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XLIVE Interview Series
XLIVE Interview Series - Jason Felts - KAABOO.jpg

Jason Felts, KAABOO - XLIVE Interview Series

This week on the XLIVE Interview Series, we sat down with Jason Felts, Partner, Chief Marketing + Brand Officer, at KAABOO Del Mar.

KAABOO is a multi-day festival brand with a focus on live music, comedy and art experiences.  Additionally, as Co-Founder and CEO of Sir Richard Branson’s entertainment arm, Felts and his team have built Virgin Produced into a multi-award winning creative content agency/production company.  We spoke to Jason about a number of topics from how KAABOO incorporates music, art, comedy, culinary experiences, and more, how he uses his experience in content production in the music festival business, advice on working with sponsors at festivals to help them get the best experience, his thoughts on event technology and what’s next, and more!  Read the full interview below.

Thanks for taking the time to sit down with us today, Jason.  For those who aren’t familiar, can you give us a brief overview of KAABOO Del Mar, from the experience, the founding of the festival, and how it’s grown over the years?

KAABOO Del Mar was founded in 2015 by Bryan Gordan. Gordan attended many music festivals with his daughter, and discovered there was a need for music festivals focused on an adult demographic. He noticed that the music festival experience was comprised mostly of music, sub-par food, porta potties, and a dusty, dirty environment. Thus, KAABOO was founded and created in 2015 with a multi-experience focused on the adult demographic. Comprised not just of music, but also art, comedy, culinary cuisine, and a variety of onsite indulgences including, but not limited to massages and hot shaves for men, and hydration stations. After a successful sell-out year last year, KAABOO will be celebrating its 5th year anniversary here in Del Mar on Sept 13-15th. This year KAABOO expanded internationally into the Grand Cayman Islands in Feb, of 2019. KAABOO also expanded its brand to the AT&T Stadium (home of the Dallas Cowboys) in Arlington, Texas with KAABOO Texas in May of this year. The KAABOO experience is a traveling experience which is going to pop up in other locations around the states. We are in the process of designing a couple of new events and will be announcing over the course of the next couple of years.

You must be a busy guy, because as mentioned above you’re also Co-Founder and CEO of Sir Richard Branson’s entertainment arm Virgin Produced.  Can you talk about the types of content you work on there? Have you worked with any events at Virgin Produced?

Virgin Produced was created in 2010, celebrating its 10th anniversary this year focused on producing branded content, motion pictures and television shows reflective of the Virgin brand. I am most proud of the movie Limitless that we produced in 2010 starring Bradley Cooper and Robert De Niro, and the famous Virgin America safety video. The company has gone on to produce branded content for Fortune 100 and 500 companies such as Coca Cola, Uber, and international companies such as Alibaba and Didi Chuxing. Virgin Produced also programs a distribution network that includes over 198 aircrafts and over 750,000 hotel rooms.

How have you been able to leverage your content production experience at KAABOO?

Starting in 2016, Virgin Produced became the exclusive producer for all the content at KAABOO. We produced not only all of the branded content collateral (including but not limited to line up videos, thank you videos, 30 second commercial spots and viral online digital content), but also the stage content of all the performances throughout KAABOO for the last 4 years.

Is it hard producing a festival with so many components?  In addition to a top notch music lineup, KAABOO features a contemporary art fair, comedy club, cooking classes, manicures, hair styling, haircuts and more!

It takes an army, but we have a world class team with a variety of skill sets including an art director, art curation team, a music artist programming team, a culinary artist programing and curation team, and a business development corporate partner team which all work hand in hand to create the KAABOO experience.

It’s no surprise that the state of sponsorship is changing, as brands are getting experiential and using activations to connect with event attendees.  What advice can you give to other festival and event producers on how to work with their sponsors to help them have the best experience at the event?

Every festival these days seems to have its fair share of corporate partner/sponsor alignments and activations. I think some festivals encourage corporate partner/sponsor activations to be more experiential. For example, Lollapalooza in Chicago does and incredible job in creating a corporate sponsor ecosystem within the Lollapalooza festival experience. They share a like-mindedness with KAABOO in being thoughtful in its programing of corporate partners. Irrespective of the amount of money a brand might want to pay, I believe that it is important to have authenticity with the brands that you allow into your festival experience so there is an aligned interest between your core brand believes and those corporate partners that are on site. Authenticity is key when delivering an experience for consumers.

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Content production, marketing, and distribution has drastically changed over the last couple years.  Where is content going next, and what advice can you give other content producers?

Content consumption behaviors have shifted drastically over the last 10 years and are continuing to shift as consumers absorb their content in shorter spans in a variety of platforms. Mobile and social platforms are primarily used for the distribution of content to the core Virgin Produced demographics, however, more traditional platforms that include content distribution via an email database are used for KAABOO’s slightly older adult demographic. 

How do you use technology at KAABOO to help with fan engagement, event marketing, and enhance the festival experience for attendees?

Very simple. Ensure to not only provide onsite wifi, but ensure it works and a focus on engaging with the guests through the app at least one week prior to the event, the entire weekend of the event, through the Monday following the festivals conclusion. Most festivals focus on interacting with the guests starting Friday morning and ending Sunday night when the headliner closes. We engage for a longer period of time to provide a heightened level of guest services and communications. 

What’s the best part of your job, and what keeps you up at night?

The best part of my job is working with our team to refine and reinvent the festival experience year to year. The only thing that keeps me up at night is crying babies or snoring passengers on a red eye flight. 

How can people learn more about KAABOO, Virgin Produced, or get in touch with you?

Lear more about KAABOO at KaabooDelMar.com or follow me on instagram at @iamjasonfelts

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