Virgin spreads its festival wings

Two new provinces - Quebec and Nova Scotia - bring the summer shenanigans to five venues, taking both the mega brand and its many media partners for a cross-country brandavaganza.

Virgin Festival Canada is stretching out eastward to include two new provinces in its party stops in addition to Alberta, British Columbia and Ontario. Festivities in Nova Scotia and Quebec will launch with a two-day celebration starting June 19-20 at Parc Jean-Drapeau – Île Ste-Hélène, with over 30,000 fans expected to attend.

The festival, which is expected to reach 300,000 across the nation, will include the usual A-list superstars and up-and-coming local talent, as well as interactive displays and contests, a vendor village, beer gardens, plus special perks for Virgin Mobile customers.

‘There’s no better way for consumers to experience the Virgin brand than to go to a Virgin Festival,’ fest director Andrew Bridge tells MiC. ‘The brand’s roots are with music, and we’re able to convey that Virgin spirit though the experience people have at the festival – and it helps benefit all our brands in the markets. It’s a national festival this year, so that has a lot of appeal to sponsors and to co-partners because it gives them the opportunity to do things across the country, whereas it was very regional in the past, so that’s big news.’

‘The [brand] opportunity presents itself with lots of ways to connect with youth, whether it be through our media placements and programs,’ says Bridge. ‘There’s a ton of media we employ to promote the festival,’ he continues, citing examples like urban weeklies such as Exclaim magazine, Now and Eye, as well as music blogs. ‘The festival is almost like a brand in itself so other partners, that we like to call groupies, actually have the unique opportunity to touch our festival goers and leave them with a great brand experience for their brands as well.’ Brands who are back on board this year include Molson, with its massive bar and on-site activations.

In Montreal, this year’s Virgin Festival is partnering with Gillett Entertainment Group, a company which last year reached 1.5 million fans through 638 shows presented across Quebec, the Maritimes and Vermont. Virgin Festival is also partnering with its sister brand Virgin Radio and Astral Media to help grow the buzz and spread the love with exclusive Ffestival news, artist info and hot ticket offers. ‘Virgin Radio is new this year, so we have them as a new partner,’ says Bridge. ‘From a media standpoint that’s relatively interesting because it’s a unique opportunity to work with a sister company to really amplify the event, so they can leverage that and associate themselves and build their brands at the same time.’

Headlining day one will be the Grammy Award-winning Black Eyed Peas, the MMVA and Juno Award-winning Simple Plan, Canadian rockers Hedley, synth-pop specialists The New Cities and soul infusionist Eva Avila. Day two will bring legendary pop group New Kids On The Block, multi-platinum pop soul singer Akon, alt-rock legends Live, up-and-coming electro singer/songwriter Lights and R&B songstress Divine Brown. More talent will be announced in the coming weeks.

Of course, Virgin Mobile, which has now attracted more than 12 million customers worldwide, has its customers moving to the front of the line and getting their hands on early bird tickets.

Like last year, the festival is keeping it carbon-neutral by providing recycling on-site, using biodegradable food and drink containers and leveraging green energy sources, where possible, to power the festival.

Virgin Festival is expected to announce the cities and festival locations in coming days, but for now, says Bridge, ‘we’re keeping it a bit of a secret.’