Tickets to Clear Channel’s third annual IHeartRadio Music Festival this weekend aren’t the only part of the two-day spectacle that are sold out — sponsor activity is at an all-time high, too. More than 14 blue-chip brands are prepping major on-site sponsorships and activations, in addition to an A-plus roster of performers that includes Justin Timberlake, Katy Perry, Miley Cyrus, Elton John, Paul McCartney, Drake, J. Cole, Robin Thicke, Bruno Mars and many more. A full run-of-show was posted to IHeartRadio’s site Thursday afternoon.
In July, Billboard announced initial sponsors Macy’s, AT&T’s “It Can Wait” campaign, Pepsi, Unilever’s Axe Chill and Fruttare Ice Cream Bars, Diageo’s Smirnoff vodka, State Farm Insurance, MGM Grand, 20th Century Fox and Matador Snacks. In the weeks since, Clear Channel has confirmed The CW Network, Bud Light Platinum, Elizabeth Arden and MasterCard as additional partners. A whopping three of those — 20th Century Fox, MasterCard and Bud Light Platinum — all came on-board as a direct result of Justin Timberlake, who headlines Saturday’s performance.
Hosted at Las Vegas’ MGM Grand Arena, IHeartRadio will introduce its first daytime Fan Village, which includes its own music lineup (Cyrus, Avril Lavigne and Jason Derulo are among the performers) and extensive space for sponsors. Tickets for the Arena have been sold out since July, with 20,000 attendees per night, and the 10-acre Village expected to host about 15,000 people. Greg Glenday, president of Clear Channel Connections, the company’s sponsorship and marketing arm, tells Billboard in an exclusive Q&A about all the ways brands will be incorporated into this weekend’s event. From how Timberlake became the festival’s unofficial sales exec, to the big-name marketing execs expected to be making their way to the MGM Grand.
Billboard: A lot of IHeartRadio’s sponsorships this year are tied to artist relationships, particularly with Justin Timberlake. How were you able to triangulate those deals early enough in the process?
Greg Glenday: Because of our relationship with the labels and the artists we’re able to connect the dots a little bit earlier than other media vendors. We just finished, in fact, another deal with a major artist because we were aware of her association with a vendor –- it’s amazing what can come together when everybody’s already under the same tent. The same thing happened here with MasterCard before they even had their deal signed. They had an NDA signed with Justin and said, “Hey, we’re thinking of doing this with our artist,” and we said, “Well, we’re thinking they might be at our festival.” It was a bunch of “hint-hint” until we got to the point of, “Let’s open everything up and have a really creative dialogue together.”
So what are some components of MasterCard’s sponsorship?
I just played [Mastercard’s] charity golf event yesterday. The idea we understood is what their Priceless experience meant to their brand, and what they were trying to do with Priceless Cities — it’s not just where but how they want to relate to their cardholders. So yes, it was great. He was one of their spokespeople, we have this money-can’t-buy experience; there were just a ton of ways for us to activate that. Whether it’s the Priceless Lounge in the Village, or their tent, which I just saw rendering of — it’s a great place to cool off and get some refreshments as one Priceless experience. There will also be a speed pass line for people to get through into the main part of the festival at night. If you have a MasterCard you can cut the line. And then somebody in that line is gonna get their seat upgraded to basically the front row. It’s about adding cardholder value to them and us understanding them as opposed to just slapping a logo on it. We really took the whole Priceless experience to everything. We’ll also have branded seatbacks on the floor, where we’ll have some celebrities and other photogenic people to bring attention to those seats. Our content team really treated this like part of our team — like a partner.
In addition to 20th Century Fox, which hosted the premiere of his movie “Runner Runner” on Wednesday, Justin’s also involved with Bud Light Platinum. What can we expect from their involvement?
