These are the 57 executives driving the $2.1 billion business of partnering marketers with superstars — led by Citi’s Jennifer Breithaupt, whose latest moves include tapping Katy Perry (and Nugget, her poodle).
EXECUTIVE OF THE YEAR
Jennifer Breithaupt | Global consumer chief marketing officer, Citi
When Guns N’ Roses guitarist Slash headlined a benefit for the Greater Los Angeles Zoo Association in May, many fans experienced the show without being there, thanks to virtual reality.
“It’s a big area of focus for the next-generation [of] fan experience,” says Citi’s Jennifer Breithaupt, architect of the “Backstage With Citi” concert series, a partnership with Live Nation and NextVR, a leader in broadcasting live events in virtual reality.
An innovator in creating music happenings to drive customer loyalty, Breithaupt is Billboard‘s branding executive of the year, having led Citi to its most successful year in music branding since the launch of the Citi Private Pass program more than a decade ago. On her watch, ticket revenue rose 34 percent and total tickets sold increased 20 percent in 2016 over the previous year.
Beyond the Slash VR experience, her deals drove exclusive ticketing and cardmember experiences for more than half of the past year’s top 100 tours, including Guns N’ Roses, Coldplay, Luke Bryan, Dave Matthews and Selena Gomez. She also continued Citi’s title sponsorship of NBC’s Today Concert Series, with more than 30 performances.
“Jennifer has been widely recognized as a leader in her field,” says Citi Global Cards CEO Jud Linville, who announced Breithaupt’s promotion in April to global consumer chief marketing officer for Citi.
One of Breithaupt’s most notable moves this year was tapping Katy Perry and her poodle Nugget for Citi’s first global TV spot, for the company’s Double Cash campaign. In February, she also launched Citi Sound Vault, a live-music program curated exclusively for cardholders that debuted during Grammy Week with performances by Beck, The Chainsmokers, Metallica and Sting.
Breithaupt aims to drive Citi’s music marketing to greater heights. “2016 was the most successful year we have had from an entertainment standpoint,” she says, “and 2017 is on track to beat last year.” (William Chipps)
Mike Belcher, 49 | VP marketing and brand partnerships, T-Mobile
Securing the naming rights in 2016 to Las Vegas’ hottest new arena and sponsoring Justin Bieber‘s Super Bowl LI ad, as well as his U.S. summer stadium tour, are helping T-Mobile build brand awareness — and its customer base. Belcher says the telecom company has added more than 1 million customers in each of 16 consecutive fiscal quarters, including 8 million new customers last year alone. “We look for talent that, like our brand, is bold and disruptive,” he says. “Artists want to partner with us; they’re coming to us with ideas.”
Joe Belliotti, 43 | Head of global entertainment, Coca-Cola
Coca-Cola, through multiple music-branding moves, kicked off 2016 with its first new tagline in seven years, “Taste the Feeling,” powered by an original song by Avicii and Conrad Sewell that collected 48 million Spotify streams. Coke products have been covered with lyrics from 75 songs by artists including Selena Gomez (who drew 4.4 million likes for an Instagram shot of her lyric-wrapped bottle). And Belliotti also launched the livestreaming platform Coke Music TV, on Facebook Live, which has amassed 3.5 million viewers for more than 50 original broadcasts. “Music,” he says, “could actually outpace sports spending for brands in the future.”
Brad Bentley, 41 | Executive vp marketing, AT&T Entertainment Group
Bentley led AT&T’s multiyear deal with Taylor Swift, giving the company access to exclusive video, including February’s AT&T-sponsored, pre-Super Bowl program featuring Swift, The Chainsmokers and Sam Hunt. The show followed the November launch of the premium-content-driven DirecTV Now app, which drew 200,000 subscribers in its first 30 days. (A pending merger with Time Warner would bring more customers under the AT&T umbrella.) “We want to deliver experiences consumers can’t get anywhere else,” says Bentley. “Music is a great way to do that.”
Erin Chin, 39 | Group brand director, Proximo Spirits
Nielsen measured a 9 percent spike in overall growth for 1800 Tequila in 2016 after Chin infused the two-century-old brand with hip-hop culture. The “Back to the Block” series (through partnership with Billboard) showcased Travis Scott, Wale, G-Eazy and Mike Will Made-It returning to their hometowns, while visual artists like Enoch Perez created limited-edition bottles. Chin also helped plug Octave Minds’ “Tap Dance” (featuring Chance the Rapper) into the brand’s “Just Refined Enough” campaign.
