Notting Hill Carnival – The risks of Sponsorship

Europe’s largest street festival descends on Notting Hill every year with more than 1.5 million visitors coming to London to celebrate Caribbean culture - offering the chance to sponsor everything from the masquerade parade, to sound systems, to the steward’s uniforms. This is a valuable opportunity (depending on your objectives, of course) to get valuable eyeballs, on your brand. However, with sponsorship, there is always the risk of positive and negative publicity.

Let’s just be clear, we aren’t doubting that the Notting Hill Carnival is a fantastic event and external factors will always play a part in sponsorships… but the question is, is your brand able to withstand the negative publicity?

The event, unfortunately, does have a ‘negative narrative’ around it, and with last year’s ‘near catastrophe’, there has been a big call to make the event ticket only and introduce corporate sponsorships. Last year there were four near-fatal stabbings and 450 arrests - more than they had ever had in any other year.

Some of the positives of sponsorship are, of course, brand awareness, brand engagement and shaping public perceptions of your brand. Public events are a great way to do this and are a great way to activate your sponsorship as part of your overall marketing strategy. However, with this ‘negative narrative’, there is the risk of negative publicity by association. A lot of PR work has gone into the event to combat the checkered history and raise a more positive profile. Last year Adidas and Converse both did huge sponsorship campaigns. However, both brands are better equipped to handle this type of press.

Notting Hill Carnival is undoubtedly a great event and a few of our team will be going along to celebrate the Caribbean culture. However, as in this case, it is a good example to illustrate the risks of sponsorship. There is always an element of unpredictability associated with any event. The Bahamian ‘Fyre music festival’ created by Jar Rule was held earlier this year and the event was promoted by the likes of Kendall Jenner and Bella Hadid. The poorly organised event descended into chaos and all of the public figures involved received a torrent of negative press.  When it comes to sponsorship it is important to carry out a diligent risk assessment, which has contingency plans in place. Ultimately, it’s also important to ask yourself; is the event right for your business? Does it align with your goals? Do you benefit as a stakeholder? And are you prepared for the potential negative press?

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Rob Nunn