Experiential marketing, NFTs, and more: Ed Vincent of festivalPass imparts lessons on getting noticed

Experiential marketing, NFTs, and more: Ed Vincent of festivalPass imparts lessons on getting noticed

By Jim James, Host of The UnNoticed Entrepreneur.


Ed Vincent is a serial entrepreneur with five businesses under his belt. He’s been working for 25 years doing that, and in the recent episode of The UnNoticed Entrepreneur, he talked about a number of topics. These include his festival pass idea with non-fungible tokens (NFTs) and his mobile content studio, which he’s doing with a famous music magazine in America.


Image from LinkedIn


A Multiple-Time Entrepreneur

Ed is a 25-year entrepreneur and was an investment banker before that. He started his first e-commerce company in 1999, during the internet's early days. He had that company for a couple of years, selling things that made cities famous. For example, they would ship New York City pizza and bagels overnight. They’d ship ribs from Chicago and lobsters and seafood from Boston.

Then, he moved to a service-based business, which was a 70-person experiential marketing firm. It was one of his most fun businesses, and he ran that up for about eight years through the 2000s. They were able to bring a lot of major brands to live events like concerts and festivals. They also helped build a couple of festivals. They even owned a film festival in the Dominican Republic in the Caribbean.

During that time, he and the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Maxim Magazine in the US (who was Ed’s good friend) created a branded hotel in the Dominican Republic called Maxim Bungalows. They bought all the excitement of Maxim Magazine into a hotel. They worked on a few projects during that timeframe, which was a lot of fun.


NFTs for FestivalPass

In his latest project, he’s using non-fungible tokens (NFTs) to create a lifetime membership to his business.

NFT is a Web3 product built on the blockchain. Many people mix up cryptocurrency and Web3, but Web3 is more like the overall protocol of using the blockchain for business; crypto is related mostly to DeFi or decentralised finance.

At his new business, they created an NFT (NFT is something unique to people; if they own it, it will give them benefits). Their concept is if people will buy and own an NFT, they will get a lifetime membership to their platform, festivalPass.

If someone buys and pays for it once, they will get $1,200 worth of credits on their platform that they can use for live events and hotels anywhere they want. They currently have over 80,000 live events — from concerts to sporting events to broadway theatres to comedy shows. People can use credits to go to all these shows as well as hotels throughout the world.


Screengrab from FestivalPass


festivalPass was mostly a Web2 business. The traditional model is that people pay a monthly or annual subscription, they receive credits, and they can redeem those credits to go to all these amazing events. When they decided to bring NFTs on board, they created a lifetime membership. If people buy once, forever — in perpetuity — will they get $1,200 more credits to go to events every single year.

By creating the NFT and this lifetime value, people's perceived value becomes greater. If prospective buyers are wondering if they can really get $1,200 to go to events for the rest of their lives, the answer is absolutely yes. On top of it, they can also always sell it whenever they want in the future. They can sell it on OpenSea or some other marketplace.

However, their NFTs are a limited amount. They’re only going to sell 10,000 of those NFTs, but they hope to have hundreds of thousands and even millions of regular subscribers on the platform. Essentially, they are taking a small subset that will be cash flow-positive for them for about four or five years, and they may incur a marketing expense thereafter, to create 10,000 super-loyal customers for their brand.

There's a very deep financial model on how all this works regarding estimated credit usage and activity that’s happening. They estimate that their one-time fee should cover, depending on the usage, anywhere from four to six years of usage. After that, it will become a marketing expense. It will be kind of a loss leader for the company.

But putting it in another perspective, this is where they can get more with their marketing dollars.

Instead of spending a ton of money upfront today, they can have people provide them capital upfront, which they make sure they manage for that future liability. Since it's four to six years out before they start taking expenses against their marketing, by that time, they’ve already received a ton of value for these very passionate fans who have tons of events to go.


Enticing Audiences through Innovative Content

Experiential marketing is great. But even if it’s been built, people don’t necessarily come. To get people interested in an event, content is important. For example, Ed’s guesting on The UnNoticed Entrepreneur.

They also have their own podcast called festivalPass Stories, which has about 75 episodes now. They go behind the scenes and interview people who have created festivals, famous artists, musicians, celebrities, celebrity chefs, and professional athletes. It’s a content spin, and it’s relatively low-cost for them to get behind the scenes of these events. It also provides business development opportunities for them to bring those events on board and work with some of those personalities.


Image from festivalPass Stories


Additionally, they’re building a digital content studio from a physical activation standpoint. They’ve partnered with one of the premier music magazines here in the US called Spin. For the last 25 to 30 years, every major rockstar has been on the cover of Spin. It means they have a lot of credibility in terms of assessing who to interview and the like.

Now, they’re building a bus. They wrapped an old city bus on the outside with the Spin and festivalPass branding. The entire 40-foot bus became a huge billboard going through Austin, Texas.

Inside, they split it in half. They’ve created a soundproof studio and made it to that there’s a nice big leather couch in the back and there's all the camera equipment and the soundproofing in the bus. They will bring it to South by Southwest, a festival that brings hundreds of thousands of people to Austin, and they will use it for interviewing all of the rockstars that will come through and utilise that content for many things.