Probably my favorite thing of the whole time is the Bud Light Platinum lounge — Justin’s the creative director at Bud Light Platinum, so he had creative input into this. We’ve done this lounge the last two years and it’s always been a different theme. The first year it was red for Budweiser, last year it was blue for Bud Light. This year their brief was all around nightlife and nightlife occasions and getting dressed up — everything that’s Justin. Rather than us saying, “Let’s slap Budweiser into the VIP party,” let’s have a holistic conversation and say “You know what, we’ve got this relationship with Justin, you have this lounge. Let’s have him involved.” Obviously he’s a busy guy, and I don’t know how much time he actually spent with this, but I think it’s great that he was involved in the design of it. It feels more personal.
This is the first year you’ll have a Fan Village. How did that create more opportunities for your brand partners?
I just this morning saw a cheat sheet of a menu of what’s happening there. Sometimes with these things, other companies have areas where they stick the sponsors. We sold a whole lot of tickets to this as a free-standing event that’s gonna be pretty neat. The tents we’ve built out — Pepsi for example, we’ve got some really neat social experiences. We’ve got this car from the future that will be part of the village, we installed IHeartRadio in it already and, in a conversation with Pepsi, they said, “Why don’t we add a refrigerator to this thing?” Literally it looks like a rocket ship and it’s got a drink holder. We feel like this is gonna be a social home run. Pepsi will also be hosting a Live for Now bus and places to enter contests.
Monster products will host a headphones listening lounge. State Farm will have their Better State crew again. They wanted to do a better job this year of advertising. So their team of Better State people will help people get around, drive them in transportation from the airport to hotels to the Village. AT&T has the It Can Wait tent — the don’t-text-and-drive pledge. Fruttare will be giving out fruit bars and personal misters to cool off in the desert heat.
Smirnoff has an ongoing relationship for Masters of the Mix. They’ll have DJs spinning and contests located right at the entrance. We’re also gonna do a silent disco with some professional DJs — both ours and ones Smirnoff has had through the Masters of the Mix contest.
How big is the space?
The whole lot is 15 acres — I think they cut it down to 10 for what we’re actually using. It’s definitely not going to feel like a parking lot. We also have a small sponsor in Matador Beef Jerky. They bought a sponsorship last year. They wanted a bullfighting ring — once we booked this village we said, “Absolutely, this is the kind of thing we want.” So they’ll have a mechanical bull, which is kind of their trademark.
Any branded stages?
There will be two branded stages — one for Pepsi, and one for The CW, which is a sponsor in addition to our broadcast partner. They’ll have the casts from some of their shows like “Vampire Diaries” and “Arrow” on-site.
Britney Spears, who’s presenting, has an Elizabeth Arden fragrance so they’ll be in the village. That’s a level of sponsor we wouldn’t have been able to find room for if we didn’t have an outdoor space. And because Fruttare is a Unilever brand, we were able to bring in Axe for their Black Chill new product. We’ve been able to find more room for the bigger sponsors, as well as create Village-only opportunities.
Are all of IHeartRadio’s sponsors also spending with your stations on-air?
Everybody except Axe, Elizabeth Arden and Monster has some sort of digital or on-air component. And frankly that’s where the bulk of the revenue goes. We learned that the first year, to get an understanding of what they do. There just isn’t a lot of revenue that goes just to the on-site. It doesn’t matter how great the 20,000 people are, there’s only so much somebody would spend on it. But when you tie it all together and have intellectual property rights … Pepsi was giving away trips during the VMAs — in Pepsi’s commercial they had our logo and were giving away a chance to win a trip to the IHeartRadio Music Festival. Us allowing Pepsi to do that was of value to them.
Festivals know they’ve truly arrived as marketing vehicles when their sponsors’ suite execs actually attend. Any sense of how senior of executives your sponsors will have in attendance?
The CEO of Anheuser-Busch is expected to be there, and some folks from Bud Light Platinum. Macy’s, their CMO Martine Reardon will be there for the first time. MasterCard will have Ben Jankowski, their global head of media, though probably not their brand-new CMO. Unilever will have their senior director of media, Gail Tifford. Pepsi will likely have Brad Jakeman, president of their global beverage group, or Chad Stubbs, their North American media director. Overall, we’re expecting to entertain about 200 clients, many of whom will just be there even not as sponsors.