Austin Mahone, Zedd and John Legend Lead Grammy Ad-Based Sales Bump Winners

Christopher Polk/Getty Images for NARAS

Austin Mahone attends the 56th GRAMMY Awards at Staples Center on January 26, 2014 in Los Angeles, California.

Daft Punk, Kacey Musgraves and P!nk are among the artists seeing early sales spikes from their Grammy performances, but what about the acts whose songs made a splash during the ad breaks? With 30-second spots selling as high as a record $1 million this year, the Grammys appear to have cemented status as the Super Bowl of music, with brands like Target, MasterCard, Pepsi, Aquafina, Bud Light Platinum, Cover Girl, Beats Music, Sonos and more all debuting music-themed commercials during the ceremony (and to the Grammys’ second-highest viewership in 20 years, with an audience of 28.5 million viewers).

Leading the pack this year was Aquafina Flavor Splash’s first commercial featuring Austin Mahone, whose new single “MMM Yeah” appeared in the spot and debuted at midnight the Saturday night (Jan. 25) prior. The song also received a push from promoted tweets on Twitter, and sold on iTunes at a discounted of $.69 (compared to the industry standard $1.29). By the time the commercial aired during the 9:00 hour of the Grammy telecast, the song buoyed to the top 5 on iTunes, and sold 70,000 copies during its first 27 hours on sale, according to Nielsen SoundScan (the chart tracking week ended at around 3:00 AM EST on Monday morning, January 27.)

This week, “MMM Yeah” debuts on the Hot 100 at No. 60, instantly becoming Mahone’s highest-charting single to date -- it bests “What About Love?”, which reached No. 66 with peak sales of 45,000 last fall (and incidentally benefitted from a McDonald’s campaign.) The Flavor Splash was later accompanied during the Grammys by sister company Pepsi, who debuted an epic 2-minute “Half Time”-themed commercial starring sports legends moonlighting as pop stars in a VMA-style production (a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it “Wrecking Ball” sight gag was a nice touch), complete with a creative treatment from MTV’s in-house ad agency Scratch.

Javier Farfan, senior director of cultural branding at PepsiCo, tells Billboard the Grammys were a “great night” for the company’s beverages, as well as Pepsi’s overall partnership with the Best New Artist category. The Flavor Splash spot, he added, “has also seen a tremendous response from our teen audience and the single continues to climb the charts.” Farfan was one of many key execs who helped negotiate the deal with Mahone that made him Flavor Splash’s first digital and brand consultant in December, which included a fast-paced creative meeting that quickly led to the selection of the new single and a creative concept and shoot for the commercial in a matter of weeks.

Other big ad-related sales boosts came from Bud Light Platinum, which in just 15 seconds debuted “Find You,” a new song from Zedd featuring Matthew Koma and Mirian Bryant that sold 7,000 copies on Grammy night – enough to post a No. 30 debut on Dance/Electronic Songs from some six hours of sales. The campaign was the kickoff to Bud Light Platinum’s 2014 strategy around EDM, which will include festival sponsorships and other artist partnerships, following a full-year 2013 deal with Justin Timberlake. Grammy night was also a double-win for Zedd, who scored his first Grammy for Best Dance Recording that night with “Clarity.”

In an interview with Billboard during Universal Music’s pre-Grammy showcase, Zedd said of the initial concept, “I’m kinda scared of sponsorships and partnerships because I love being in control, and being able to decide and change things.” But once he met with the Bud Light Platinum team directly, Zedd added, “everything I would suggest they’d say, ‘Oh yeah, that’s a great way to see it,’ ‘We’re totally open to it.’” He suggested “Find You” for the campaign because it was a nearly-finished track he’d been working on for the better part of a year with frequent collaborators Koma and Bryant, not a custom jingle. The only tweak he made was adding the refrain “turn up your night” to the bridge to include Bud Light Platinum’s tagline. “I would totally [write something new] if it made sense, but it helped that a lot of people liked the song before it became anything,” Zedd added.

Other lifts included John Legend’s “Made To Love,” which scored a 262% week-over-week sales bump to 7,000 copies on the strength of its inclusion in Chevy Impala’s commercial that first began airing over the summer. Paul McCartney’s “New,” featured in a spot for Microsoft Surface, rose 135% to 1,000 copies; while Katy Perry’s “This Is How We Do,” the soundtrack to her first Cover Girl commercial, rose 25% to 2,000 copies. Another Grammy-ad song premiere, N.A.S.A.’s cover of “I Shot The Sheriff” featuring Karen O, sold 1,000 copies after debuting in Sonos’ Grammy spot.

Also noteworthy from Grammy night, though not song-related, was MasterCard’s first series of commercials with new pitchman Justin Timberlake, who helped the company kick off its Priceless Surprises initiative by showing up unannounced at a fan’s home and sharing the footage in a 45-sceond Grammy ad. Though Timberlake has been working with the company since 2013, including as partners of his 20/20 Experience Tour, he’ll be featured more heavily going forward as MasterCard’s new global CMO Raja Rajamannar settles into his role.

In an interview during Grammy weekend, Rajamannar said he met with Timberlake in his hometown of Memphis during his first month on the job last September to discuss other ways their relationship could evolve. “We started talking about Priceless Surprises as our next concept or evolution -- it doesn’t have to be like tandem sky diving, but how the smaller things in life can be very surprising,” Rajmannar says. "It could start with a campaign of someone just using their MasterCard for a purchase, and every time you use it you could be surprised. Or a digital download from Justin Timberlake, personalized with your name on it. And maybe increasingly they keep going up in value the more you’re using your card for opportunities. The biggest one will be having an exclusive surprise with Justin himself. He’s someone who understands his fans so well, has his pulse on them, and still gets excited about coming up with new ways to reach them.”