Following last year's successful run with Tim McGraw, KC Masterpiece Barbecue Sauce and Kingsford Charcoal have signed on as headline sponsors of the 2009 Keith Urban Escape Together tour, Billboard has learned. The tour is expected to begin in May and play arenas.

The McGraw tour sponsorship was the first for KC and Kingsford, and the venture was "hugely successful," according to Drew McGowan, senior group manager, PR and sponsorships for the Clorox Company, which owns both brands.

"There's a perfect link between people who barbecue out in the backyard and people listening to country music," McGowan says. "We definitely wanted to continue our commitment to country music just because it fits so well with our brands. We looked at who was touring this summer and who made a lot of sense with our brands individually, and Keith just seemed like a perfect fit."

Urban manager Gary Borman says the Urban team is "grateful and excited" about the KC Masterpiece/Kingsford sponsorship. "I would say that in any environment, but particularly today, with the economy what it is and how difficult it is to get one's messages through the clutter in our culture," Borman says.

Borman adds that barbecuing in general and this sponsorship in particular fit well with the "sense of togetherness" that Urban strives for in his shows. "KC/Kingsford's and our interests are aligned both in message and approach," Borman says. "It's a natural association and we're thrilled."

As part of the sponsorship, KC Masterpiece and Kingsford will host the Keith Urban Backstage Barbecue Experience, VIP pre-show, admission to the concert and a private performance by and photo op with Urban. Barbecue champion Chris Lilly has signed on as the "official pitmaster" for the tour and will be firing up the grills at concerts.

Marcie Cardwell, MAC Presents, represented Kingsford/KC and brokered the deal. Andre Gaccetta, VP at George P. Johnson, will oversee experience marketing and strategy surrounding the tour, and Laura Burch, Current Lifestyle Marketing, is handling public relations on behalf of KC/Kingsford. Urban is booked by Darrin Murphy at CAA.

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