The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, brought to you by Steve's Auto Shack?
Such naming-rights deals, normally reserved for sports arenas, could soon be coming to some of the music industry's best-known institutions. Creative Artists Agency has reached a deal to represent the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as well as Nashville's Grand Ole Opry and Ryman Auditorium as branding clients, offering up first-of-their-kind opportunities at each venue that include title sponsorships, on-site branding, national marketing partnerships and, in the case of the Rock Hall, the potential to sponsor the new consumer voting component for the 2013 nominees.
Though the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Foundation and the Grand Ole Opry Group have partnered with sponsors at a regional and national level in the past, both organizations are looking to expand their reach. The Rock Hall is based in Cleveland, but only 8%-9% of its annual visitors are from Ohio, while at the Grand Ole Opry, only 15% of a typical crowd is from the Nashville area. "They rely on attendance, and a good partner could help them promote and align with what they're doing in the long term as well as put more people in seats," says Tom Worcester, head of CAA's music sponsorships group.
For the Rock Hall, a naming-rights partner could assist in keeping ticket prices down and also help make up for some financial shortfalls in recent years. In 2011, the foundation reported revenue of $21.3 million, down from $25.3 million in 2010 and $35 million in 2009, according to the company's annual reports. A bulk of revenue comes from admissions (56% of its total revenue in 2011). The Grand Ole Opry Group is also still recovering from the Nashville floods of 2010, which set back parent company Gaylord Entertainment $215 million-$225 million in rebuilding costs, according to its 2011 annual report. Consequently, Gaylord's Opry and Attractions segment experienced a 39.4% increase in total revenue from 2010 to 2011, to $65.3 million, compared with the flood-affected $46.9 million the group reported in 2010.
Additionally, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Foundation president/CEO Joel Peresman noted that the Rock Hall recently underwent an $8 million technology renovation. "The technology goes out of date as quickly as it comes in to date, so we're looking for a potential partner we could work with on a technological basis to help us keep this place up to the current standards," he says.
CAA is talking to marketers in the electronics, financial services, beverage, automotive and telecommunications categories for all three venues, though some restrictions apply to each venue when it comes to semantics of sponsor placement. "As a not-for-profit, you can't be the Philips Rock and Roll Hall of Fame-you couldn't legally do that," Peresman explains "There's other museums around the world that have integrated the name into the title, whether it's the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame 'presented by,' 'sponsored by' or 'powered by' ... We could do that. We just have to be careful that it fits into our mission."
The Rock Hall is also open to sponsors getting involved with its voting process, which beginning this year allows consumers to participate. Similar to the new model for the Heisman Trophy, the top five consumer votes will count as a single ballot in the induction voting. "Our customer base is starting to skew younger and younger," Peresman says, "so we want to be able to form a product base and create a sweepstakes with a partner to raise awareness of what we're doing and encourage our fans' involvement all over the world."