Lionel Richie, Commodores Reunite At Essence Fest
Lionel Richie, Commodores Reunite At Essence Fest

Sara Evans and Lionel Richie will be the headliners of ABC Daytime and sister cable station SOAPnet's new campaign to market music through soap operas.

For the first time, ABC Daytime and SOAPnet will sponsor a tour, as they become the headline sponsor of Evans' national trek this summer; in addition, they'll provide soap talent for appearances at her shows. In return, Evans will participate in performances on the networks, as well as on-air interstitial campaigns and online promotions.

For ABC Daytime and SOAPnet, the benefit is two-fold, according to Brian Frons, president daytime, Disney ABC Television Group. "I think that soaps have lasted over 40 years on TV by staying contemporary and relevant for the time it's being made," he says. And using artists is a way for soaps to appeal to a younger demographic — key during summer months when kids are out of school — and building viewer allegiance to soaps while they're young is an ideal way to create lifelong viewers.

For musicians, it's another example of the promotional appeal of a TV audience. "The demographic is a huge lover of country music and it gives us a way to promote her single throughout the course of the summer," says Brenner Van Meter, Evans' manager and a partner at Modern Management. "And in today's times, you've got to give people willing to come out and spend their money some kind of synergy. They'll see Sara, and they'll get to meet and greet and get autographs with daytime television stars."

Evans also gets to build on her relationship with ABC; previously she was a contestant on the network's highly-rated "Dancing With the Stars."

In addition, the two networks will have a boosted presence at the CMA Music Festival on June 13, with talent from "All My Children," "One Life to Live" and "General Hospital" doing meet-and-greets and introducing performers. Evans will perform at the festival's "ABC All Star Block Party."

According to Adam Rockmore, senior vice president ABC Daytime and SOAPnet marketing, the networks did audience research that showed 25% of their viewers described themselves as country music fans. "Country music and soaps overlap with their emotional storytelling," he says. "We want to reach our current fans — and reach people who might be fans."

But country isn't the only genre that ABC Daytime and SOAPnet want to push. Richie will appear on an upcoming episode of "One Life to Live," where he'll perform his new single, "Just Go." His performance is being taped June 12.

His appearance comes on the heels of other artists, including the Pussycat Dolls, Mary J. Blige and Snoop Dogg, being worked into the show's storylines. "I don't want to have somebody on just because, 'Oh, aren't they fun?'" says "One Life To Live's" executive producer Frank Valentini. "I want people with a record to promote. It helps the record label, and it helps us with increased ratings and as milestones in the history of the show that people still talk about."

And the networks aren't just targeting fans glued to the tube; both ABC Daytime and SOAPnet also are sponsoring this month's Country Fest in Cadott, Wisc., which is headlined by Taylor Swift. This comes on the heels of their sponsorship of the Stagecoach 2009 Music Festival in April. (SOAPnet's new show, "Southern Belles: Louisville" was promoted at Stagecoach, and went on to garner 459,000 viewers in its debut, the second-highest debut ever on the network, according to Nielsen Media Research.)

In addition, ABC Daytime and SOAPnet's ongoing Soap Nation Tour, which is a series of fan-based events, is targeting music fans, including Rock The Soap and Broadway Cares Equity Fights AIDS.

"We're doing a couple of different legs of the marketing stool through on-air and off-air marketing campaigns and events," Rockmore says. "Our whole goal is to be approachable, and be relevant."

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