Beats Bets On G-Eazy In Olympic Ads

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Courtesy Photo
Olympic snowboarder White in Beats’ latest “Above the Noise” campaign.

How the headphone maker picks the music it uses to sell its gear to sports fans -- even if athletes have to hide the Beats logos on the slopes.

The Winter Olympics kick off in Pyeongchang, South Korea, on Feb. 9, but there's already one winner: G-Eazy, whose song "The Beautiful & Damned" will be featured in Beats' new ad campaign for its headphones during the Games.

Beats' latest "Above the Noise" campaign commercial -- which shows elite athletes such as snowboarder Shaun White, skier Lindsey Vonn and the Nigerian bobsled team plugging in their headphones to get an edge -- is set to the title track from the Oakland, Calif., rapper's latest album. The song soundtracks five spots highlighting athletic themes such as failure, redemption and the rigors of training.

"If a song makes someone feel something, that's authentic -- you can't fake that," says Beats president/COO Luke Wood, noting that G-Eazy's track was chosen after he played the album for the Beats music team last October. At that meeting, G-Eazy stressed his own risk-taking persona, similar to that of athletes who speed down icy hills on skis at 80 mph.

Generally, Wood says the "Above the Noise" campaign looks for acts on the cusp of a breakthrough, picking 14-year-old Australian singer Ruel's debut single ("Don't Tell Me") for its 2017 holiday ad starring Serena Williams and Neymar Jr., or then-little-known X Ambassadors ("The Jungle") for the 2014 FIFA World Cup spot. Other ads have helped propel acts such as Hozier and Imagine Dragons. Beats also relies on its team's A&R experience to time campaigns to the moments it expects artists to break out: G-Eazy currently has two songs in the top 20 of the Billboard Hot 100.

The exposure for G-Eazy could be massive, with Beats buying ads in 30 global markets and deploying considerable digital assets to spread the clips. NBC hopes to repeat the average from the 2016 Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro of 27.5 million nightly viewers across platforms and a record 3.3 billion streaming minutes. NBC will also air primetime coverage live across all time zones for the first time during a Winter Games.

Wood doesn't yet know if the South Korean International Olympic Committee will force athletes to cover up the Beats logo, as some past IOCs have, since the company doesn't pay to be a sponsor. But White, at least, plans to don his headphones in Korea during practice anyway. "I love to have music playing at all times when I'm riding," he says.