Did Fyre Festival Kill the Online Influencer?

Did Fyre Festival Kill the Online Influencer?

While the Fyre Festival isn’t what we could call a marketing success, it didn’t necessarily kill the online influencer. The event did cause some consumers to distrust or shy away from looking at influencers when making purchasing decisions, but that didn’t last long. This guide outlines a brief overview of the Fyre Festival, influencer marketing, what marketers can learn from this event, and more.

A Brief Overview of the Fyre Festival

Despite receiving much buzz in 2017, the Fyre Festival wasn’t one full of fun and entertainment. Guests paid up to $100,000 to head to the Bahamas for what was touted by more than one online influencer as the best luxury accommodations, adventure, art, food, and music.

What happened instead?

Guests found their luggage thrown into an unlit parking lot from a shipping container, mattresses on rain-soaked floors, and cheese sandwich dinners. What was supposed to be luxury villas was actually a tent city amid a worksite.

You can watch what happened during this disastrous event organized by Billy McFarland on Netflix’s documentary, “Fyre: The Greatest Party That Never Happened.”

What is Influencer Marketing, and What Does it Have to Do With the Fyre Festival?

Influencer marketing uses “influencers” on social media to mention products, endorse brands, talk about events, and other “shoutouts” to their followers. Influencers have a dedicated social media following, and while some are celebrities, others are considered experts in their field. Digital marketers turn to influencer marketing to give their brand, products, or services “social proof” based on the online influencer’s recommendations.

The relationship between influencer marketing and the Fyre Festival is a rocky one. Reports indicate that Billy McFarland paid celebrities and influencers to promote Fyre and the festival on their social channels. It’s the influencer’s responsibility to note on their posts that it’s a paid advertisement so their followers don’t believe they’re personally promoting an event, product, or service. Unfortunately, the influencers talking about the Fyre Festival neglected to make these sponsorship notations.

What Marketers Can Do to Differentiate

With close to half (44.8%) of internet users globally using social media to search for brands, it’s no wonder influencer marketing isn’t taking a back burner. Despite that percentage, influencer marketing did take a hit following the Fyre Festival – mainly because it attracted tons of attention for all the wrong reasons.

Marketers can do the following to differentiate:

  • Create a content strategy: When your target audience can access content about your events, products, and services, they can answer questions, solve problems, and see how brands can solve their pain points – without any ambiguity.
  • Reputation management: Does your branding state one thing, and your target audience experiences something different? It’s your responsibility to manage and engage with negative feedback and customer reviews authentically and truthfully.
  • Strategic planning: No matter what your brand promotes, strategic planning and alignment are critical. Has your company produced enough products to meet consumer demand? Have you planned for manufacturing and delivery? Do you need to worry about supply chain issues? These questions and more should be part of your strategic plans.

Takeaways Marketers Can Learn From

Working with an online influencer doesn’t have to be tricky – or taboo! Fyre Media did get some things right – here are some takeaways marketers can run with:

  • Asking influencers to post the infamous orange tile simultaneously. Marketers can use this tactic to their advantage by scheduling influencer activities to happen simultaneously to increase brand awareness.
  • Making followers dig a bit for details. Even though influencers used the #fyrefestival tag in their posts, they didn’t include many other details. Spark curiosity by encouraging influencers to post something unique without giving too much information away.
  • Pumping up their target audience. Fyre Media made sure they were top of mind. They achieved this by participating in interviews, using hashtags, and posting vivid photography and videos. And also by getting people excited enough to talk about them on social media.


How much did Fyre pay influencers?

According to CNBC, Fyre paid over $5.2 million to online influencers and celebrity performers.

Did Fyre attendees get refunded?

The New York Times reported (April 2021) that 277 ticket holders should receive over $7,000 each.

What impact has the Fyre festival had on influencer marketing?

Influencer marketing isn’t going anywhere. For example, in Influencer Marketing Hub’s survey results, we learn that 59% of respondents have budgets allocated for content marketing, and 75% of that specific group intends to use funds for influencer marketing.