Special Report 
Brand Live Stream

Will Clark, Contributing Editor,

Highlighting Brands Innovating with Live Streaming

Virtual Festival Season
Last week, several major festivals took place virtually: The Atlantic Festival, Bonaroo, and Farm Aid. But they all handled production and brand sponsorships a little differently. Find out how each festival approached their events. 
Bonaroo’s Virtual ROO-ALITY 
Brands: Toyota, Twix, Bacardi, Tito’s, Red Bull, Gildan
Platform: YouTube
Reach (Saturday): 60k (5k concurrent viewers) 

Bonaroo’s modified version of their festival took place over three days of marathon live streams on their YouTube channel. Each day more than a dozen artists participated, and while most sets were 10 to 15-minute live performances, others were full rebroadcast recordings of sets from previous years of the festival. 

Some sets were branded events, such as Toyota’s Sanctuary of Self Love panel. All the branded events were music adjacent rather than straight performances, and out of Saturday’s 24 time slots, seven were branded. Five of these took place in the first three hours of the nine-and-a-half-hour stream. 

For the artists who joined remotely this year, the performances ranged from multi-cam shows with elaborate graphics to single-shot videos from artists’ homes. Throughout the entire show, the audio quality was generally very good. This is essential for any successful live stream, not just music, as fans tend to be more forgiving with video quality than audio.

During the festival, Red Bull ran promotions through the live chat, but other than that, the brand interactions were very traditional. The branded sets were essentially the same idea as sponsoring a stage at a regular festival. 

In fact, the festival generally followed a traditional format across the board. The run of show followed a traditional structure, generally escalating in energy from acoustic to rock to electronic music. Interestingly, during Saturday’s event, the highest concurrent viewer count occurred during the rebroadcast of The White Stripes’ 2007 Bonaroo show.

The structure of the festival did take advantage of two seemingly contradictory lessons we’ve learned from live streaming. 1) The viewer has short attention span, and 2) the longer the stream, the better. The short sets provided a quick pace to the festival while the marathon runtime ensured that viewers had a large window to catch the festival. 

There was also an opportunity for fans to buy Bonaroo merch through a pinned link in the live chat section of the stream, a makeshift solution in the burgeoning live e-commerce market.  

The Atlantic Festival 
Brands: Facebook, Allstate, Paypal, US Bank, AARP, Exxon Mobil, and more
Platform: YouTube/private ticketed streams
Reach: 200k (aggregate views from various videos) 

This four-day event hosted by the magazine brought together speakers like Apple’s Tim Cook, Delta Air Lines’ Ed Bastian, and dozens of other leaders from the worlds of politics, business, news and entertainment. This festival, too, found its home on YouTube, but its events were more spaced out over hours and days. Their sessions were mainly long form, in-depth discussions, with many of the events underwritten by major brands like Facebook, Allstate, US Bank, Exxon Mobil, and others. 

In order to access all of the networking events, participants had to buy tickets through The Atlantic’s “lobby,” which also included “booths” for the sponsors. But most of the discussions with high profile speakers are archived on The Atlantic’s YouTube channel. The brands’ presence at the festival was subtle but not invisible. The clean, professional packaging of the event was in contrast, however, to the choppy audio and green-screen halos around the speakers. Occasionally, the remote audio was actually better than The Atlantic’s own audio. Overall, the event seemed to successfully migrate to the virtual space, even though the organizers made it clear that this would hopefully be the last time they conducted the festival online.

Farm Aid 
Brands: Horizon, Patagonia, Butcher Box and more
Platform: YouTube
Reach: 150k (25k concurrent viewers)

Farm Aid was founded by Willie Nelson 35 years ago and its mission is to support family farmers. Although there was limited brand presence, the event was an excellent demonstration of a successful live stream, and the history behind its production company is noteworthy. This was actually Willie’s second gathering this year to go virtual, after his Luck Reunion was cancelled in the spring. The production company which usually handled that event pivoted in the wake of COVID-19 and has since produced dozens of live streams, including Farm Aid. 

Luck.Stream now hosts weekly small festivals and other musical performances, and touts a number of ways for companies and brands to get involved with their streams.   

This year’s Farm Aid featured artists like Neil Young, Bonnie Raitt, Chris Stapleton, and Norah Jones, and again, these performances were short, stripped back recordings from artists’ homes. These intentionally avoided any sort of high-end production, going instead for an intimate front row experience with the artists. You could often hear the artists’ breaths between verses.  

Another interesting aspect of this production was the exclusion of set times, forcing viewers to stay tuned in if they wanted a chance to catch their favorite artists. 


In the coming weeks and months, more festivals will resort to live streaming and will rely on brand partnerships more than ever to stay afloat. Some of these include Condé Nast’s The New Yorker Festival (October 5-11), C3’s Austin City Limits (October 9-11), and Luck.Stream’s Vote For Change (October 1). And while there may not be the same attendance as usual, it’s clear that hundreds of thousands of people still flock to these experiences. Brands that are able to get a foothold in this relatively sparse marketplace and bring fans meaningful experiences will have a huge leg up in the future of virtual and their corresponding in-person events.  


Brand Bites
Recent Live Streams from Top Brands

Puma + Cobra
Event: Bryson DeChambeau’s workouts 
Platform: Twitch
Reach: N/A
Time/Date: April 2020
Description: Last week, Bryson DeChambeau dominated the U.S. Open with his unconventional approach to the game of golf. He’s known for his long drives, his body transformation, and for having an engineer’s mind. He’s also a gamer, and fans can watch him play on his Twitch channel. But more significantly for brands, he has streamed sponsored practice sessions. In these, he tests the limits of what a golf club can do in terms of speed and power. It’s almost like watching a live crash test, complete with Bryson the mad scientist running the show, giddy at his own power. 

And while these streams have not reached very far, Bryson is now a major champion, and his approach to golf is rippling throughout the sport. Access to an athlete during practice is a coveted experience among fans, and live streaming is the obvious way in. The key, at least in the case of Bryson’s streams, was for the brand to have a simple, understated presence and let the athlete take control of the stream. That way, fans get what they want: unfiltered access. 

Celebrity/Influencer:  Erykah Badu
Event: The Burberry Spring Summer 2021 Show Experience
Platform: Twitch
Reach: 38k 
Description: Touting themselves as the first luxury brand to partner with Twitch, Burberry has utilized the power of live streaming to show off their new collection. The event consisted of a live performance in the British wilderness, combining fashion, dance, music and film for a unique and artistic experience.

Twitch can be a tough medium to break into. Most successful streamers gain a following after long periods of consistent streaming. Burberry used the site less as a social platform and more as a means of broadcast. But they also had the help of several influential hosts: Erykah Badu, Rosalía, Steve Lacy and Bella Hadid. 

The emergence of luxury brands in the livestream space is a significant development, and it signals both the artistic possibilities of the technology and the market potential. While Burberry may have been the first luxury brand on Twitch, back in June, Hermès created a live performance for YouTube, and they will host another this week

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