Steering one of Live Nation’s biggest profit centers with broad-based brand deals to become “the NFL of music”
With Live Nation’s concert attendance at an all-time high in the first three quarters of 2013, up a whopping 27% year over year, what’s the company’s next biggest growth area beyond ticket sales? Sponsorships, and hundreds of them, under Russell Wallach and his team at Live Nation’s in-house music ad agency—what CEO Michael Rapino (No. 4) has referred to as “the NFL of music.” Long-term deals with Citi, Starwood, Hertz, Anheuser-Busch, Coca-Cola and UPS all expanded, while new clients included Ford, Bose and Motorola. All that activity amounted to $221.6 million in sponsorship revenue during the first three quarters, a 15% increase from the same time period in 2012, and also helped drive $500 million in revenue for its brand clients’ businesses, Wallach says.
“When you think about the hotel rooms we sell across our sites for Starwood to the ticket sales from presale programs we do with Citi and Live Nation to ticket transactions we do with AmEx on Ticketmaster to all the car rentals we do for Hertz to all of the shipping we do through UPS and all the beverage products in our venues, we’re actually driving business results, and we’re really proud of that,” he says.
Live Nation had an active role in Bud Light’s 50-50-1 program and the Budweiser Made in America Festival, and inked new deals with Ford, Toyota and Jeep that have doubled the company’s auto business in the last three years. Wallach is also bringing brands into the expanding EDM festival market, following Live Nation’s bundling of EDM promoters like Hard and Insomniac.
As for challenges, they rarely include getting artists to say “yes” to working with sponsors anymore. Now it’s more about boundary pushing. “We’re being challenged by the brands to come up with never-been-done-before marketing ideas and programs,” he says, “so that’s requiring us to find new talent to hire. We need to expand our resources to be able to address their needs.”