Bushmills, Pitchfork & Bon Iver: The Do's and Don'ts of Touring Sponsorships Panel @ BB Touring Conf
Bushmills, Pitchfork & Bon Iver: The Do's and Don'ts of Touring Sponsorships Panel @ BB Touring Conf

Brand Stand (from left): Sig Greenbaum, VP of Marketing/Sponsorships, Rehage Entertainment; Marcie Allen, President, MAC Presents; Jennifer Breithaupt, SVP Entertainment Marketing, Citi; Liana Huth, SVP Partnerships and Events, FUSE; Matt Frampton, VP, Sales, Pitchfork Media; Stacey Portnoy, Regional Marketing Manager, Samsung; Russell, Wallach, President, Live Nation Network (Photo: Michael Seto)

Marcie Allen, president of music marketing agency MAC Presents, has one question for brands when they call her to get involved in the music industry. "Why?"

Allen, who helped broker deals between the Foo Fighters and BlackBerry as well as Keith Urban and the AT&T/Samsung Infuse phone this year, has seen a lot of requests where the goal for the brand is a bit unclear beyond an association with music. "You have to figure out whether they're trying to launch a new product, or trying to reach a new demographic," she said during the panel "Sponsorship Buyers and Sellers Weigh In: What We're Looking For In Naming Rights, Tour, Event and Concert Partnerships" at Billboard's Touring Conference in New York. "You want to make sure everybody has a memorable experience. When I see bad sponsorships out there it hurts everybody sitting here."

Russell Wallach, president of Live Nation Network, said artists have marketing needs, too, which brands can help fulfill. "In many cases for artists who may be doing a tour, it's important to get the record out there. If you're the brand and understand it's important to the artist, you're going to get so much more from that artist by helping them sell the record. They may say 'OK' to 10 other things they never would've said 'OK' to, just because you're helping them sell more music."

Allen said she is currently working on a program with Jagermeister where part of the money is being paid in cash and the other in marketing support. "[Managers can say] 'I'm taking a tenth of what I would normally charge you because I gotta pay for this little record release deal,"' she said. "It's a fire sale. Some of these artists are going out in two months, doing underplays, they want to work with you. It's very important to understand both sides."

For the brands sponsoring these programs, creating value is becoming more important and more challenging. "What we're looking for from partnerships is anything that can build our engagement, consumer behavior, sales, or brand preference. We're looking for a degree of exclusivity," said Jennifer Breithaupt, senior VP - entertainment marketing for Citi. "We're in a space where my competitors all day long are looking for new experiences. We want something we can use across our whole franchise - credit cards, retail banking, internationally, we need content. If it doesn't have content we're probably not giving it a look."

And although emerging artists are still gaining exposure from brand relationships at smaller venues and events, some big brands are setting their sights even higher. "Unfortunately we don't work with a lot of up and coming artists anymore because we need impressions, the visibility. That's why we work with B- and A-level artists," said Stacey Portney, regional marketing manager for Samsung, citing a recent strategy shift from the company's chief marketing officer.

In the case of Keith Urban, Samsung wanted more than just a tour sponsorship. "We wanted someone who wanted to work with us and had a vested interest in our partnership," Portney said. "Not just signage at a venue - exclusive content, on-site arrangement, a full endorsement deal with Keith. He did a TV commercial for us, filmed weekly vignettes from the road. We're very happy with the results. He was wonderful to work with and set the bar high for the next one."

But not everyone is looking for brands to play a hands-on role at their events. In the case of Pitchfork, which just hosted its seventh festival in Chicago this summer and introduced a new festival in Paris last month, brands play more of a secondary role in the festival model. For example, the company doesn't sell naming rights to any of its stages. "It's important for us to recognize we first and foremost want to put together a fantastic festival," said Matt Frampton, Pitchfork's VP of sales. "Part of that is understanding and celebrating what the underground music community is about. When we see 20,000 people out in a field looking up at a stage, our own bias is we want them to be looking at the concert. We don't want them to be looking at branding. If they are looking at branding, maybe it's Pitchfork."

One instance where Pitchfork was open to working with a brand on custom content was a recent program with Bushmills whiskey, at Pitchfork's Paris festival. Bon Iver's Justin Vernon, who appears in a current campaign for Bushmills, was brought on as co-curator of the lineup for night two of the festival, while Bushmills came on board as a festival sponsor to support their relationship with Vernon. Despite tricky logistics - "the laws in France around liquor marketing are really strict," Frampton said - Pitchfork was able to hire a production company to film a 15-to-20 minute documentary for Pitchfork.TV about the festival, presented by Bushmills.

403 Years Of Drinking: Bushmills came on board as a Pitchfork Paris Festival sponsor to support the band's already-established relationship with Bon Iver's Justin Vernon who who co-curated part of the event. (Photo: Michael Seto)

Sig Greenbaum, VP of marketing and sponsorship for Rehage Entertainment, faces a similar conundrum with the Voodoo Festival in New Orleans every year. "We have a great stage curated by Preservation Hall, and we can't put a brand on that stage that doesn't speak to Preservation Hall," he said. "But we have a great partnership with Red Bull where they won't be on a Preservation Hall stage but they will be on a phenomenal electronic dance stage for us that was created with their new Red Bulletin magazine from the beginning."

But what moderator Liana Huth wanted to know from each of the panelists was: How much do these things cost? The senior VP of partnerships and events at Fuse often interrupted many of the panelists' responses with questions about cost or profits. After several politely declined to share spending figures, Live Nation's Wallach allowed that these programs typically cost in the "hundreds of thousands" dollar range, not millions. And Pitchfork's Frampton noted that despite Pitchfork's sponsorship limitations, each of the company's festivals have been "quite profitable," and that next year's Pitchfork Music Festival in Paris will likely double in capacity and add a second stage.

From left: Marcie Allen, President, MAC Presents and Jennifer Breithaupt, SVP Entertainment Marketing, Citi. (Photo: Michael Seto)
The sponsorship panel's moderator Liana Huth of Fuse (left), with Judi Lugovico, a consultant, at the Billboard Touring Conference's Welcome Cocktail Reception. (Photo: Michael Seto)