North American-based companies will spend an estimated $1.04 billion to sponsor music venues, festivals, tours and concerts this year, a four percent increase from $1 billion in '07, according to research by Chicago-based IEG Sponsorship Report, which tracks sponsorship spending.

"The four percent growth rate is down from the double-digit increases seen in previous years, due in large part to the slowing economy," IEG Sponsorship Report's senior editor William Chipps tells Billboard.biz. "But, by and large, corporate spending on live music remains healthy."

Trends include multi-faceted "bundled" deals for companies as opposed to sponsorship of one event, tour or venue. An example of this strategy is Live Nation's estimated $100 million deal with Citi Cards that includes tour sponsorships, ticketing, venues, and one-off events like Billy Joel's summer concerts at Shea Stadium.

Also benefiting from sponsor dollars are national, regional, and touring festivals, including new additions to the live scene such as Michigan's Rothbury Festival, New Jersey's All Points West Music & Arts Festival, and the touring Rockstar Energy Mayhem Festival.

IEG says the live music industry is also tapping into spending by categories and companies not traditionally involved in music. For example, Crocs, Inc. this year signed new deals with roughly 30 music festivals and venues, including Milwaukee's Summerfest, the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival presented by Shell, Seattle's Bumbershoot, and Manchester, Tenn.'s, Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival.

Additionally, both brands and bands are finding these relationships rewarding enough to re-up. BlackBerry sponsored John Mayer's 2007 tour, a first for both parties, and announced this week that both would be partnering again on Mayer's 2008 tour.

Active categories sponsoring live music include airlines, apparel, auto, beer, cable, computer storage makers, energy drinks, insurance, soft drinks and wireless telecommunications.