Made In America Ticket Sales Up 50%, Jay Z Surprise Possible

Even without curator Jay Z as a headliner, this weekend’s second Budweiser Made In America Festival is already well on track to surpass its inaugural year in Philadelphia.

The two-day festival’s first iteration was a notable success, attracting 40,000 attendees per day and netting $5 million in ticket sales, according to Billboard Boxscore. Booked by Live Nation and headlined by Jay Z and Pearl Jam, the festival attracted a diverse lineup that spanned hip hop, rock, EDM and pop. Ticket sales for Year two are expected to finish between 57,000 and 60,000 per day, says Budweiser brand manager Mike Thompson, which would put full-weekend attendance as high as 120,000 — a 50% increase.

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Beyonce and Nine Inch Nails will headline the two nights on Saturday and Sunday (Aug. 31-Sept. 1), with Queens Of The Stone Age, Phoenix, Public Enemy, Miguel, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, Miguel, Kendrick Lamar, Imagine Dragons, Deadmau5, Calvin Harris and 2 Chainz among the big names rounding out the bill.

The number of sponsors for Made In America is up, too -- which may come as a surprise for a festival fully branded by Budweiser. But Skype and Brita are both on board for major first-time activations, Spotify, YouTube and Myspace will have a presence on-site and online as streaming partners, and returning sponsor Duracell will promote its Power Mat partnership with Jay Z. Skype will also host the official after party at a to-be-announced Philly venue Saturday night, featuring a performance from Solange.

Russell Wallach, president of Live Nation Network, the top promoter’s sponsorship arm, says any sponsor’s potential conflict with Budweiser’s naming rights is “not even something that’s come up. It’s no different than any other festival. In this situation, you’ve got an incredible brand, Budweiser, and one of the most successful festivals in the entire world with the most diverse lineup. It’s in the name of the festival, people understand that’s how it was launched. I’ve never had a brand question it.”

Jay-Z on the Budweiser 'Made in America' Fest, Putting New Music On Hold

Though the first Made In America got a multimillion dollar TV push last summer when Budweiser promoted the festival via TV ads during the Olympics, featuring music from Jay Z, this year’s event has had no shortage of multiplatform support from its title sponsor. Thompson says Budweiser expanded its series of Made In America-themed pre- concerts from nine markets in 2012 to 30 this year, hosting club shows from April to mid-August that attracted a total of over 45,000 attendees.

Budweiser also wrapped its aluminum cans with custom Made In America packaging starting June 10, activating with point-of-purchase stands at retail to promote giveaways and trips to the festival as well as free music downloads. “With year two, we had the benefit of time on our side and were able to do a lot more from a national perspective with the festival,” Thompson says.

Billboard caught up with Thompson on the eve of Made In America’s sophomore stint, as the Budweiser brand manager phoned in from the grounds near Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia. Below he discussed the return of beer-sampling initiative “Project 12,” expanded social media and live-streaming plans and why Jay Z might be gracing the stage at some point after all.

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Budweiser brand manager Mike Thompson

Billboard: You had a longer rollout period to promote this year’s Made In America, compared to the three months for last year’s festival. What are some of the ways you used Budweiser’s assets to get the word out?
Mike Thompson: Year one was more concentrated in the Northeast. This year, we had a national packaging program with our aluminum bottles and did a full conversation nationwide with a retail hook to it, giving away trips to the festival as well as free music downloads. That was available to all of our wholesalers across the country. We supported our top 30 markets with 150 trips for two to the festival. Lots of those were used with radio and on-air mentions, so we got a lot more exposure on that.

We also expanded our Budweiser Made In America parties form nine markets to 30 markets. Those took place from the beginning of April all the way to the second-to-last week of August, ending in Boston. What that allowed us to do was give other parts of the country a little taste of what Budweiser Made In America is going to be like in Philly and created relevance in the markets beyond just the Northeast.

What are some of the ways you’re utilizing social media partners to get the word out this year?
We teamed with Spotify to kick off the announcement of the artists who are performing. And we’ll continue to have that relationship now where fans can create their own Budweiser Made In America playlist on Spotify. We’ve expanded our live-streaming from what we did last year. We have YouTube, Myspace and Spotify all as streaming partners this year. We’ll live-stream the entire festival on YouTube, and have partnered with a company called Crowdsurfing which allows users to connect with their social networks so they can have conversations with a friend while they’re watching the livestream. We want them to move from their followers and instigate some dialogue. It’ll be a great way to continue and increase dwell time on Made In America content with consumers. We’re doing a masthead takeover on the YouTube home page all weekend long, so if you go to the page the sound will come on and you’ll be able to stream that way, too. It’s a great way to get some exposure and create some awareness.

With so many different components, what success metrics are important to you as a brand as well as a festival promoter?
Obviously we’ll take a look at some brand health metrics and what those look like. We’ll take a look at our overall awareness – we’d like to see growth and awareness for this festival on a national scale, more so than we’ve had in the past. From a social standpoint, some of the things we’re looking for is an increase in unique users and overall streams.

He isn’t listed as a performer this year, but might we see Jay Z show up on stage this weekend?
You never know. I’m sure he’ll be here to support his wife and who knows, maybe he’ll treat us all to a cameo appearance during one of the performances. It would be cool to see him up there with Trent Reznor, similar to what he did with Pearl Jam last year. Those types of collaborations are always really fun.

The full-length documentary inspired by last year’s festival, directed by Ron Howard and Brian Grazer, will premiere at the Toronto Film Festival next month. Are there plans to capture similar content this year?
There’ll be some camera crews around capturing the overall experience, but obviously not to the extent of last year with Ron behind the camera. It will be hard to duplicate that.

How will you activate your own products on-site? Last year you debuted Project 12, where attendees could sample new beers and vote on their favorite flavor with the winner being Black Crown.
We have Project 12 making its return, with three new beers from our brewmasters and will give fans the opportunity to experience those. We’ll also have an area called the Budweiser Beer Garden, where we’ll showcase guitars painted by the artists in all 30 of our pre-parties. There’ll be a QR code on each one of those displays, which you can scan and it will take you to a video showing a time lapse of that guitar with background on the artists’ inspiration behind the painting. And in that tent we’ll have five artists painting our 31st guitar – and then we’ll paint one themed guitar around the overall festival. So there’ll be up to 32 custom-painted guitars in that village by the end of the weekend.

You also gave Black Crown a big look with a featured spot during this year’s Super Bowl. Might one of the beers sampled this weekend get a similar treatment in 2014?
For right now there’s no plan to take one of the beers we’re sampling at Budweiser Made In America and turning that into another beer. What we will do is offer consumers a sampler pack at the end of October through the holiday season, available at retail.