The Riverbend Festival is more than just music to the ears of those who attend the nine-day festival.
Businesses also tune into the festival to promote their image on stage or screen, market their goods in one of 30 booths at the festival or simply enjoy some listening and interaction time with clients in VIP seating areas.
"It's a great way for businesses to get their name in front of thousands and thousands of people in a great atmosphere," said Chip Baker, executive director for Friends of the Festival, the agency which runs the Riverbend Festival.
Baker said business sponsors pay more than 30 percent of the more than $3 million budget for Riverbend, and that helps keep admission prices more affordable for the general public.
"All the pieces of the festival add up to make it work," Baker said, noting that food and drink concessions also help pay much of the expense of the festival.
Corporate sponsorship of music festivals or sporting events like Nascar declined during the Great Recession. But the International Event Group (IEG), a Chicago-based firm that tracks such promotions, estimates that such spending will increase by 5.4 percent this year to a nationwide total of $1.28 billion.
"Event sponsorship allows businesses to reach prospective customers in an environment where consumers are enjoying themselves and hopefully are more receptive to a marketing message," IEG spokesman William Chipps said. "The thinking is that if I am at the Riverbend Festival and I see a sponsor, I will appreciate their support and realize that maybe without them, an event like this wouldn't happen."
Volkswagen of America, which supports a stage and has Passats and other VWs on display at the festival, is one the biggest sponsors. VW doesn't directly sell any cars at the festival and is even giving away one of its Passats. But Guenther Scherelis, general manager of communication for VW in Chattanooga, said Riverbend is one of the biggest music festivals in the South and "reaches a lot of customer contacts."
He said the VW plant works with Volkswagen Group of America in Herndon, Va., as well as with Village Volkswagen in Chattanooga.
"It makes sense from an economic point of view and a corporate citizen point of view," he said.
Some businesses support Riverbend primarily as a gesture of community support to where they operate.
"We try to give back to the community and Riverbend is a great event for Chattanooga," said Nick Decosimo, managing partner for Chattanooga' biggest accounting firm which supported Faith and Family Night on Tuesday.
Others say setting up a booth at Riverbend gives them a chance to talk directly with thousands of festival goers coming and going to the musical stages on the riverfront.
"We don't sell any houses at Riverbend, but we do make some good contacts and it gets our name out in front of a lot of people," said James "Win" Pratt III of Pratt Homes. "We typically get a booth right at the front and everybody has to walk past us and usually give us a look. We want people to think of us and our name when they are in the market to buy a house."
Deputy Business Editor Mike Pare contributed to this report
Contact Dave Flessner at email@example.com or at 423-757-6340.