The Dating Game Between Music and Sponsorships Explored at Billboard Latin Music Conference Panels
The Dating Game Between Music and Sponsorships Explored at Billboard Latin Music Conference Panels

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The Effectiveness of Local Branding Panelists: (left to right)Carlos Boughton, brand director of Tecate and Tecate Light, Heineken USA; Luis Miguel Messianu, president/chief creative officer of Alma; Carla Dodds, senior director of multicultural marketing at Walmart; Bill Werde, editorial director of Billboard Magazine (moderator); Steven Wolfe Pereira, senior VP/managing director at MediaVest Multicultural (Photo: Arnold Turner/A. Turner Archives)

From Eminem's knock-out "Imported from Detroit" Chrysler commercial to State Farm's discovery of Los Felinos de la Noche, the shift in the music industry caused by declining record sales has opened new opportunities for branding relationships between corporate sponsors and artists.

In fact, branding has increasingly become a more central part of the business, but in a new way that has increased the benefit and fulfillment of both the artists and the companies seeking to engage with and grow their audiences, said participants of the "Effectiveness of Local Branding" panel at the Billboard Latin Music Conference in Miami Beach Tuesday.

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"We went from sponsorships to partnerships," said Luis Miguel Messianu, president and chief creative officer of the advertising firm Alma. "In the good old days, it used to be that if you would manage to get a big name, it was a ton of money -- 'He's hot' or 'She's hot, let's get them before the competition does,' " Messianu said. "Today, it's more about building a partnership and making sure it is a two way street. It is about creating an experience."

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(Photo: Arnold Turner/A. Turner Archives)

Steven Wolfe Pereira, senior vice president and managing director at MediaVest Multicultural - which has matched artists with brands such such as Walmart, Heineken, and Tecate -- said that new kind of partnerships work for the corporate partners, too.

"It's gotten a lot harder for brands as well," Pereira said. "Technology has impacted every single business model that is there: Retail, CBG, beverage and music. But what is at the center is a community. And it's a passionate community that is a fan of maybe music or cooking or something else, and if there is an artist that is part of that community, brands want to be a part of it.

"That is a great way of being part of the community."

Messianu warned the audience, which included many emerging artists looking for a break, that the fit had to work for both sides.

"We are the agency for State Farm or McDonald's and from our perspective, we are the brand keepers. In my experience, most artists come to the table with their brand as a priority as opposed to what is in it for this brand," he explained. "My job is to make sure there is the right fit."

Carla Dodds, senior director of multicultural marketing at Walmart, said artists should know the brand they want to work with and not come to them with many ideas. "If they come to our agency, the one thing that is really important is to come with clear objectives as to what you want to do that is aligned with our brand," Dodds said, adding that some brands may be more difficult to fit than others. "We're family friendly so obviously we are not going to do something with someone who is wearing limited clothing."

But while Paulina Rubio and Juanes are staples in commercials, Billboard Editorial Director Bill Werde, who moderated the panel, asked how the agencies and brands are open to work with new or developing artists. "Is it even conceivable that artists at that level might find themselves partnered in that way?"

"No, it's not inconceivable," Dodds said. "Traditional is out for Walmart. We move as consumers move."

"Now more than ever," Messianu said, citing Los Felinos, a band that has basically become famous through the State Farm campaign and the three unknown bands that got a lot of play - and returned a lot of buzz - in the popular and successful McDonald's "Me Encanta" campaign last year. McDonald's was sponsoring the Latin Grammys. "But we were investing on three unknown bands and produced one campaign with three different tracks. People could go online to listen. It did a lot for these three new bands. It was a successful campaign for both McDonald's and the bands."

Werde asked how he measured the success. "YouTube hits increased 54 percent. More than 1.3 million people interacted with us online," Messianu said. A sweepstakes generated sales and there were hundreds - perhaps thousands - of media impressions through blogs and online chats about the band.

"Obviously there's a lot of money, a lot of exposure."

As the music business continues to contract, there is more pressure for music companies to find bigger and bolder relationships with brands, Werde said.

"It's about building trust," Messianu said. "The relationship before between the brand or marketing industry and the music industry was one of distrust."

All agreed that Pitbull was a perfect example of someone who can cross the divide easily.

"You need to think about this as a business," Pereira said. "That's what it's about. If there is a way to break through the clutter, where you have a vested audience, where you have a following. It could be at a local level: Look at Pitbull, 'Mr. 305.' And there are brands that want to be associated with that. And if there are certain artists that are willing to do that, we want to have just a shed of ideas to show our clients."

Carlos Boughton, brand director for Tecate, Tecate Light and Heineken USA, said that they like to incorporate local promotions with national campaigns. "Like if we are going to produce a commercial to air on TV, the other thing we are going to do is organize an event at a local bar," Boughton said, citing opportunities for local musicians. "There are many places where you can tap into brand sponsorships."

And, he added, it has to be perceived by the audience as a plausible connection. "It has to be proprietary to the brand." He cited the Chrysler/Eminem partnership. "Some corporations might think it could be dicey to hop into bed with Eminem because if you get into his past, there might be some questionable material as far as a brand perspective," he said. "But this album is about his comeback. The whole positioning with the album is 'I've made missteps and I'm back with you now.

"And that's exactly what Chrysler wanted to do with that campaign. It was a perfect match."

Participants at the last panel of the day Tuedsay - "Sponsor Me: I'll Play for You" - touched on the same issues, but put heavy emphasis on partnerships that were authentic, believable, natural. Such as the Wave the Flag song that Coca Cola used for its campaign during the World Cup.

"For us at Coca Cola, using music is simply common sense," said Reinaldo Padua, assistant vice president of Hispanic marketing at Coca Cola. "But there has to be an authentic bond between the values of the artist and the values of the brand. The consumer will see the connection, will see the authenticity of that."

For the World Cup, they had two songs to choose from. Shakira's "Waka Waka" and the now-famous K'naan.

"Shakira was the person sponsored by Sony. She was going to give you the most exposure, right? But then you had K'naan, who was from Somalia, the most he ever sold was 90,000 copies. He was very little known. But we believed his story and his authenticity as an African artist.

"What ended up was he ended selling more records with 'Wave Your Flag' than 'Waka Waka.' When you have that connection, that authenticity with the brand of the person, you can do incredible things."