Deborah Curtis | VP global experiential marketing and partnerships, American Express
Amex cardholders, through deals struck by Curtis, got presale offers this year to tours by Kendrick Lamar, The xx and J. Cole, following 2016 exclusives for Beyoncé, Justin Bieber, Drake, Kanye West and Rihanna. Curtis this year also expanded Amex’s Coachella activation with customer experiences delivered through the Coachella app (including the pop-up American Express Platinum House at the Parker Hotel in Palm Springs, Calif.). Says Curtis: “We surrounded the festival and made it an extraordinary experience that we’re extremely proud of.”
Raissa Gerona, 34 | Chief brand officer, Revolve
Michael Mente, 36 | Co-founder/CEO, Revolve
The online fashion retailer Revolve (in a partnership with Billboard) staged its second #REVOLVEfestival April 14-16 in Palm Springs, Calif. “Music, like fashion, connects people, and we are continuously trying to make deeper connections with our customers and fans,” says Gerona. The festival’s Epic Records-curated lineup included Migos, Rick Ross, 21 Savage, A$AP Ferg, Lil Jon and Slim Jxmmi of Rae Sremmurd. “Not to mention,” adds Mente, “Drake hosted a secret private party to close out the weekend, complete with a five-hour DJ set.” For Revolve, says Mente, “the week that followed was our most successful sales week to date, ever.”
Adam Harter, 45 | VP marketing, cultural connections, PepsiCo North American beverages
Harter scored a marketing triple play in the past year with the Sound Drop emerging-artist program, the return of the Pepsi Zero Sugar Super Bowl Halftime Show and the use of music from John Legend, among others, for the launch of Pepsi’s LIFEWTR brand. “Sound Drop has had as much as a 160 percent positive impact on artist sales,” says Harter of the campaign, which has boosted Lukas Graham, Alessia Cara, Tinashe, Jidenna and Bebe Rexha.
Marcel Marcondes, 41 | U.S. chief marketing officer, Anheuser-Busch
Bud Light’s sponsorship of Lady Gaga’s Dive Bar Tour included three events streamed through Facebook Live. “The key element we take into consideration is authenticity,” says Marcondes. “Lady Gaga is a great example, because she wanted a project to go back to where everything started, playing in bars.” Marcondes (who inherited the Gaga campaign in his new role) oversaw Budweiser’s “Born the Hard Way” Super Bowl spot, which has gotten more than 28 million YouTube views.
Raja Rajamannar, 55 | Chief marketing and communications officer, MasterCard
Rajamannar led MasterCard’s largest push into music in 2016 in more than 20 countries. That included 40-plus concerts produced exclusively for cardholders, activations at more than 200 events including the Grammy Awards, “priceless” opportunities (artist meet-and-greets, red carpet access) and partnerships with Robbie Williams and Juanes. “The biggest challenge is not just making consumers feel good, but making consumers act,” says Rajamannar, who reports that MasterCard has seen increased frequency of use and spending by its cardholders.
Jeremy Tucker, 41 | VP marketing communications and media, Nissan North America
After a movie tie-in last year with Rogue One: A Star Wars Story to market its Nissan Rogue, Tucker turned from the galaxy to a country superstar. He struck a deal for the Nissan Titan full-sized pickup truck to sponsor Blake Shelton’s current Doing It to Country Music Tour. “We have a great relationship with Blake, which started through our sponsorship of The Voice,” says Tucker. “Country music resonates with our Nissan Titan fans in an unbelievable way.”
?Marcie Allen, 43 | President, Mac Presents
When H&M debuted its biggest ad spend of 2016 for its collaboration with Paris fashion house Kenzo, Chance the Rapper was the face of the global campaign — thanks to the brand-partnership savvy of Allen and MAC Presents (and partners at C Lewis Group). Whether pairing The Rolling Stones with Citi in 2013, Imagine Dragons with Southwest Airlines in 2015 or Khalid with Forever 21 this summer, Allen assures all “are getting the best end of the deal.” But her proudest recent accomplishment? Allen received a distinguished alumna of the year honor in March for her career and philanthropy from her alma mater, Harpeth Hall, the independent, women’s college preparatory school in Nashville.
