Bonnaroo Introduces iBeacons to Deliver a Rockin' Fan Experience

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Mobile data is this music and arts festival's jam.

Because the communications centered around services, Bonnaroo implemented iBeacons near festival amenities. The brand also considered which staff members would benefit from this tracking data, Cuellar says. For instance, Bonnaroo placed iBeacons near festival entrances to help security officers keep track of incoming traffic.

However, Cuellar says that Bonnaroo didn't send any promotional or marketing messages this year because the brand wanted to focus on the contextual data and avoid any Big Brother associations.

“There definitely is that fine line of marketing to someone versus interacting with them,” Cuellar says. “We didn't want to dilute what we were trying to do or what we were trying to gather by marketing to folks.”

In terms of results, Bonnaroo received its highest number of app downloads this year, according to Cuellar. However, he says that it's hard to attribute this feat to the iBeacons because the brand neither promoted the technology nor incentivized attendees to download the app for this purpose. Still, feedback from Bonnaroo's post-festival survey indicates that attendees considered the push notifications helpful. Cuellar attributes this receptivity to the fact that the brand didn't debut the feature with promotional messages.

“People know when they're being sold to,” Cuellar says. “The fact that we came out this first year with it and didn't sell to people—I think that they were impressed…. We spent money and we weren't expecting a return that first year.”

In addition to the positive feedback, Bonnaroo took away a few major insights. For instance, Bonnaroo brought the excitement of Centeroo to its camping site with the introduction of pods: community centers that include everything from a coffee house to a ceremony venue where attendees can get married. The iBeacon technology proved to Bonnaroo that attendees were willing to leave Centeroo to visit these camp ground pods, Cuellar says, and that the company should continue to invest in areas outside of the main venue. 

The experience also forced the brand to weigh the technology's pros and cons. One major benefit of using iBeacons was that it allowed Bonnaroo to communicate with festival-goers via devices they already relied on—their smartphones—Cuellar says. However, there are a few drawbacks. For instance, the iBeacon effectiveness was dependent on whether attendees' devices were charged or received a signal connection. 

But it looks like Bonnaroo will continue to experiment with iBeacons. Cuellar says that the festival is expanding its use of the technology next year. 

Photo Credit: Bonnaroo

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