Corporate brands spent an estimated $1.2 billion on music tie-ins in 2011, according to sponsorship analytics firm IEG. But do these sponsorships actually help sell more products?
The answer is decidedly "yes" for Beam Inc.'s Jim Beam, which successfully launched a new cherry-infused bourbon called Red Stag through its partnership with Kid Rock. Not only did the deal deliver strong awareness for the new beverage through a tour sponsorship and heavy in-bar promotion, but it also resulted in stronger-than-expected retail sales. Beverage Information Group senior analyst Adam Rogers declared that the product was "the bourbon launch of the decade," and it won the firm's Growth Brand Award three years in a row.
"Certainly, having a partner like Kid Rock played a very significant role, to come out of the gate with such a place in its category," Beam Inc. U.S. director of bourbons Rob Mason says. Red Stag's success with black cherry flavoring has paved the way for launches of other infusions, including honey tea and cinnamon.
For his part, Kid Rock credits his own personal history with the Beam brand for its success. "I've been drinking it since before I was of age, endorsing it without any paperwork or anything involved, and singing about it in my songs," he says from his Detroit home. "They're always there for me - a lot of times more so than the record company."
That's why Jim Beam is putting more marketing muscle than usual behind its latest push, Devil's Cut, a stronger bourbon (90 proof vs. 80 proof) and a play on the term "angel's share," which refers to the bourbon that evaporates from the barrel during the distilling process. In addition to a TV campaign that kicked off in early March, the company is putting Devil's Cut at the center of its Jim Beam Concert Series this summer, with a half-dozen acts visiting six different cities - Kid Rock (Boston, June 1), Daughtry (Denver, June 7), David Gray (Chicago, June 30), Darius Rucker (Dallas, July 24), Bush (Tampa, Fla., Aug. 2) and Train (Philadelphia, Aug. 18).
As another part of the sponsorship arrangement, each artist recorded a song from Rolling Stone's "500 Greatest Songs of All Time," offered exclusively to fans for downloading through a code on select boxes of Jim Beam White and Devil's Cut starting June 1. The artists were selected by Vector Management, whose partner Ken Levitan is Kid Rock's former manager.
For Train frontman Pat Monahan, the Jim Beam deal gave his band a chance to pay tribute to longtime favorite Led Zeppelin and cover its classic "Ramble On" for the download series.
The sponsorship has other, less tangible benefits. Monahan says that Train "strives to be" associated with "things that are household names, things that are American brands" like Jim Beam. Monahan meets with potential marketing partners to ensure they share similar values, let alone musical tastes. "The more business-savvy I try to be, the worse my songwriting gets," he says.
Kid Rock gets approached daily for various marketing opportunities, but he shares Monahan's view.
"The label will stick one in my face, like, 'We can get the video sponsored by Hyundai,' and I'll say, 'I don't drive a Hyundai. I'm not doing it.' I'm all for doing what I say, and saying what I do. I wouldn't try to peddle something if I didn't use it. Razor blade and chewing gum companies always come up with wacky ideas, and the money's phenomenal. But, at this point, how much is enough?"