Bruce Flohr, 50 | Founding partner, Greenlight/Live Nation Studios; chief strategy officer/executive vp creative, Red Light Management
Dominic Sandifer, 47 | President/founding partner, Greenlight/Live Nation Studios
Flohr and Sandifer and their partner, Red Light Management founder Coran Capshaw, sold a majority stake in Greenlight to Live Nation in May 2016, allowing them to tap the clout of the concert giant’s sponsorship division. Their work with Logitech’s UE Boom wireless Bluetooth speakers since 2012 helped put UE among the top three brands in global market share. And citing Greenlight’s mission to “create culture instead of one-off marketing campaigns,” Sandifer points to the firm’s work with Spotify on the series Music Happens Here that bowed on the streaming service in February as part of a 360 initiative with Live Nation partner Hilton. In the works: a humorous, nonmusical campaign titled Safeties First to highlight eight-year client Hyundai’s partnership with the NFL.
Adam Owett | President, Arcade Creative Group/Sony Music Entertainment
At Arcade, an advertising agency within Sony Music Entertainment, Owett professes two passions: “music and delivering meaningful campaigns for brands.” Among the events that he staged worldwide in 2016 for the launch of Ford’s Platinum Edition Explorer, SUVs rolled into New York’s Grand Central Terminal with Foreigner blasting from their premium Sony sound systems. Says Owett: “The music industry may, in many respects, have deeper data and more compelling insights at its disposal than many brands do.”
Elena Sotomayor, 45 | Executive vp marketing, Henry/CMN
Sotomayor has connected brands with Hispanic consumers for more than 20 years. At Henry, the new branding arm of Henry Cardenas’ concert and event promoter CMN, she’s moving beyond traditional music and sports sponsorships to more extensive deals. Recent campaigns include a three-year agreement with Bank of America to increase engagement with Hispanics in communities on Marc Anthony’s tour. “The road to success must go through the music fan,” says Sotomayor, whose team brought in $5 million to CMN in 2016.
Allison Statter, 37 | Co-founder/co-CEO, Blended Strategy Group
As her company marks its second anniversary on July 1, Statter cites partnerships she has created for Revlon (with Ciara and Gwen Stefani), DirecTV (with Jon Bon Jovi), Muller Yogurt (Nicole Scherzinger) and American Family Insurance (Jennifer Hudson). “My biggest professional accomplishment,” she says, “was growing BSG to be a reputable business for both brands and talent.”
Brittany Balbo, 37 | Agent, United Talent Agency
Jeremy Zimmer, 59 | CEO, United Talent Agency
Working with Balbo, UTA’s branding superstar DJ Khaled has collected some 17 million social media followers to the benefit of branding partners like Apple, T-Mobile and Ford. “The days of traditional sponsorship and advertising are gone,” says Balbo. Every division of UTA has experienced growth year-to-date, says Zimmer, but the agency’s CEO is most proud of a nonfiscal move. In February, UTA canceled its pre-Oscars party in favor of a rally supporting free speech and donated $250,000 to the ACLU. “We’re in a time that demands our generosity and awareness,” says Zimmer.
Brandon Frankel, 32? | Senior vp brand partnerships and creators initiative, Paradigm Talent Agency
Frankel has racked up frequent-flyer miles in pursuit of branding opportunities for his clients, traveling to Mumbai with Major Lazer for the opening ceremonies of the Indian Premier League cricket finals and to a mall in Moscow with Yung Lean for a Calvin Klein campaign. Paradigm’s creators initiative is reaching out for brand opportunities to “nontraditional talent,” he says, from gamers to YouTube stars. “We’re pairing creative people with the things they love.”
Kevin Gelbard, 48 | Music brand partnerships agent, Creative Artists Agency
During the past year, Gelbard’s team closed more than 220 deals for CAA’s clients, a 10 percent increase over the year before. His work included partnering Carrie Underwood and Carnival Cruise Line to benefit Operation Homefront’s charitable initiatives for veterans and securing OneRepublic’s headlining slot on the Honda Civic Tour — the agency’s sixth act on the tour in seven years. The key to successful artist-and-brand partnerships, says Gelbard, is “finding the right messaging that works for everybody.”
