As indicated in my pre-event commentary about the San Fermin Festival and the Running of the Bulls, sponsors could look to leverage such historical events. But after attending this year’s Festival, it became clear that traditional marketing practices would likely present myriad challenges and may ultimately prove to be ineffective at best.
Festival attendees numbering in the hundreds of thousands were largely millennials from all over the world that were clearly ready to party day and night throughout the duration of their stay. Anything disrupting their ‘enthusiasm’ may very well go unappreciated, if not unnoticed. Although an important demo to interact with and market to, signage and other traditional forms of activation would not likely garner their attention, nor does it appear to be a priority for the Festival’s patriarchal leadership.
Add to this what many would consider the extreme emotional abuse and physical torture of the bulls, and many sponsors would be wary of a marketing partnership. Doing so would not only lead to backlash from certain consumer groups, but would have the potential to concern shareholders as well.
Case in point: The tactical presence of the advocacy group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). PETA’s presence was targeted and precise, and the group’s message was consistent and well disseminated.
More narrowly, I can personally attest to the fact that those who actually participated in the running of the bulls, which occurred daily during the Festival, had nothing on their minds other than self-preservation. In what was deemed one of the most dangerous runs in recent memory, we had the ‘good fortune’ to run with the bulls during the second installment of the 2016 Festival.
As we waited with anticipation to hear the launching of the first rocket signifying that the bull’s corral gate had opened, the anticipation was unlike anything I had ever felt. And as they rounded the corner known as Dead Man’s Curve less than a minute later, anticipation turned to outright fear. The sights and sounds emanating from the thousand or so runners as the bulls, moving at a relatively brisk 15 or 20 mph pace, raced toward us carried with it a macabre feeling. The utter chaos, which brought with it an adrenaline rush like no other, intensified as several of the bulls deviated from the course, turning around and running the wrong way in the process. Not surprisingly, this forced participants to also turn and run, however, in doing so, we ended up running not only against the grain, but also toward the other bulls heading in the correct direction.
Traumatic to say the least, we eventually were among those that made it all the way into the bullring prior to hearing the final rockets indicating that all of the bulls had also found their way in, essentially concluding the event.
Typically lasting about three minutes, the running we participated in lasted about twice that long, reinforcing just how unusually dangerous our experience had been.
So while I may have been inclined to listen to a sponsor in the financial services category, life insurance in particular, I had neither the time nor the inclination to do anything other than try to survive the pandemonium as the bulls navigated the narrow Estafeta Street with reckless abandon.
Finally, I’m not convinced Hemingway would have been amused by any form of sponsorship, especially if the Festival’s signature event had been brought to you by MetLife!