It had been four years since Brantley Gilbert has last released an album, so the May 19 release of “Just As I Am” was not only cause for celebration among his fans but also one of a heavy marketing campaign by Gilbert’s label, The Valory Music Co. As part of the Big Machine Label Group, Scott Borchetta and his team pulled out all the stops for a week of events that helped the singer to land atop the Country Albums chart and No. 2 on the Billboard 200 – Gilbert’s highest rankings to date.
The week began with BMLG flying reps from approximately 30 radio stations into Atlanta, where they were transported to a welcome reception at Gilbert’s home – located outside of Athens. The singer met with each personality there and was presented with several label plaques by Borchetta – including a Platinum certification for “Halfway To Heaven”.
The next morning proved to be an early one for the broadcasters, as his Alma Mater of Jefferson High School turned into a radio studio – with each station doing their morning show live. Gilbert made his way by each station to talk about his new album, as well as some of his former coaches at Jefferson High. The events gave the media a chance to know Gilbert better – and according to Big Machine Label Group SVP, partnership marketing & promotion strategy John Zarling, that was the point.
“We love to launch records in a context that gives meaning to the project. With an album like “Just As I Am”, the music is raw and speaks to where he is in life and what he’s about. We wanted to show that and bring media and radio into the mix and allow them to feel what it’s like to be in Brantley’s world. We thought there was no better place than to do this than his hometown of Jefferson, Georgia.”
Brantley Gilbert at a Best Buy in Atlanta on May 21. (Photo: Courtesy of Big Machine Label Group)
Gilbert played his home area of Athens that evening – a sold out performance at the Georgia Theater – and then it was off to the races for a week of promotional activities for “Just As I Am”. That included a motorcycle ride dubbed “From Athens To Arlington”, which began at the Harley Davidson in Athens. (The motorcycle manufacturer was instrumental in the ride – also hosting Gilbert at stops in Augusta and Greensboro, NC.) The tour, which ended with a stop at Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day, included album signings at Best Buy and Walmart, as well as a pre-race performance at the NASCAR Coca-Cola 600 in Charlotte on May 25. (Gilbert also flew to a concert date in Iowa and an early morning appearance at the Indy 500 before heading back east.)
How did Big Machine map out the week? Zarling told Billboard that it was fairly simple. “We just took a map and routed it between the two cities. It was pretty obvious where to stop. We wanted to stop in all of the major markets that we could. We threw in a small market stop in Gaffney, South Carolina, to give some context to the market size. We had a SiriusXM integrating from that stop. We did a broadcast at a little cafe there. We wanted to stop in all the places that Brantley has a big fan base and hit some of his strongest sales markets.”
NASCAR driver Kyle Larson (left) with Brantley Gilbert at the Coca-Cola 600 in Charlotte on May 24. (Photo: Courtesy of Big Machine Label Group)
Along with the album release, representatives from Folds of Honor were along for the ride. The organization – which gives assistance to the families of fallen veterans – is one that Gilbert is very passionate, says Zarling. “The whole idea behind the ride was to recognize a cause that is near and dear to Brantley’s heart by extending that “Just As I Am” thought process throughout the week – he’s been very vocal in his support for military causes by doing a USO tour, being involved with the Iraq/Afghanistan Veterans Association, and now Folds of Honor, it seemed the perfect fit for Memorial Day weekend. We thought it would be a complete miss not to bring those two passions together – the music and the love for the military that Brantley has.”
The crowds were quite impressive at each stop. His Harley Davidson appearance in Augusta, GA, was attended by well over 1,600 people. He also made quite the impression on retailers Walmart and Best Buy. Steve Calloway, GM of Best Buy in Charlotte, said that the grass roots approach employed by Big Machine definitely brought the public out: “I think it’s pretty awesome to have an opportunity for the fans to get up close and personal to the artists. Obviously, it gives Best Buy a lot of exposure. People who may or may not have come in tonight came to see him perform.”
Brantley Gilbert on Memorial Day (May 26) at Arlington National Cemetery just outside of Washington, DC. Joined by Folds of Honor scholarship recipient Sarah White. Brantley had the special honor of laying a wreath on the sacred Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.(Photo: Courtesy of Big Machine Label Group)
Gilbert told Billboard that he was blown away by the crowd response. “The fans have been amazing. I think it’s awesome that people still go out and buy CDs. We waited four and a half years to put this one out, so that might have helped a little bit,” he said with a smile. As it turns out, it was a great week for Gilbert – finishing the week with 211,000 albums sold, according to .