Carol Goll, 43 | Partner/head of global branded entertainment, ICM Partners
To find the right partners for ICM artists, Goll dives deep, talking with them about their brand preferences, personal allegiances and philanthropic connections. The effort has yielded a multiyear deal for Cyndi Lauper and Novartis Pharmaceuticals highlighting her psoriasis struggle and a 2016 deal with Xbox for video-game fan Fetty Wap. For clients, it is all about “leveraging commercials, endorsements and brand affiliations to help build careers.”
Todd Jacobs, 37 and Shari Lewin, 31 | Partners/endorsements agents, William Morris Endeavor
The value of brand deals offered to WME artists totaled more than $180 million in 2016, up 39 percent over 2015, says Jacobs. “It’s our strongest year,” he adds, citing Selena Gomez’s partnerships with Coca-Cola and Verizon, The Weeknd’s with H&M and Alicia Keys’ with Levi’s. Focusing on country music, Lewin paired Brad Paisley with Nationwide Insurance, Jason Aldean with Field & Stream, Garth Brooks with AT&T and Blake Shelton with Nissan as a tour sponsor.
Jules Ferree, 34 | Head of brand partnerships, SB Projects
After connecting T-Mobile with Justin Bieber for a branded finale at the 2015 American Music Awards, Ferree and SB Projects had the mobile-phone company on speed dial for their clients. They connected again with T-Mobile for a commercial last fall featuring Ariana Grande’s then-future No. 1 hit “Side by Side” as well as Bieber’s spot for Super Bowl LI and as sponsor of his U.S. stadium tour. T-Mobile, says Ferree, “loves to push the boundaries just like we do.”
Matt Ringel, 47 | Executive vice president, Red Light Management; managing partner, New Era Media and Marketing
Ringel had a feeling that Luke Bryan would welcome a brand tie-in with the Chevrolet Silverado: The country star featured the pickup truck onstage in concert and on his YouTube channel before any branding deal existed. The partnership that Ringel subsequently struck with Bryan was one of 135 deals for Red Light/New Era in the past year. “It all starts with a creative idea,” he says. “We helped build a partnership between Luke Bryan and Chevrolet, a brand that has been in his family for generations.”
Tim Castelli, 49 | President of national sales, marketing and partnerships, iHeartMedia
For the market-leading broadcaster and digital media company, iHeartMedia’s Castelli has directed brand tie-ins with Macy’s Rising Star talent search and brought top acts (Pitbull, Ed Sheeran) to the Honda Stage. Castelli reports revenue growth in every quarter back to 2013, crediting campaigns that respect the needs of brands and artists. “There has to be input and mutual respect on all sides of the partnership,” he says.
Andy Cohn, 43 | President and Publisher, The Fader
The Fader‘s web traffic rose by 165 percent last year, says Cohn, thanks to “highly curated quality journalism and meaningful content experiences.” Such as? An award-winning Mykki Blanco video, an original co-branded YouTube series and a Webby Award-nominated short doc with Grimes. No wonder, then, that Drake chose the Fader Fort, a perennial music-branding stronghold at South by Southwest, for a surprise show in March 2016, staged to announce his album Views, which debuted a month later atop the Billboard 200.
Maureen Ford, 53 | President of national and festival sales, Live Nation
Russell Wallach, 51 | President of media and sponsorship, Live Nation Entertainment
Wallach moved Jägermeister, a brand linked with metal and mosh pits, into EDM festivals, including New York’s Electric Daisy Carnival, through Haus 56, a branded treehouse-like experience that created “thousands of sharable moments,” he says. “It’s how brands want their stories told.” Ford’s team works with 900 brands including an elite — and growing — tier that spends over $1 million annually. She has launched new virtual reality partnerships with Twitter, Hulu and NextVR. “We have to continue to innovate,” she says, “to meet fans wherever they consume music.”
Stew Heathcote, 46 and Andrew Klein, 47 | Senior vps global partnerships, AEG
Heathcote’s AEG division increased sales 15 percent in 2016 thanks to deals like the naming rights for the Microsoft Theater at LA Live. With American Express, says Heathcote, “a large, multilayered international deal” included a Coachella app with cardholder rewards. Klein went high-tech to help AEG’s Panorama Festival stand out in the crowded New York market. He partnered with HP to create The Lab, “an interactive playground” for festivalgoers. “We even had a subway on a LED board where you could spray-paint” digital graffiti,” he says. “It was so successful, we took it to Coachella and made it bigger.”
