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An Evaluation of The Marketing Efforts of a Large Urban Festival

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Festivals are important for cities across the globe, both economically and culturally (Smith, 2010). A festival is defined as “the celebration of culture and community” (Johnson, 2001, p. 44) and are an important part of the tourism industry. Some famous examples include Mardi Gras in New Orleans and Carnival in Rio, both helping to bring revenue and help give them global status (Michaels, 2009).

The way festivals market themselves can have a big impact on how many tourists come to the events, and affect what they are expecting to experience, meaning that the marketing programs are crucial to bringing the right people for the right experience (Senior, 2008). In 2014 festivals brought $10 million into the Ontario economy employing 2,000 people (Jones, Barker, & Theo, 2015). Toronto is the largest city in Canada (Statistics Canada, 2015). Some of the biggest festivals in Toronto include Pride, TIFF, and The Toronto Caribbean Festival (Caribana) that all bring important revenues and exposure for the city (Jones et al. , 2015; Tourism Toronto, 2016). The purpose of this paper, therefore, is to evaluate the marketing efforts of Busker Fest in Toronto, and to discuss what the festival is doing well and areas that could improve upon.

A review of best practices of festival marketing will first be provided drawing on academic and industry literature. The marketing efforts of Busker Fest will then be summarised, and evaluated using the information provided. This paper will make three main points: successful marketing of festivals should include people in the images, a call to action, and a variety of media sources. This discussion will be used to support some recommendations made in conclusion to help Busker Fest improve in its communication efforts.

Best Practices

A review of academic and industry literature is provided below highlighting some of the most important aspects of a successful festival marketing campaign. This will then be used to evaluate Busker Fest’s campaign later in the paper. Use of People in ImagerySimons (2012) found that marketing experiences with people in the imagery was successful at helping potential visitors understand what to expect, that in turn helped improve their satisfaction etc…. Call to ActionMany authors have noted that marketing campaigns need to have a ‘call to action’ included in the material (Freda, 2001; Williams, 2009) such as a website or deal to take action on etc…

Use of Varied Media

Different consumers respond to various media differently (Robson, 2005). For example, baby boomers are most likely to engage with print media (Mary & Robertson, 1999), but millennials are most engaged with social media (Jenson, 2015a, 2015b). Mary and Robertson (1999) suggest it is important that a festival considers their target market and their preferred use of media. Otherwise the marketing may fail to have an impact. Busker Fest MarketingThe Busker Fest is Ontario’s premier street entertainment festival, held in August, and attracting around 20,000 visitors each year (Busker Fest, 2016b). Hundreds of buskers from around he world come to perform in the street and be paid by the audience’s donations. The marketing campaign of Toronto’s Busker Fest will now be explored and summarised.

Social Media Presence

The Busker Fest has marketing material on Facebook and Instagram… They have xyz followers (Busker Fest, 2016a) etc…The pictures used contain images of families of young children, often with who appear to be grandparents. People look happy, jovial, and like they are enjoying each others’ company at the festival site…Best practices from Freda (2001), Jenson (2015b) and Simons (2012). The lack of variety of media sources is, however, potentially limiting their outreach. As many of the images include people who seemed to be grandparents with their grandchildren. It is recommended that the festival consider targeting print media in order to reach the boomers (Robson, 2005) as the focus on social media only may mean they are missing a key market. Finally, Busker Fest seemed to be inconsistent with including a call to action across all marketing sources. A call to action has been found to increase conversion in similar festivals in Europe by creating some urgency for potential visitors (Green, 2009, 2010). As Johnson found in her study in Boston, “[m]any festival goers suggested that the special offer advertised in the marketing… convinced them to book their trip” (p. 442), demonstrating the potential for Busker Fest. It is recommended that Busker Fest offer people a link to their ticketing site throughout all marketing material.


In conclusion, the Busker Fest makes a strong effort to market the experience well. They have used some good imagery to capture people’s imaginations, but they should consider expanding the types of media they market in. Capturing the boomer market may be useful in convincing Grandparents to take their families to the festival. Further, a call to action encouraging potential visitors to visit the website should be included in all marketing materials. These recommendations have the potential to help Busker Fest improve their visitation numbers in future years.

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