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Aug 16, 2004
How To

Brand Marketing & Rock & Roll: How T-Mobile, Coke, Bank One & Rolling Rock Beer Use Concerts

SUMMARY: Ever considered sponsoring a rock concert? We asked expert Darin Wolf for his advice on what works. Our article includes:

How to measure results
Why free concerts may be a bad idea
Whether you should start your own concert or tag your promo onto an existing event

Want to harness the power of rock to get your brand message out?

We asked Darin Wolf, VP Clear Channel, who spent 11 years as a brand marketer at Kraft and Rolling Rock, to reveal his dos and don'ts for marketing via rock concerts:

-> Set your objective (and be prepared to measure results)

For a branded entertainment project to work, both parties must understand the objective, which takes a fair amount of thought. "I've worked with a lot of partners who weren't sure what they wanted," he goes on. Is the partnership a volume-driving goal or an equity driving goal, and how are you going to measure it?

For example, at a recent concert in Central Park, Bank One invited anyone who applied for a Sony Card to watch the concert from a special viewing area close to the stage. "They had over 5,000 people sign up over the course of 24 hours," Wolf says. That's measurable data.

On the other hand, if you want to become associated with something "cool" or unique, measurement comes from quantitative analysis.

"Add a question to your quarterly questionnaire," Wolf says. "If your goal is to associate your brand with hip, cool music, make sure that question gets into a survey before any event takes place, and then again after the event."

-> Existing property or original property?

Creating original content tends to be more expensive than aligning yourself with something that already exists. But it also gives you more control over the property.

When T-Mobile wanted to create a proprietary music property, they sponsored five different concerts in five cities and produced them simultaneously in one night. And the T-Mobile product was part of it all.

--Brand ambassadors walked the concerts taking pictures with T- Mobile phones, and giant video screens featured the photos from all five concerts. Other screens featured text from people who were using the phones for text messaging.

--The artist Ashanti waved a T-Mobile phone in the air (rather than the more traditional lighter).

--The platform focused on the fact that with T-Mobile, you "get more." T-Mobile tied in another concert, which they announced that night: Barenaked Ladies and Train would perform on Alcatraz Island, and T-Mobile users could win tickets in a sweepstakes by submitting text messages.

Existing property may already have a following, and it's generally less expensive to sponsor.

Example: When Coca-Cola wanted to dip its toe more deeply into the popular music stream, the company collaborated with Instant Live -- an already successful music program that offers fans the opportunity to purchase and walk away with a CD of the concert they just attended -- and a band called moe.

"moe. was going out on tour with or without Instant Live," says Wolf. Instant Live already existed with or without Coca-Cola. But by helping bring moe. out on tour with Instant Live, Coke could sell the CDs on its music site and align itself with a popular band.

-> Be wary of free events

Back in his Rolling Rock days, Wolf felt inspired during a brainstorming meeting. "I said, 'We should do a free concert and take the bands that best represent the brand.' I didn't know anything about producing concerts so I met with people who did."

Those people suggested that he not do a free concert ("It will be chaos," they told him). Instead, he came up with the Rolling Rock Town Fair. He invited a number of bands, including the Red Hot Chile Peppers, to a concert that took place "in a field in the middle of nowhere" in Pennsylvania.

The concert, says Wolf, was a terrific platform for bars to create special events and Rolling Rock displays. It sold out of its 40,000 tickets and "was a rallying cry for the brand," says Wolf.

-> Expand content beyond one experience

Repurpose content, Wolf suggests. "Put it on DVD or CD or a Webcast, or infuse it into an advertising campaign. You've made the investment to get a live audience there; for people who can't go, how else can you let people experience it?"

For example, he says, the five T-Mobile concerts were also shown on Webcast, as was the concert from Alcatraz. And the Rolling Rock Town Fair was recreated as a Pay Per View program. "You could run a Rolling Rock Town Fair for bar night and beam in the concert," Wolf says.

-> Gut instincts have merit

The most analytic among us may disagree, but Wolf believes that some of the best decisions come from the gut.

"You have to be confident enough to know what your brand is all about so you can make decisions and attach yourself to properties that make sense," he says. "It's not that different from attaching yourself to a radio or TV spot. Ultimately, it's got to be a gut decision."
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