Damon Whiteside, 43 | Chief marketing officer, Country Music Association
Thirty top acts collaborated on “Forever Country,” the all-star medley celebrating the CMA’s 50th anniversary, which bowed at No. 1 on Billboard‘s Hot Country Songs chart last September. The song not only raised awareness of the CMA’s milestone ahead of its awards show on Nov. 2 but also raised money for music education. “It was one of the biggest accomplishments of my entire career,” says Whiteside.
Brett Yormark, 50 | CEO, Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment
Barclays Center has celebrated its Brooklyn roots with events like a tribute to hometown hero The Notorious B.I.G. at a recent Nets home game. But under Yormark, the Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment brand has expanded to Long Island with NYCB LIVE, the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum presented by New York Community Bank, and to Manhattan through a deal with AEG Presents to buy the Webster Hall nightclub. On Yormark’s wish list: “Taylor Swift. We’ve had nearly every major artist but her perform at Barclays.”
Seth Farbman, 48 | Chief marketing officer, Spotify
As brands like Starbucks, Gatorade and Coca-Cola reach out to Spotify’s 100 million users (and 50 million paid subscribers), Farbman notes that the streaming giant’s campaigns, featuring the likes of Katy Perry and Migos, also have tapped distinctly nondigital media, from billboards to transit ads. “Even though we’re a born-on-the-internet, digital company,” says Farbman, “we find that out-of-home media reinforces what Spotify does by creating a sense of community through a shared love of music.”
?Ryan Redington, 36 | Director, Amazon Music
As competition for streaming exclusives intensified in the past year, Amazon Music scored a coup: Country megastar Garth Brooks signed an estimated eight-figure deal to stream his full catalog exclusively with the Seattle-based company. The partnership dovetailed with the launch of Amazon Music’s Prime Unlimited. The deal includes a TV campaign starring Brooks and was months in the making. “Any time we have an opportunity to do a deal with the No. 1-selling solo artist of all time,” says Redington, “you want to spend a lot of time getting that right.”
?Bozoma Saint John, 40 | Former head of global consumer marketing, iTunes/Apple Music
Before Saint John departed this month for Uber, she drove marketing campaigns starring Drake and Taylor Swift, plus high-profile streaming exclusives with DJ Khaled, Chance the Rapper and Frank Ocean, that boosted Apple Music to 20 million subscribers during the last year. But the forward-looking Saint John had also transitioned into various “music-adjacent video projects” with content from Harry Styles, Sean “Diddy” Combs and Clive Davis. “There’s a bigger music story than just singles and albums,” says Saint John.
John Trimble, 53 | Chief revenue officer, Pandora
As Pandora joined the fray of on-demand music streaming services, Trimble’s focus remained on the company’s bread and butter: ad-supported internet radio. He oversaw the launch of three new initiatives to give Pandora’s advertising partners more tools to engage with its 81 million monthly active users, growing ad revenue 15 percent in Pandora’s 2016 fiscal year and surpassing $1 billion in ad revenue for the first time. “The key in the digital space is innovation,” says Trimble, “and the opportunities are endless.”
Ron Broitman, 48 | Executive vice president/
head of synchronization, Warner/Chappell Music, WMG Masters
Broitman reports that his team is delivering record-setting results for synch placement. Warner Music Group’s filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission back his claim, showing that publishing synch revenue grew to $58 million in the first six months of the company’s fiscal year that ended March 31 — a 5.6 percent increase over the same period a year earlier. (Master synch revenue for the recorded-music operation, which Broitman also oversees, is not broken out.) “Our role,” he says, “is to value the use of music properly.”
Tom Eaton, 47 | Senior vp music for advertising, Universal Music Publishing Group
Moments after the all-star tribute to Prince aired during the Grammy Awards on Feb. 12, the artist’s song “Nothing Compares 2 U” appeared in a commercial for the Google Pixel phone. “We had just obtained the right for Prince’s publishing catalog,” says Eaton. The spot featured a montage of artists and fans singing the song and, although Universal has not released specific figures for the placement, Eaton calls it an “artistic and financial success.”
