Bernard Cahill is an accomplished manager and lawyer with far-reaching experience in the entertainment industry with a special emphasis on the music business. In 2004, Cahill and his partners, Greg Suess, Jay Froberg and Will Ward founded ROAR, LLC. The Beverly Hills-based integrated media company focuses on talent management, artist management, brand management, and production and advisory services to clients as well as to media and entertainment companies.
ROAR's Nashville office on Music Row was established by Cahill to focus on artist management and its roster includes artists such as the Zac Brown Band. In addition, over the last six years, Cahill and his partners have overseen more than $120 million in financing transactions for ROAR clients. In his experience negotiating licensing, merchandise and endorsement deals, Cahill has worked with celebrity talent and corporations including American Express, Anheuser-Busch, Honda-Acura, Citibank, Starwood, American Greetings, Pepsi, and Microsoft. Recently, Cahill helped create and manage the media campaign Letters for Lyrics for Zac Brown Band and Dodge Ram Trucks. Prior to ROAR, Cahill headed up a successful entertainment law firm on Music Row in Nashville and also founded and served as CEO of a highly successful multimedia publishing company which was acquired by Hasbro, Inc. in 1998.
On the eve of his keynote address with Zac Brown at the Billboard and Adweek Music & Advertising conference , which runs Sept. 15-16 in Chicago, Cahill discussed successful artist-brand relationships with Billboard.biz.
In general, what makes a branding or sponsorship deal work?
First and foremost the brand needs to be a fit with client. The term has almost become a cliché, but it needs to be authentic. It needs to really connect to the client, it needs to be a product or a brand they believe in and they use. If it is, that is the foundation for a great partnership.
Do you think artists, particularly developing artists, have realistic expectations of what’s available to them in terms of sponsorships.
No, because really there is not much available to them, unfortunately. Most brands are looking for a brand equity relationship where they’re getting some awareness out of it and the artist is delivering some kind of audience that they want to connect with. Developing artists by definition don’t have much of an audience to deliver, so it’s really a challenge. But I do think that, with hustle and with relationships, you can make some connections, and there are a number of brands out there that are willing to grow with you. And if you can find those kinds of partners, they can ultimately be the best kind of partner because you have grown together, you have a real relationship, and it’s not some sort of one-off. It’s challenging, for sure, and I don’t think new artists really understand how difficult it can be.
Why do you think the Zac Brown Band/Dodge Ram deal come has worked so well?
It works so well because it has so many of the pillars that are the foundations of a great partnerships. Again, it’s authentic: Zac lives on a farm, he uses his truck every day, this is something he can get behind from a brand perspective, and of course he loves Ram trucks. We had just come back from a tour of Iraq and Zac, while he’s not very political, if you will, he has total singular focus on supporting the troops and trying to always, as he puts it, bring them a taste of home. Zac wanted to figure out how he could do a compilation CD that would include his Southern Ground artists (Levi Lowrey, Sonia Leigh and Nic Cowan), along with a few songs from Zac Brown Band, he was looking to do this CD giveaway. [CAA sponsorships agent] Laura Hutfless had been pitching brands on partnering and ultimately pitched Ram Truck and their CMO Marissa Hunter. Together we came up with the Letters For Lyrics program. [Hunter] coined it: “you just came back from Iraq, we’re looking to do something that can actually be activated at the dealer level,” and it really came together through a number of conversations. But, lucky for us, Marissa Hunter at RAM liked the CD giveaway, and took the time to get to know Zac, and pulled in his support of the military, and she coined the Letters For Lyrics program, and we feel lucky to have had those kinds of partners.
In a best-case scenario, what can happen with the right kind of sponsorship deal?
The best case scenario is you build your artist in all the important ways that matter, such as building the brand, protecting the brand, building community around your artist, really finding a new audience through that relationship, and delivering the same sort of elements to your brand partner. We don’t do one-offs. We only look for partners that we believe we can be in business with for 10 years. If you look at the kind of brands that Zac has partnered up with - Anheuser-Busch to RAM Trucks - you see that it’s treated like a true partnership. Expectations are met on both sides, both the brand and artist get out what they want. The fees are probably the third or fourth consideration in these deals.
What’s a worst-case scenario?
I guess a worst-case scenario would be you enter into a relationship with a brand, expectations are not met on either side, and you’re now blown out of a category that is potentially important to you. In our industry of music, there are certain categories where you know you have a shot of getting a solid partnership, and if it doesn’t work, you’re excluded from that category for a period of time. And depending on where the artist is in their career, that could be devastating.
Cahill, with Zac Brown and Ram Truck's Marissa Hunter, will be featured on the keynote Q&A at Billboard and Adweek's Music & Advertising conference which runs Sept. 15-16 in Chicago. For more information visit Billboardevents.com .