4th Annual Foo Foo Festival Proves It’s Here To Stay


Foo Foo Fest.

We still tell the story of how our agency got the seemingly last-minute call to pitch a group of arts and cultural influencers in Pensacola, Fla., on how our agency would brand, market and help produce this newly conceived arts and cultural festival in beautiful Pensacola, Fla.

No need to go down the rabbit hole that is an RFP process, but that first year was literally like “drinking water from a fire house,” to use a quote from our client.

The idea was simple—in the spring and summer, the Pensacola area is and will always be primarily known for their beaches and the visitors will always travel to the area to stay and enjoy the beautiful white sands and emerald waters of the Gulf of Mexico.

But, the fall. Oh, the fall is where it’s really at along the Gulf Coast. Those of us that live here know, it’s just nicer when the waters are calm, the temps are cool and the humidity is low. But, most importantly—it’s just not as crowded.

So, we wanted to truly build a new travel season for the Pensacola area centered on the fall and the arts. To put it bluntly, the beaches could have the spring and summer. But, the arts would own the fall.

With Foo Foo Fest, we encouraged tourists to not just vacation in the fall, but to “Vacation Artfully.”

How? Essentially, there were a handful of cornerstone, larger-scale events that had been ongoing during the fall for many many years. The Great Gulf Coast Arts Festival, the Frank Brown International Songwriter’s Festival, the Pensacola Marathon, and the Blue Angels Homecoming Airshow at NAS Pensacola. These events, all fell on two back-to-back weekends in early November.

In addition, a number of Pensacola’s arts organizations were working to create their own programming. The symphony, the ballet, the opera and many more.

Our client thought—why can’t we create a festival, or grant program that would allow these local organizations to create programming under our brand and marketing umbrella, submit for a grant, receive the grant funding and then be a part of a plethora of events that would then fill in the two-week calendar between the aforementioned weekend anchor events (Frank Brown, Blue Angels, and the like)?

This way, we’ll market the entirety of this time period as THE time to visit the Gulf Coast for lovers of arts and cultural events, while taking advantage of the simple fact that thousands were already coming to the area to take in the cornerstone events—and maybe, if they’re coming for Frank Brown, they’ll stay for the opera, ballet, symphony or jazz concert.

We’ll market it under one umbrella, as a period of time—with a name that resonates, tells a story and is fun (or “sticky” as the client says). The festival will not have a singular ticket, or a gate that you enter and exit. The festival, will focus on packaging up all of these things that are going on during this two-week period of time, and allow us to communicate all of these things—under one marketing umbrella in Pensacola’s 10-largest regional travel markets.

The name Foo Foo Fest, was one of about 20 that our agency presented to the festival committee. When we left our office, we literally said to ourselves, “these arts folks are not going to choose ‘Foo Foo Festival.” But, lo and behold they did. And, while it’s certainly different, there is actually a definition that resonates and speaks to Pensacola’s history. A “Foo Foo” as used for the festival, was the impromptu gathering of musicians on a 19th-Century sailing vessel. Pensacola was a naval town, with a rich maritime history, and this festival was quite-literally (especially in the first year)—an impromptu gathering of artists, performers and many others.

Having just wrapped it’s fourth year, the Foo Foo Festival has certainly made an impact in such a short amount of time. With the 2017 version seeming to truly push the concept, what it is and what we are trying to do over the proverbial “hump” as it pertained to brand recognition and awareness.

The interesting thing with the charge of Foo Foo Fest, is that we weren’t trying to drive tourists to the beaches. The beaches, well they just do that on their own.

Rather, we really wanted to highlight Pensacola proper—particularly downtown Pensacola. Why? Because, the downtown Pensacola area has and continues to quickly evolve over the years. More hotel rooms. More restaurants, high-end cocktail bars, music venues, art galleries, gift stores, clothing stores, coffee shops and even a sweets and candy shop, “Bubba’s Sweet Spot,” owned by hometown hero and two-time Master’s Champion Bubba Watson.

Our trends indicate that our efforts, specifically the branding, advertising and strategic planning are working to help drive our target demographic into Pensacola from the 10 major travel markets. Thus far, over a five-year period, visitors to the Foo Foo Festival are responsible for 78 jobs, and more than $3.9 million in GDP, and over $2.8 million in personal income.

And, as we head into the 5th year, we’re excited to be along for the ride. In our business, it’s not often that you truly get to birth something from nothing. But, in this case, we certainly consider the Foo Foo Festival to be our baby.

For more on this project and to view the work, click here.

  • SJE