Brian Monaco, 45 | President/global chief marketing officer, Sony/ATV Music Publishing
Sony/ATV scored no fewer than 10 songs in ads for Super Bowl LI, including three placements for halftime-show performer Lady Gaga (for Pepsi, Tiffany & Co. and the National Geographic channel’s Genius trailer) and the use of The Temptations’ “My Girl” in an Amazon Echo spot. “The synchs showed the diversity of our catalog,” says Monaco. He acknowledges the challenge of balancing the goals of all involved when a song appears in an ad, ensuring that “everyone wins — the publisher, the label, the artist and the brand.”
Andrew Kahn, 35 | Founder/music supervisor, Good Ear Music Supervision
As a former Apple music supervisor at TBWA Media Arts Lab, Kahn helped scout many of the most iconic songs of the iPhone/iPad/iPod era under Steve Jobs. Independent since 2011, his three-person synch shop scored a record $6.3 million in revenue from clients including Google Pixel, Michelin, Honda, General Mills and more freelance work with Apple. “We’ve had a great year — over 60 synchs with 30 brands,” says Kahn. “But I’m especially happy about working with [the music of] artists we’re truly fans of: Beyoncé, Kendrick Lamar, Nina Simone, Chance the Rapper and lots more.”
Josh Rabinowitz, 52 | Executive vice president/director of music, TownHouse
For more than a decade, Rabinowitz has helped brands like Pantene, Gillette, Volvo and the NFL produce memorable music-laden commercials, including the 2016 Cannes Lions gold winner “Super Bowl Babies” (a reworked take on Seal’s “Kiss From a Rose” for the NFL). But last summer he took on a broader role as head of music for TownHouse, a cross-agency production unit of ad agency WPP, which spends a record $19.4 billion on advertising worldwide. TownHouse booked more than 500 music jobs in 2016 alone. “We’re most proud of doing really good work at a high level,” says Rabinowitz, “and paying music fees to real musicians.”
?Claudia Butzky | Senior vp global brand partnerships, RCA Records
Butzky has spent the past year seeking brand partnerships for newer acts and product placements in music videos (at $5,000 to $500,000 per deal). But “my biggest challenge has been educating partners” on how to boost both brand awareness and artist profiles, she says. Recent alliances have included Khalid with Forever 21 and Pentatonix with Lego. Butzky notes the clout of RCA’s roster in calling on major brands. “If I say, ‘I have new music from Justin Timberlake, Foo Fighters, Pink, Kesha and Miley Cyrus,’ I’m getting a call back.”
Lori Feldman | Executive vp brand partnerships and creative synch licensing, Warner Bros. Records
Liz Lewis, 39 | VP creative synch licensing for advertising and gaming, Warner Bros. Records
Andra Day’s hit “Rise Up” has sold 588,000 downloads (according to Nielsen Music) but was never a big single on radio. Feldman placed the soulful track in spots ranging from a Beats by Dre ad with Selena Williams before the U.S. Open to an AT&T salute to military veterans.
Says Feldman: “This was a tremendous team effort around a powerful song.” Lewis nurtured another young artist, Spencer Ludwig, and landed his song “Diggy” in Target’s fall fashion campaign. “My passion is helping break new artists,” says Lewis, “and getting that synch for Spencer really helped to jumpstart his debut album.”
Jennifer Frommer | Senior vp creative content, Columbia Records
Bringing experience from a brand partnership role at Condé Nast, Frommer came to Columbia Records last year. She has since been involved in John Legend’s Super Bowl spot for Pepsi’s LIFEWTR brand and also helped place Rag’n’Bone Man’s breakout hit, “Human,” with some 20 separate synchs. Brands are looking beyond superstars, she notes. “They’re much more apt to take a chance with a developing artist and to work on things that come from a creative place.”
Que Gaskins, 51 | Executive vp strategic marketing and brand partnerships, Def Jam Recordings
Gaskins, who came to Def Jam in August 2016 from his own branding agency, has every partnership angle covered: app development, brand collaborations, artist endorsements, product placements and events like the Def Jam Halloween Party hosted by Desiigner and Teyana Taylor. Events alone, he reports, “have generated over $1.2 million in brand sponsorships, garnered over 100 million media impressions and over 100 million eyeballs via social media engagement.”
