Vodafone sets sights on ‘young people and families’ as it attempts to carve out a niche in live music marketing

Telecoms brand marketers love to play in the music space, and Vodafone is no exception. For five years the network has sponsored the Capital Summertime Ball and this year’s activation of the event was devised to put the spotlight in on the concert’s prime audience – teenagers.

Speaking to The Drum at this year’s event, brand manager for sponsorships and partnerships Dan Underwood explained why Vodafone had returned as the ball’s headliner again. “Being here today in front of this audience, creating some of these amazing activations, is exactly why we've selected this sponsorship.

“[These are] avid listeners that we want to convert over to Vodafone to be fans of us as well.”

The ‘avid listeners’ – lovers of the likes of Little Mix and Zayn Malik – are exactly who the brand is setting its sets sights on commercially. “At the moment the focus is young people and families, and that's at the heart of our brand,” said Underwood.

“So sponsorship and events will do that job for us very, very well. That will be where most of our investment will end up.”

Vodafone’s new music focus is a twofold and slightly paradoxical one. On one hand, its sponsorship of the Capital Summertime Ball and the Big Top 40 chart covers off all that is mainstream about UK music. On the other, it has developed a new platform dubbed Future Breakers in order to unearth grassroots unsigned artists.

Launched in February, the initiative aims to give emerging talent a shot at breaking into the music industry. Musicians could enter their tracks and videos into a dedicated hub for the chance to win prizes such as a recording studio session; Scottish singer and entrant Ryan Lawrie was given the opportunity to open the Summertime Ball’s main stage.

This considered focus was selected in order to stand out from rival telecoms brands – namely O2 – that are already heavily present on the music scene. Underwood explained: “It's about finding areas that our competitors are not necessarily active in and finding that clear space to then own. We found a new angle within that, which is grassroots and unsigned: so we're very proud of that and that's the kind of way that we approach sponsorships going forward.”

Produced by agency Freeman XP, The Summertime Ball activation displayed how Vodafone manages to merge these two seemingly disparate musical approaches. A branded, village-style installation drew in young children and their parents with music, a dance zone and a beauty parlour, while a red carpet guided guests over the road to the live Future Breakers stage.

The efficacy of the platform will present itself a little further down the line, however for now Vodafone’s marketing team will still be happy to take the crown as the UK’s most valuable brand. What does Underwood think the brand’s getting so right?

“We've got a very clear purpose that everyone's working towards, and that extends through all of our propositions that we offer,” he said.

“When you put it all together and look at where we've come from as a brand - we’re 31 years old, have always been in the UK, and have always been Vodafone - there's a lot of stuff that we can be really proud of.”

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Katie Deighton

Katie Deighton is The Drum’s senior reporter - creative and video based in London. She produces, films, presents and edits the title’s editorial video output, including series such as On The Scene, Ad Breakers and Why I Left Advertising, and manages its coverage of the creative sector. She also reports on the intersection between politics and marketing, as well as the third sector and fashion.

All by Katie