North American companies will spend $1.1 billion to sponsor music venues, festivals and tours this year, compared with $1 billion in 2008, according to the IEG Sponsorship Report, which tracks sponsorship spending. As president of the Nashville-based sponsorship and fulfillment agency MAC Presents, Marcie Allen negotiates high-profile sponsorships between the world's leading brands and artists.

Live entertainment sponsorships have moved beyond the days of onstage signage and a simple "presents" designation on a concert ticket. In brokering fully integrated, multiplatform band/brand partnerships, Allen has been at the forefront of this shift.

Jeep's sponsorship of Tim McGraw and Faith Hill's 2007 Soul2Soul tour, which was brokered by MAC Presents, was the first recipient of Billboard's Concert Marketing and Promotion Award. Other deals brokered by MAC include the 2008 Tim McGraw Live Your Voice tour, sponsored by KC Masterpiece and Kingsford Charcoal, and the 2007 and 2008 BlackBerry Presents John Mayer tour. MAC also produces events, including Vanderbilt University's Rites of Spring festival in Nashville, the BlackBerry Storm Launch Party with Foo Fighters and Queens of the Stone Age, the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition Launch Party with John Legend, and Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds at the Microsoft SAS convention.

Most recently, MAC was hired to be the entertainment agency representing Kingsford and KC Masterpiece for their 2009 sponsorship of the Keith Urban tour. While out on that tour, Allen took time to speak with Billboard about the state of bands and brands.

How is the sponsorship business faring this summer?

The sponsorship business is bigger than it's ever been. Entertainment marketing is something that more and more brands want to get into. However, they don't know how to, and they need help navigating through the music industry, whether it's licensing, sponsorships, promotions or endorsements. The reason I think it's doing so well right now is because people are watching less TV. It's more about branded entertainment, more about integration. How can we naturally integrate our brand into the entertainment space? And one of the ways you can do that is by becoming involved with an artist, whether it's by a tour, an album release or a foundation or charity, a promotion, whatever it may be.

If you compare the cost of sponsoring a tour and buying a 60-second spot, in some cases they're very similar. For the cost of one 60-second spot, you could sponsor a whole tour for four to six months and really have that one-one-one interaction. That's what brands want—they want to create brand loyalty, and music creates brand loyalty.

I read recently [in a survey by the branding agency Heartbeats International] that 97% of companies polled stated that they would like to integrate their brand into music. As more of these brands figure out how they can get into the music space and how they can leverage the assets an artist has to offer, I think you will see a boom in the sponsorship, endorsement and promotion space.

Public relations is also becoming a big area, and public relations budgets within brands are very large, because if they can attach to an artist with a new tour or album coming out, and the brand has a new product or relaunch or rebranding of something, they're able to align with the artist and get press out of it. The days of the traditional tour sponsorship are over. It's all about, "How can we fully integrate our brand with an artist? What touch points can we reach?"

Do artists need to be more realistic these days about their cash value to brands?

Click here for the full Q&A including how brands and artists measure successful deals, the point which customer backlash against sponsorship kicks in and more.

Questions? Comments? Let us know: @billboardbiz

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