Camille Hackney, 46 | Executive vp brand partnerships and commercial licensing, Atlantic Records; head of the global brand partnerships council, Warner Music Group
Brad Rains, 40 | Senior vp brand partnerships and commercial licensing, Atlantic Records
“I get a lot of satisfaction helping artists, particularly early in their careers, to bring their music to the masses,” says Hackney, who has a reputation as a must-meet executive for new Atlantic signings. She recently linked rising label stars Lizzo and Kehlani with brands like Condé Nast, Walgreen’s, Google Play, Make Up for Ever, Samsung and Budweiser. Rains, who placed Saint Motel’s “Move” in an Uber campaign, echoes that strategy: “It’s always amazing to pull in something for Bruno Mars or Ed Sheeran,” he says, “but what has always excited me is getting younger bands their bigger looks.”
Gustavo Lopez, 46 | GM/executive vp, Universal Music Latin Entertainment
The L Festival is a Latin music event, held for the second time in March in Pico Rivera, Calif., with stars Marco Antonio Solís, Juanes, Daddy Yankee and Luis Fonsi. But unlike other festivals it’s not the creation of a promoter but a label, Universal Music Latin Entertainment, as part of Lopez’s work transforming UMLE with new ventures and branding deals. Citing partnerships like Juanes with MasterCard and J Balvin with Pepsi, Lopez says that the festival “allows us to create the relationships.”
Naomi McMahon, 34 | Senior vp strategic marketing and brand partnerships, Universal Music Group USA
?Mike Tunnicliffe, 56 | Executive vp business development and partnerships, Universal Music Group USA
Tunnicliffe came from Saatchi & Saatchi to launch UMG’s in-house branding agency in 2015 and has attracted blue-chip companies like Honda, M&M’s, Kellogg’s, American Airlines and Marriott. In the past year, his 25-person team (and their label counterparts) created 21 brand partnerships featuring 94 UMG acts, including Shawn Mendes. For Mendes’ tour for his album Handwritten, McMahon’s team linked the singer with the launch of Paper Mate Inkjoy Gel Pens. “It was a natural partnership and fit,” she says. The key, adds Tunnicliffe, is “creating authentic programs that really connect with fans.”
?Nick Pacelli, 36 | Senior vp strategic marketing and partnerships, Republic Records
Before joining Republic in 2015, Pacelli helped launch the Made in America Festival, wedding Jay Z-curated lineups to Budweiser in a union that has endured since 2012. Now, he’s creating partnerships for The Weeknd and Ariana Grande. “Specifically, I help artists understand the media value behind a brand,” says Pacelli. He guided the creation of the 2017 Coachella Hyde Away — a two-day showcase for such Republic up-and-comers as Post Malone and Hailee Steinfeld — with record attendance by brand partners.
Daniel Sena | Head of strategic marketing, Interscope Records
Sena was Interscope’s point person for Lady Gaga’s partnership with Bud Light for her Dive Bar Tour, preceding the release of her album Joanne, and Rae Sremmurd’s ambassadorship for Puma. But his most attention-grabbing move was the June launch of Interscope’s own Electric Sky Wine brand, in single-serve plastic bottles sold at music festivals and select retailers. “It dawned on me,” says Sena, “to invest in our own proprietary brands [to create revenue to] reinvest back in music.”
Eric Wong, 41 | Executive vp/gm, Island Records
As the top executive at Island Records, Wong has broad responsibilities. But key among them is to “help close” partnership deals, he says. Wong set the stage for Bon Jovi’s No. 1 Billboard 200 debut with This House Is Not for Sale through a Tidal partnership that included seven exclusive tracks and listening parties. He had Shawn Mendes pair up with Paper Mate for the “Spread Joy, Not Smears” program. The social media-driven campaign leveraged the artist’s close relationship with his fans, as he challenged them to write more notes #IRL — and share them using the hashtag #SpreadJoy.
Contributors Rich Appel, Cathy Applefeld Olson, Steve Baltin, Dave Brooks, Dean Budnick, William Chipps, Ed Christman, Leila Cobo, Frank DiGiacomo, Chuck Dauphin, Adrienne Gaffney, Andy Gensler, Gary Graff, Andrew Hampp, Steven J. Horowitz, Steve Knopper, Kerri Mason, Gail Mitchell, Melinda Newman, Chris Payne, Adelle Platon, Dan Rys, Colin Stutz, Andrew Unterberger