When Elizabeth Brady joined Kohler Co. as senior vice president of global brand management in late 2013, one of her charges was to help the 142-year-old company engage consumers in new and innovative ways. 

A year-and-a-half later, the strategy is gaining traction.

Kohler has signed a new partnership with the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival, a tie that may be the first of a number of new deals with music festivals and other types of properties across its diverse product portfolio.

The crux of the strategy: reaching consumers in new ways through product integration that enhances the event experience and drives social media conversations.

“We have our eyes on a lot of different partnerships. There is no better way to connect with consumers than by supporting the activities they are passionate about in an authentic way.”

Kohler plans to implement the strategy across its four business segments: kitchen and bath (Kohler, Sterling, Kallista, etc.); engines and generators (Kohler Engines, Lombardini, etc.); furniture and tile (Baker, McGuire, Ann Sacks, etc.); and golf and resort destinations (American Club, Scotland’s Old Course Hotel, etc.).

Like its new partnership with Bonnaroo, Kohler will use future sponsorships to promote specific products.

“Sponsorship will be based on the needs of each business and who their customer is. There is no sponsorship that fits all of them.”

Showing Moxie At Bonnaroo
Kohler will activate Bonnaroo by upgrading the festival’s 10 shower locations with showerheads, shower curtains, floor mats and custom artwork.

The company will install roughly 400 showerheads including Kohler Moxie, a showerhead with a Bluetooth-enabled wireless speaker.

“The Moxie is in the sweet spot of the millennial crowd,” said Brady, noting that the festival also provides access to families and other audience segments.

Enhancing the on-site experience was also critical to Bonnaroo.  

“People live at the festival for four days, and the shower experience is absolutely critical to their on-site experience,” said Alex Machurov, director of new business and partnerships with Superfly, which produces Bonnaroo.

Bonnaroo is the largest camping music festival in the U.S., said Machurov, noting that “tens of thousands” of the event’s 80,000 attendees use the shower facilities. Six hundred of the festival’s 800 acres are dedicated campgrounds. 

Kohler will run promotions outside the shower facilities offering the chance to win Moxie showerheads. It also will sponsor half-price shower “happy hours” to encourage consumers to experience its products.

The privately-held company will distribute content from the event through Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and other social media channels. The company hopes to generate a buzz due to the unexpected nature of the sponsorship, said Brady.

“People might be surprised that Kohler is at Bonnaroo. That helps create news and allows us to tap into social channels with social currency.”

Kohler also will use the sponsorship to support a two-month old marketing campaign built around the “Never too bold” tagline. The company will use on-site messaging to promote Moxie with the “Never too loud” tagline. 

Kohler’s legacy portfolio includes the NHL Green Bay Packers and golf (AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, World Golf Championships, etc.). Kohler’s Whistling Straits golf course will host the 2015 PGA Championship and 2020 Ryder Cup matches.

“Golf is in our DNA.”