Ed has a friend who owns a bus company here in Austin, Texas (Ed and he are part of a global group called the Entrepreneurs’ Organisation (EO)). He has 30 to 40 buses that are rented out as party buses. His business is to buy an old data service city bus, retrofit it inside, and then use it for a party bus.

Ed went to him and said he’d pay him to wrap a bus with the said branding. He’ll pay another amount to upgrade the inside to make it a digital content studio. They’ll use it as a digital content studio when they need it. If they don’t, his friend can use it as a party bus and make money with it by renting it out.


On Tapping Influencers

Influencers with millions of followers tend to like to be paid to reach them from a sponsorship perspective. And they should indeed be paid because they’ve taken the time to build this media.

At festivalPass, they’re lucky enough to have a pretty cool product. Who doesn't want to attend live events — whether it’s major festivals like Coachella, ACL Live, or Rolling Loud? Because they have all these great festivals that people like to go to, in addition to all the concerts and sporting events, they could offer a bunch of influencers free tickets to some events as long as they talk about their product.


Image from Pexels


It’s a symbiotic experience because, for these influencers, being at an event is content. They can create content without having to pay for it themselves. In so doing, they’ll also be talking about festivalPass along the way.

For instance, Coachella is a big festival, and it happens in April. At that event, there will be a lot of influencers who would go to Coachella, and they could talk about festivalPass’ lifetime membership product — how they wanted to get a ticket and how they stumbled upon this platform. They can share it as a life hack: If people buy the lifetime membership product, they will get their Coachella ticket. Then, every year after, they will get a free ticket to Coachella for the rest of their lives.


What Ed Learned Being an Entrepreneur for 25 Years

Over 25 years, Ed has had five companies and they all have a common theme. For him, marketing is important across the board.

His first business was an e-commerce business. Back then, there were a lot of tools that didn’t exist. It was from 1999 through 2001. He couldn’t just go on a search engine and buy AdWords to get noticed. It didn’t exist. Google didn’t exist. Facebook didn’t exist.

They did barter deals with magazines to get ad pages and other things like that because those were the only way to get a brand out. They also did silly things like standing in front of a big morning show window in New York City with big signs with their brands in case the camera passed over and saw them.

Back in the day, it was a lot of grassroots efforts and doing whatever was necessary to get it done.

What Ed learned along the way and as he went into his marketing business is the importance of applying experiential tactics.

The thing about experiential marketing, especially on a local level, is entrepreneurs can leverage a relatively low-cost activation into known public relations (PR). As long as they’re doing something and there’s something to talk about, then the news people will like to talk about them.

This is what he’s applying today with the content studio bus. Of course, their PR team will still reach out and tell that festivalPass has partnered with a major magazine to create this amazing content studio and will take it all over the country. But, basically, it’s what people would want to write and learn about.

Experiential marketing means taking a brand and doing something with it live in the market. It’s a physical activation of something — whether the brand is showing up to an event and having a branded bar or bringing a car to a mall and doing sweepstakes around that car. It’s any kind of physical activity where the consumer is experiencing something in real life with a brand.


Why Go Deep First

Image from Freepik


Starting locally to grow globally is important for almost all brands.

Sometimes, when people launch something, they think it's easier to let everybody get to it, whether nationally or globally. But if they do that, what’s difficult is that they’re not deep on anything. Even if they’re using paid advertising or anything, they’re only getting a bit of depth across a wide scale.

Usually, the best way to launch any brand, especially from a cost-effective standpoint, is to go deep — whether with a specific geography, audience, or vertical. If entrepreneurs can get it right and have a fan base in one vertical, it’s much easier to replicate that elsewhere.

Ed’s learning that again himself because they launched festivalPass nationally. They have events in every state and city throughout the US and hotels globally. But when they had members joining (e.g., a few thousand from one city and a few thousand from another), it didn’t give them that leverage of membership in a concentrated environment.

Now, they’re doubling down on local. And this is what their content studio bus will help them: to have a massive local presence. If it works, they will take that experience elsewhere.

Also, once entrepreneurs have a physical thing locally, they can just add PR to it. They can add paid media to it and do it on a geographic or a target audience level.

Every entrepreneur likes to think that everything’s going faster than it does. There’s this concept that if they have a product that anybody can buy, they can make it available to everybody to see who starts buying it.

However, the reality of life is that word of mouth and going deeper into a certain vertical just work better. It always gets more traction.

To find out more about festivalPass, visit www.festivalpass.com or any of their socials (Instagram, TikTok, Facebook). You can also reach out to Ed on LinkedIn.

The UnNoticed Entrepreneur podcast is sponsored by Prowly, the all-in-one software for leveraging PR activities.  Boost the media relations game for your business - get more coverage while saving time and money on everyday tasks.

This article is based on a transcript from my podcast The UnNoticed Entrepreneur, you can listen here.  

Cover image by Drazen Zigic on Freepik


Ed Vincent
Ed Vincent
founder & Ceo