Friday, February 4
Beyond Sponsorship: The
New Paradigm, Where Brands & Artists Meet
Moderator: Joe Killian, Momentum
Mike Windsor, Creative Artists Agency
Paul Sewell, House of Blues Concerts
Mathew Knowles, MusicWorld Entertainment / Sanctuary Urban Holding Co.

Momentum’s Joe Killian opened the panel stating it would be an “overview of where sponsorship is going and the integration of brands that are both corporate brands and artist brands – and sometimes the fit of those two brands together.” With that, the war stories began.

When setting up and planning a sponsorship deal, there’s an important thing one should know, according to CAA’s Mike Windsor: Brands need to be aligned with the right kind of acts, he explained, citing a deal with Abercrombie & Fitch’s Hollister clothing store.

“We came up with a music program called ‘12 Days of Rock,’” he said. “In late October and Christmas, we had a series of in-store, after-hours concerts. They drew such large numbers that we ended up having to beam them to large plasma screens outside the stores.”

With a target audience of younger, upscale kids, Windsor added that he was “extremely selective” about which bands were picked, choosing mostly up-and-coming acts.

“About 1,500 people showed up for Ryan Cabrera,” he continued. “It turned into a party outside with people who wanted to watch this small, private concert.”

It was so successful, in fact, that Hollister exceeded all sales goals in the fourth quarter, which is the time when clothing companies make or break their entire year. More importantly, Hollister did the event without any advertising or discounts – something unheard of in the clothing industry, Windsor said.

“This was a case – on a small scale – that if you align the brands right and you know your target audience, and you put it all together, you can have a great impact for the corporation. It was a very different way for a company to market itself.”

After mentioning the importance of “brand fit,” “brand relevance” and sustaining a long relationship in the sponsorship world, House of Blues Concerts’ Paul Sewell shared an interesting story pertaining to a General Mills / Christina Aguilera deal-gone-wrong.

General Mills execs were floored after hearing Aguilera’s “Beautiful” and wanted to put the single in about 8 million boxes of Cheerios cereal.

“We’re two days going to contract and I get a call from Irving (Azoff’s) office saying, ‘You’ve got to come here now,’” Sewell said.

To his surprise, RCA Records had called and revealed that the tentative title track of the singer’s yet-to-be-released album was “Dirrty.”

“Obviously, we couldn’t generate the deal with General Mills. The rest was history: The song came out, the album did well, the video did well, but it just wasn’t right for a brand fit.”

As manager for daughter Beyoncé and Destiny’s Child, Mathew Knowles offered an inside peek on how he structures deals with major corporations like McDonald’s and Pepsi.

“When we put out a record, I want to build a marketing budget with those albums,” he said, adding that he doesn’t like to depend on the record label alone.

With Beyoncé’s single “Crazy In Love,” Knowles used Pepsi as a device to market the song right before it went to radio. Pepsi added $40 million to what would have been a $3 million budget, he said.
“We try to make sure we build partners as we release records. ... And the key is that it has to be a win-win for everyone.”

And before he makes any deal, Knowles said there must be a “major” meeting between him, his artist, and the president and CEO of the company he’s working with.

“Once you have that up front, it makes it so much easier,” he explained. “They understand our philosophy, we understand their philosophy.”

During the Q&A portion of the panel, an audience member asked, “How do you structure a sponsorship that’s going to get the outcomes you’re looking for and not get a push-back that it’s too corporate?”

Killian answered with a story about Michelle Branch and large discount department store Kohl’s.
The company discovered that young girls (5-12) would buy clothes at Kohl’s but once they turned 13, they would buy from stores like Hollister, Gap, Old Navy and Abercrombie & Fitch. Yet, Kohl’s had many of the same brands for 30 percent less.

“The challenge was, let’s get an association with an artist that brings the girls into the stores – especially in a period of time called ‘Back-to-School,’” Killian said.

As Kohl’s wanted to maintain an image of being “cool but not edgy,” the Wisconsin-based retailer brought in Branch. They featured the singer on the cover of almost 100 million weekly circulars, which branded her album and included a coupon.

“You go into the store and there was a variety of prizes including gift cards, and the grand prize was that Michelle Branch would come to your junior high or high school and do a performance,” Killian said. “And the young girl would be a hero.”

The hour-long panel concluded with audience questions on topics ranging from finding sponsorship in smaller regions to getting the attention of larger corporations. Answers stressed the importance of knowing your demographic.