Despite spending most of last Sunday’s Wireless Festival trying to dodge the giant muddy beach balls being thrown around the crowd and simultaneously attempting to dislodge my shoes from the swamp that was previously Hyde Park, I still managed to notice the Barclaycard PayBands that some festival-goers were using to pay at the food and drink stalls.
The Barclaycard PayBand was a new innovation for this year’s festival, allowing attendees to pre-load the band with money to be spent on-site, in transactions of no more than £20. Whilst not using a band myself, reception to the new system seems to have been largely positive, with no large-scale problems reported. On the same weekend, all fans at the Wakestock festival wore RFID wristbands that served an even broader range of functions than those at Wireless, acting as tickets as well as a wallet.
As someone who both loves festivals and can’t help losing things (often at said events), the advent of contactless technology strikes me as a very exciting development. It also represents a massive opportunity for sponsors, opening up the possibility for brands in the banking and technology sectors to assume a genuine role across a platform that they might have previously found difficult to access. Great sponsorship can, of course, carve out a credible role for a brand where one may not obviously exist, but true authenticity comes from fulfilling a genuine consumer need. The Orange phone-charging tent at Glastonbury Festival provides a great example of this.
As charted in a previous Synergy blog, the potential implications of RFID technology for brands are manifold. More to the point, we already use this microchip technology widely, in everything from Oyster cards to football season tickets. Only the other day, I undertook my first contactless payment from a debit card. So the odds are that this type of payment method will proliferate over the next few years, and – gradually – one card, phone or wristband will grow to serve multiple functions across different areas of people’s lives. For now though, getting universal acceptance even within one festival (i.e. all stallholders and sponsor installations agreeing to use the same NFC technology) is a challenge; it is likely that such forms of payment will be restricted to limited ecosystems, such as single festivals, or a series of events like the Smirnoff Nightlife Exchange, for a while. This provides a brilliant opportunity for relevant sponsors to strike an early-mover advantage in this space, just as Barclaycard have done. This brand is now well-placed to possibly expand across other festivals and other functions when the time (and more to the point the technology) is right.
For now, Barclaycard’s contactless payment is fulfilling a genuine need around the core passion point of music and festivals for their young target audience, simultaneously displaying several of the core principles of great sponsorship (and hopefully meaning that I’ll someday emerge from the end of a festival with all my belongings intact).
By Jessica Enoch on July 11th, 2012