Branded Live Entertainment

Sponsorship is almost becoming a dirty word in corporate hallways these days, as CEO’s and Boards of Directors push for more ROI from their marketing investments.  Yet at the same time venues (such as the downtown complex AEG is building in LA) and tour productions (music, sports, family, etc) are getting more expensive to build and operate, thus putting a heavy burden on consumers to pickup the tab.  The solution of course is partnerships between “Corporate America” and “Live Entertainment”.  What is needed is understanding.

First, both brand and live entertainment properties must gain a basic knowledge and appreciation of their partner’s business and goals.  If you are on the brand side, get familiar with the property, building, artist, or market you are co-branding yourself with.  Understand that they consider themselves brands too and are just as protective as you are.  On the entertainment side, check out your new partner’s website, advertising, products, etc.  Find ways early on in the creative process to work the brand into the show.  In my experience, it is important that you have all players involved from the opening bell, rather than just sales and marketing people.  A sponsorship sales person might not know what is possible…or not possible for your event, tour, show, building, etc.  Having decision makers and those that actually do the implementation involved from the get go will not only save you time and money but will also build a more trusting relationship between the parties (e.g. you won’t have to take anything back later, like when a sales person promises to put trucks on either side of a stage that can’t support the weight).  I’m attaching a link to the website of our genius set and lighting designer (ex-Disney Imagineer) Jim Lenahan to illustrate how well things can work when brands and entertainment folks are joined from day one.  The videos and photos you should link to shows a “transformer” Ford F-150 Pick-up for a Toby Keith tour that I first drew on a napkin (literally) and “Lenny” turned into reality.  http://www.jlpd.com/Ford%20/2003/TRANSFORMER/Transformer%20Menu.html.  I will send a Youtube link that shows the actual transformation as soon as we upload it (stay tuned).

Your partnership can come together in different ways, but what you will see more and more of is the brand side taking the lead to create an entertainment property: “Branded Live Entertainment”.  You have certainly heard enough about “Branded Entertainment” which for the most part is still relegated to TV and film product placement.  Of course films like “Cellular” and more recently “Transformers” along with TV shows built around popular board games have moved past simple placement to build whole storylines around a product or brand.  This same kind of movement works in the “Live Space” as well and what we at the Agency Group Events & Entertainment Department specialize in (sorry I have to give shameless plugs once in a while).

There are brands out there that are getting good in the live game.  One that deserves props is Jägermeister and what they are doing in music.  According to the brand’s website, they started the Jager Music Program in 1994 and now sponsor over 160 bands.  Besides being principal sponsors of tours like OzzFest, in 2002 the company started their own Jägermeister Music Tour. This is classic “Branded Live Entertainment”.  Jager came up the concept, books the talent, decides what markets and venues to play, and the message(s) being delivered to consumers.  Besides the tour, there is the Jager branded stage that travels on tours and to events across the country.  Just a few weeks ago my family and I saw their stage parked in the middle of Palm Springs for their annual motorcycle rally.  It was there in the middle of the street for the entire weekend and every band played on it.  When the stage was shutdown at night, it was still doing its branding job.


There is a difference between Branded Live Entertainment and Mobile Marketing.  The latter usually involves some kind of expando-truck with a brand’s display and some sort of “experiential element”, product sampling, etc.  Branded Live Entertainment is built around a fan’s experience interacting with the brand or product in a natural environment (for the consumer, not the brand).  If the brand looks authentic in the entertainment atmosphere created, it only makes sense that the consumer will identify that product with that experience.  This is why musical acts that you come to know in college or on vacation always have a special place in your heart…even if they aren’t really that good.

With advertisers looking for new ways to cut through clutter and see their marketing dollars selling more stuff to more people, there is no better way than through Branded Live Entertainment.  “Live” allows your brand (whether an entertainment property, household good, or artist) to differentiate itself from competitors by; interacting one-on-one with your consumers or fans, creating a communal environment where those in attendance share a once in a lifetime opportunity (live is live…it will never happen exactly the same way again), driving press to your brand that it might not otherwise get, is far more cost efficient for a national or international program than a traditional advertising program (local & regional print, radio, and cable ads are usually used for live).

So if you are in Entertainment, stop asking for sponsorship and if you are on the brand side, look for ways to build your own property.  Need help, call or email me at (310) 385-2800 or jimlewi@theagencygroup.com.

Talk to you soon…

Jim

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