MasterCard Brings iBeacons To Brooklyn’s Northside Festival

The brand used proximity-based mobile notifications to give attendees information, deals, and prizes.

MasterCard Brings iBeacons To Brooklyn’s Northside Festival
[Image: Flickr user Matthew Hurst]

The proliferation of smartphone and mobile technology has been a boon for advertisers who always wanted to find a way into your pocket. One challenge, as always, is relevance. How can marketers get in touch without being annoying or totally creeping you out? Enter the beacon.


Beacons or iBeacons, as Apple calls them, are like GPS for precise indoor locations and are on the rise. Powered by Bluetooth signals, iBeacons turn your smartphone into a homing beacon for precisely targeted deals, messages, and apps. Wandering through the Gap and stop in the shirt aisle? You could get a coupon for that new flannel.

As retailers and marketers continue to test the iBeacon waters, MasterCard and agency R/GA decided to use Brooklyn’s annual Northside Festival as part of the company’s beacon pilot program. RGA’s group account director Kelly Kernaghan says, “With our focus on relevancy and how we can add in-the-moment value we thought this would be a good venue to test beacon technology.”

Beacons were located throughout the festival and alerts included free backstage passes or the ability to skip the line for the headline CHRVCHES show at McCarren Park, surprise tickets to festival film events, and vouchers for Brooklyn Bowl’s famous fried chicken.

MasterCard plans to evaluate its foray into festival beacons in a few different ways.

“First, we’ll evaluate the experience of attendees to ensure we have achieved the goal we set out in delivering an enhanced festival experience,” says VP digital marketing and social media JR Badian. “This will also include hard metrics such as app downloads, alerts seen, and actions taken. Another important measure will be the share of voice and social chatter we are able to drive through our efforts during the Northside Festival.”

Marc Maleh, managing director of R/GA’s Prototype Studio says that while consumers have the technology, it’s up to marketers to develop compelling experiences to make those notifications worthwhile. “The most promise lies in retail near the point of sale,” says Maleh. “But there are unique opportunities at live events, such as the Northside Festival, where the technology can be leveraged to connect with consumers and add value at a particular moment. It’s not about being everywhere, but being relevant and useful at the right place, at the right time.”

About the author

Jeff Beer is a staff editor at Fast Company, covering advertising, marketing, and brand creativity. He lives in Toronto.