Why stop at one?

Pleased with the success of its Project Pabst music festival in Portland, Ore., Pabst Brewing Co. this year expanded the proprietary marketing platform to three new markets: Atlanta, Denver and Philadelphia.

The festivals have been a success: each event sold out presale tickets within 24 hours, drew more consumers into the PBR fold, while “ProjectPabst” was the number-two trending hashtag during the Portland event.

The brewery this year also secured a new producer and presenting sponsor of the Portland festival—MusicfestNW—as well as an unprecedented number of smaller-level partners.

Those include Dr. Martens and Polaroid, both of which used Project Pabst as a platform to launch new products. Dr. Martens leveraged the Portland festival to promote its DM’s Lite boot and shoe line, while Polaroid partnered with all four festivals to showcase its new Snap instant digital camera and Zip instant mobile printer.

Small Town Brewery sponsored all four festivals on behalf of Not Your Father’s Root Beer. Pabst Brewing Co. distributes the hard root beer line and owns an equity stake in the brewery.

In keeping with its retro vibe, Pabst activated the festivals with the “PBRcade” that featured free Donkey Kong and other old-school games. Attendees also could play the new PBR-themed “Can Crusher” pinball game.

Other activations included the “Pabst Wax” mobile recording studio where attendees could cut a 45-RPM single, beer cans customized by local artists and local and national text-to-win ticket promotions.

IEG SR spoke with Matt Slessler, PBR national brand ambassador, about the thinking behind Project Pabst, the festival’s expansion into new markets, and other topics.

Below are edited excerpts from the interview.

On creating a proprietary music festival
We wanted to do it our way. Don’t get me wrong—we have events where we’re just a sponsor. But we like the idea of planting a flag in the ground and doing it our way. When you sponsor another event, you’re beholden to other people. You can collaborate on an idea, but you don’t get to book bands and set concession prices. We sell PBR for $3—you won’t find another festival in the world with $3 beer.

On the pros and cons of event ownership
The con: it’s a massive amount of work. When we were in Atlanta and Philadelphia, our reps would normally be doing their normal duties on the street. For 60 days minimum they’re focused solely on the festival.

It’s time consuming but worth it because of the reception from our customers and consumers outside our normal customer base.

On taking the festival to new markets
Atlanta, Denver and Philadelphia are loyal PBR markets with a rich musical tapestry. If we could do 50 markets we would, but we don’t have the bandwidth and manpower.

Each city had its own spin. Portland is a two-day festival in the middle of the city, while Atlanta and Denver were more like block parties. Philadelphia had a gritty parking lot feel outside the Electric Factory music venue.

Each city had its own booking—we don’t move the same bands from city to city, which adds to the personality of each festival.

On joining forces with MusicfestNW
MusicfestNW has been around for 20 years. We thought if we could put our heads together we could throw an amazing festival with a promoter that is local. We stepped up talent, and it became a perfect storm.

It was strictly a business decision. Instead of competing with another festival that targets the same customer we decided to join forces.

On capping the number of sponsors at the Portland festival
The amount of sponsors was staggering. We had ten times the number of sponsors than the inaugural event. It got to the point where we had to think long and hard at how many sponsors we want. We don’t want to look like a NASCAR race.

It got to the point where we didn’t take any more sponsors. We wanted to make sure that we can take care of the sponsors we have.