Social & Influencers

How Superfly promotes one of America’s biggest music festivals, Outside Lands

The festival’s Bay Area backdrop plays a big part in its social-heavy marketing strategy, which now includes Discord.
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Screenshots via @outsidelands/Instagram

· 4 min read

Coachella’s 1999 debut helped redefine the American music festival scene, according to Rick Farman, co-founder of marketing and events company Superfly.

“That was really a pioneering thing in a lot of ways because, at least from a programming format, they brought over what you were seeing out of the European festivals: an eclectic mix of programming,” he told us.

Since then, music festivals have become increasingly popular in the US. In 2008, Superfly created and co-founded its own festival: Outside Lands in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, a three-day event that attracts hundreds of thousands of attendees. OSL has taken place almost every year for the past 15 years. At this year’s festival, taking place in August, artists including Kendrick Lamar, Janelle Monáe, and Lana Del Ray are scheduled to perform.

Superfly—which created The Friends Experience and other show-related experiences, as well as events for brands including Uber and Microsoft—helps promote OSL each year in addition to producing it. Ahead of its 15th anniversary, we talked to Farman about how Superfly uses social media to help promote and build excitement for the festival each year.

Hometown pride

OSL is a music festival, but the artists aren’t the only attraction: The festival celebrates its home in the Bay Area by serving food and drinks from 95+ local food vendors, including Mexican joint Tacolicious and Filipino fusion eatery Señor Sisig. The fest also serves wine from nearby Sonoma and Napa.

These offerings are promoted extensively on the festival’s Instagram and TikTok, with posts showcasing various local food vendors, such as vegan eateries, as well as user-generated content showing fans visiting the brick-and-mortar locations of festival food vendors.

It’s all part of an effort to show off what makes the event “unique and special,” considering there are so many festivals out there, Farman explained. “What we’re trying to do is espouse all of the amazing things about the Bay Area,” he said. “The Bay Area has this amazing arts and cultural scene and has this amazing culinary scene,” he said, explaining that while attendees come to hear the music at OSL, “it’s also a whole wine experience, a whole beer experience.”

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The festival also focuses on the local cannabis scene. Since 2018, OSL has included a cannabis experience called Grass Lands, and last year introduced an on-site dispensary sponsored by the magazine High Times, where cannabis retailers sell products.

“We’re the only globally major festival that has sales and consumption of cannabis on-site,” Farman said. While Grass Lands has its own Instagram account, the OSL account posts about it as well.

Hip and happenin’

Of course, much of its social strategy revolves around highlighting artists that are scheduled to perform at the festival. This sometimes involves posting about artists using popular memes. For example, the festival posted a TikTok promoting rapper Megan Thee Stallion’s appearance at this year’s OSL with a video of Christian Bale’s character in American Psycho listening to one of her songs.

OSL’s Instagram also reposts content about the festival, as well as interactive content prompting users to reply to questions like, “What’s your favorite Outside Lands memory?”

Superfly’s social media strategy for OSL has also included additional interactive elements: The company worked with Laylo, a customer relationship management platform, for a DM-based campaign, according to Megan Adams, who works in marketing and communications at Superfly.

The festival’s social accounts are run by Leesa Allmond, director of social media and content at Superfly. Superfly and concert production company Another Planet Entertainment split marketing responsibilities.

According to Adams, OSL’s online strategy is largely organic. While she said she could not disclose the festival’s marketing budget, she said there are some paid advertising components as well.

“When we announce the lineup, we put paid behind that, [which] runs for however long we need, maybe 90 days. We also do paid behind some of our ticketing offerings at VIP levels,” she said.

This year, to supplement its social strategy, OSL started a Discord, with channels devoted to various aspects of festival attendance, like coordinating outfits.

According to Farman, the team noticed that a lot of people were using the platform for other things. “We wanted the opportunity to have that kind of conversational forum to discuss the festival. We’re always trying to stay current with the way that people are communicating.”

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