deal before you can really start to look…otherwise you’re setting your heart (or client) up for disappointment. (Tell me honestly, can you really build a relationship with someone you met on if you are terrified of horses? Why did you even look there?) Listen, if you want to score a sweet event sponsorship for a client’s activation, you’re going to have to think like a searching single. Even with the omnipotent Google at your fingertips, identifying perfect marriages of engagement opportunity + brand is not to be taken lightly. But we can do this. Shoulders back. Head up. Let’s make a match.

More Conditions = Fewer Options

No one likes to compromise, especially when you have a distinct image of what perfection looks like. My ideal guy would basically be a lumberjack: Someone tall with a beard, who prefers flannel and outdoor adventures. The requirements are pretty specific – probably the numero uno reason why I don’t end up on many dates. More conditions, fewer options.

It’s a formula that applies to event sourcing as well. Many clients may not know what their ideal event is, but they do know which demographic they are trying to reach … and that is our starting point. For example, if the client’s target demo is college-aged kids with dispensable income, music festivals are the route to take. From Counterpoint to Coachella, music festivals are crawling with people in their early twenties who are more than willing to drop $300+ on a music festival ticket – plus the cost of traveling to the event and possibly finding lodging if it’s a destination music festival similar to Hangout. And of course, they’ll need some souvenirs. If, however, the target audience is a female in her late 40s to early 50s who is a bit wealthier, wine festivals or art festivals are where to find her.


Do Your Homework

It’s 2015, people. If I’ve been texting with a potential Prince Charming and I catch wind of his name, alma mater, work … even dentist, I’m going to do some digging online to find out more about him. Why? I know he’s “selling” himself, so I want to gauge his authenticity. It’s a defense mechanism. It’s called “using the resources available to me.”

The same protocol applies to event sourcing. Sifting through all the decks that festivals send is like filtering through the profiles you see on a dating website. Oh, the lies. Like just about every eligible bachelor in a 50-mile radius, most festivals are experts at overselling themselves. If the festival says their attendance is 200,000 people over three days, you can almost guarantee it’s closer to 150,000. Any festival, especially if it is in its inaugural or early years, wants to appear awesome in order to attract larger sponsorships and therefore larger dollar amounts. Remember that profile you saw where the guy said he was 6’2”, owns his own vineyard, and has a beach house in Malibu? More like 5’11,” drinks a lot of wine and has been to a beach house in Malibu. In both cases, being over-sold stinks. You show up to a festival expecting it to be awesome (great layout, huge turnout) only to be let down – just like showing up to a date expecting George Clooney, only to be met by Napoleon Dynamite.


So to eliminate disappointment, I do extensive background research. Social media channels and even trusty ol’ Google provide helpful peeks into previous years so we can have an unbiased view of attendance, overall perception/sentiment and the style or vibe of the audience.

Define the Relationship…or Just Play the Field

For all of you who have spent countless nights wondering “Are we dating?” “Are we just friends?” “Are we ready to take things to the next level?” “What is the next level?” or any other irrational thought you’ve had in the dating process, you understand the importance of deciding what level of investment to make in the relationship. There is a similar pivotal point in booking events. Do you want to be a vendor? Or should you be a sponsor? Depending on the client’s product category, it is usually most economical to be a vendor, which involves just paying for a space to distribute your client’s items. Vendors usually don’t receive any added benefits such as advertising in print or online, extra tickets in addition to working credentials, or access to sponsor or VIP areas.

For some product categories, the mere fact that you are handing out complimentary items verses selling items requires you to go in as a sponsor. Most festivals have 5-10 varying levels of sponsorship, more or less; typically the bigger the festival, the more sponsorship options available. Levels range from something as small as sponsoring the bike racks (which could be perfect for a brand wanting to target a sub-demographic), to something as big as sponsoring the main stage. Most options are just a way for you to get your client’s name and logo out there – they don’t always come with actual space to activate at an event. So play the field. Kick around a few upgrade options and compare the pricing and details to other events in similar markets. It might become necessary to ask for a customized package and to practice your wheelin’ and dealin’ skills.

Manage Your Expectations

After sponsorship deals are finally negotiated, signed, sealed and delivered, the events – like dates – go off without a hitch. Psych! 90% of the time you will have a flawless activation. The other 10% of the time, usually with a first-time festival or a festival that has changed locations, you get a few hiccups. The electrical drop doesn’t work, the water source runs dry, and the jerk next to you took five extra feet of space … meaning you have five fewer feet of space. In the end, each festival offers something different, and it’s up to us to make sure that what it’s offering is in line with what our client wants.

As with life and love, no person or event is perfect, but it only takes one bad experience to tarnish an ideal match. The good news is that there are plenty of fish in the sea and countless festivals at which to activate. So keep your chin up, put down the tub of ice cream, take off those sweatpants, and go get ’em, tiger!

Want to know more about how Switch sources and books events? Send Ali a note at