On a crowded Thursday night of exclusive showcases in Austin -- T.I., B.o.B. and Wale at the Warner Sound, Bruce Springsteen at ACL Live, Fiona Apple at Pitchfork and Snoop Dogg opening the Doritos stage -- Lil Wayne's headlining gig at Cash Money/Young Money's showcase was a major highlight. But perhaps even more noteworthy is a new endorsement-meets-community rebuilding deal, announced informally last week with Mountain Dew that officially kicked off with Wayne's performance.
The unique program will comprise everything from traditional print, TV and digital advertising to the building of a skate park in Wayne's hometown of New Orleans. Viral street ads featuring the program's tagline, "DeWeezy," have already started popping up in New York City and posters were strewn up all over downtown Austin in the days leading to the Wayne's performance.
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Cortez Bryant, co-CEO of Wayne's management company the Blueprint Group, said his team had been working to partner with a brand on a philanthropic effort for nearly a year, looking for a company that would "be authentic to what Wayne represents and the message he has everyday." Mountain Dew gets it, Bryant told Billboard. "It just makes sense with a company like Mountain Dew trying to take a risk with Wayne. You know, in the previous years we've had hard times, but people 'get it' for the Lil Wayne brand. It just seemed like where they were going with their brand, which is all about diversity and crossing barriers, is the same place we want to go."
Brett O'Brien, VP of marketing for Mountain Dew, said it was precisely Lil Wayne's unclassifiable image that made the brand want to get involved. "You can't put Wayne in a box -- he's not a hip-hop artist, not a rock musicians, not just a skateboarder -- he's all of those things. This is truly about a reflection of Wayne saying, 'I'm gonna do the things that make me who I am and you guys out there listening, you go do the things that make you you.' That's the Dew mantra."
And although philanthropy will still play a big part in the Wayne program -- Dew and Blueprint are currently scouting locations with the City of New Orleans for the forthcoming skate park -- some more common endorsement deal elements will still roll out, like Wayne drinking Mountain Dew in ads -- with a twist. "It's not about the traditional 'drink the Dew, looking at the camera, give it a smile' approach," O'Brien says. "We're working together in partnership so that Dew's product message will come out loud and clear as well in whatever we do."
The Mountain Dew deal was brokered in partnership with the Glu Agency, led by Derek Jackson, a music industry veteran and former manager of Scott Storch. "We don't build brands, we build icons," Jackson said in a statement. "Additionally, philanthropic and social responsibility is the unwavering core of this vision."