Virgin Mobile USA, a Sprint Prepaid brand base in Warren, New Jersey USA, won the Stevie Award for Best Consumer Event in the Live Event awards categories of The 2011 American Business Awards, announced on Monday, June 20 in New York City.The Virgin Mobile Festival, a two-day music festival and ultimate fan experience based on the legendary U.K. Virgin Fest, launched in 2006 at Pimlico Racetrack in Baltimore, Maryland—and tens of thousands of fans have experienced the magic every year since. In 2009, the music festival became free, with a focus on giving back to people who were less fortunate. It was renamed the Virgin Mobile FreeFest.
Over 25,000 fans attending the first Virgin Mobile FreeFest rocked hard with Blink-182, Franz Ferdinand, Public Enemy, Weezer, and more. The fans may also have been giddy with good karma, having donated over 30,000 hours of community service through Virgin Mobile’s FREE I.P. program. This program encouraged fans to volunteer eight hours of time at designated homeless youth shelters in exchange for an upgraded VIP seat. In addition, the music festival raised more than $80,000 to benefit homeless youth organizations.
Commitment to Give Back
Virgin Mobile’s strategy for launching the 2009 event was to lighten things up in the face of a rough economy while raising awareness for the issue of homeless youth through Virgin Mobile’s charitable initiative: The RE*Generation.
The RE*Generation is Virgin Mobile’s effort to empower a generation to help its own by bringing together organizations that care about homeless youth, and connecting them with young people who want to help. The RE*Generation program has been a force in creating awareness and support for homeless youth since 2006.
The 2010 Virgin Mobile FreeFest brought an amazing group of artists, bands, and events covering more than 40 acres at the Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia, Maryland. The A-list lineup included headliners Ludacris, LCD Soundsystem, MIA, Jimmy Eat World, and Thievery Corporation.
Paying It Forward to Help Homeless Youth
What really sets FreeFest apart from other events, though, is its Pay-It-Forward commitment. Although 35,000 tickets were scooped up online in just minutes, Virgin Mobile’s FREE I.P. program, returning for a second year, allowed fans still interested in attending to volunteer their time at homeless youth organizations in order to earn their way into the festival. Fans were also encouraged to make a $5 donation in support of The RE*Generation. Those who made the donation received a 2010 Virgin Mobile FreeFest mash-up of the entire lineup.
For 2010, Virgin Mobile FreeFest amped up the charitable component and strongly encouraged concert goers and fans to top the 2009 donations. That goal was achieved. Virgin Mobile FreeFest 2010 raised a total of $200,000—all benefiting homeless youth organizations Sasha Bruce Youthwork and Green Chimneys—while attendees volunteered a collective 25,000 hours.
Said Ron Faris, formerly director of Brand Marketing for Virgin Mobile and currently Director, Brand Strategy & Marketing, Virgin Mobile USA: “Virgin Mobile FreeFest’s main objective of raising money and giving back to the community while providing a rocking experience met and surpassed all our expectations.”
Details of the 2011 event will be announced soon at http://www.virginmobilefreefest.com.
About Sprint Prepaid Brands
Sprint’s prepaid portfolio includes the following brands: Assurance Wireless, Boost Mobile, PayLo, and Virgin Mobile. Each brand is customized to appeal to a specific customer segment within the expanding prepaid market, all without contracts and all on the Nationwide Sprint Network.
About Ron Faris
As director of Brand Experiences at Virgin Mobile USA, Ron Faris has been responsible for managing Virgin Mobile’s largest brand marketing programs, including lifestyle marketing, events and sponsorships, branded entertainment, and cause-related marketing initiatives. He oversaw the execution of Virgin Mobile’s sponsorship of The Monster Ball Starring Lady Gaga in 2010 and 2011. Prior to that he conceived and launched the 2009 Virgin Mobile “FreeFest,” the largest free concert in the country. The Virgin Mobile Festival, now the largest on the East Coast as it enters its fifth year, has boasted the largest acts in the nation, including Kanye West, Bob Dylan, Foofighters, The Who, and The Police. Before that, he was responsible for managing Virgin Mobile’s sponsorship of “The Circus Starring Britney Spears.”
As part of Sprint now, Ron’s responsibilities have shifted to oversee more of the broader positioning of Virgin Mobile in the marketplace including advertising and brand communications. He recently introduced the “Sparah” campaign, which has Virgin Mobile literally manufacturing a celebrity couple to demonstrate the many ways our customers use data and social networking to keep tabs on pop culture.
Prior to joining Virgin Mobile, Ron was director of strategic partnerships at Atari, the video game company. There, he was instrumental in building content licensing deals focusing on mobile platforms, interactive TV, and in-game music development. Ron also served as brand director, building robust multi-platform marketing programs for games such as “The Matrix: Path of Neo.”
Ron began his career working for six years at Accenture in their telecommunications and media & entertainment consulting practices. He then joined Scient Corporation (now Razorfish) where he spent four years managing digital marketing initiatives, including the re-launch of several web portals in the financial services sector.
Ron is a native New Yorker and an award-winning short filmmaker. His films and documentaries have exhibited at several film festivals and cable networks, including HBO. He lives in Manhattan with his wife and two children.