Like Peanut Butter and… Ludacris? Meet the Former Sony Music Exec Who Matches Artists & Brands
Bettie Levy has built a thriving business by crafting "multi-dimensional" brand collaborations for artists like Darius Rucker and Trombone Shorty.
Bettie Levy remembers “all kinds” of music playing in her parents’ Washington, D.C., household while she was growing up. And when she was finally allowed to go to the local shopping mall by herself while in middle school, she kept up the family tradition.
“I would take any dollar I earned anywhere and come home with singles and cassette tapes,” Levy recalls with a laugh. “Ultimately every birthday, I always wanted something relating to music. Then after CDs came, tower racks took over my room. So I think it was pretty much a given that I was going to do something in music.”
And she did. After several career-evolving stints at Sony Music, in 2009, Levy affixed her initials to her own enterprise. Focusing on live events and brand partnerships, New York-based BCL Entertainment encompasses all music genres, as well as A-list talent ranging from artists and Broadway stars to film/TV actors, athletes and influencers. And it’s all in service to a client roster that includes brands, hospitality companies, TV/digital production companies and charitable organizations.
Last year, according to Levy, BCL Entertainment logged the most events in the company’s nearly 14-year history. Its string of multiple talent-production projects commenced in January 2022 with the launch of the ongoing national ad campaign for Folgers coffee, featuring Grammy-winning artist Trombone Shorty. Last fall marked the second season of BCL’s collaboration with sports apparel company Fanatics and its merch line from Grammy-winning country artist Darius Rucker and the NFL. According to Levy, the Darius Rucker X NFL By Fanatics clothing line was among the top five NFL men’s apparel lines during the football season throughout the Fanatics network of websites. In association with Fanatics’ in-house event planners, Levy was also a producer of the company’s 2022 Super Bowl party performances featuring Doja Cat and other artists.
BCL Entertainment kicked off 2023 with Levy again working on Fanatics’ 2023 Super Bowl Party, which showcased performances by J Balvin, Travis Scott, The Chainsmokers and A$AP Ferg, among others. Coming soon is a new national ad campaign for Meow Mix — featuring *NSYNC’s JC Chasez and a feline boy band created by the cat food brand — that will air across broadcast, cable and digital outlets. Meanwhile, Calissa Sounds, a summer concert series staged in the Hamptons that BCL co-created with the Civetta Hospitality Group, will return this year (last year’s event included Fat Joe and Wyclef Jean). BCL is also looking forward to another season of Darius Rucker X NFL By Fanatics in the fall.
Still running is the award-winning ad campaign done on behalf of The J.M. Smucker Co.’s Jif peanut butter brand, for which BCL Entertainment served as talent producer. Featuring rap icon and Atlanta native Ludacris, the 2021 commercial spun off several offshoots including a TikTok campaign that has generated 7 million campaign-related views to date, an original song (“Butter ATL”) released on all DSPs, a limited-edition necklace and a charity partnership with the Boys & Girls Clubs of America. The Jif team went on to win four awards at the 2022 Cannes Lions ceremony for the campaign.
BCL’s steadfast mission, says Levy, is to “authentically match talent with brands and events. Then the rest is simple. The best brand/event and talent relationships are the ones that aren’t forced.”
A case in point is the Folgers commercial with Trombone Shorty. The process began with two key questions: Who could vibe well with the ad’s theme song — a reworking of the Joan Jett & the Blackhearts classic “Bad Reputation” — utilized in an effort to prove the 170-year-old coffee product is still cool to drink? And, in turn, who could also bring a New Orleans flair, given that the brand, also part of the Smucker family, is headquartered in The Big Easy? The ensuing chemistry between Folgers, NOLA native Trombone Shorty and Jett led to BCL pitching, closing and structuring Folgers’ sponsorship of Trombone Shorty’s Voodoo Threauxdown Tour in 2022, as well as the musician’s one-off show in New Orleans last April with special guests that included Jett herself.
“Jif and Folgers are examples of multi-dimensional campaigns in which one thing leads to the next between events and brand partnerships,” says Levy. “When you’re touching all the creative points and everything comes full circle like that, it’s pretty incredible.”
Besides authenticity, agility is another component of BCL Entertainment’s operational philosophy. As it was from the start, Levy continues to utilize a team of four to five key people, allowing her to “flex up or down as needed, bringing in staff and partners for different projects, as well as using local vendors to keep costs at bay.” That agility, Levy adds, came in handy during the pandemic: “When everything pivoted to virtual, we were able to move swiftly and adapt; meeting clients, brands and entertainers where they were in that moment.”
BCL’s ability to move quickly and adapt is tied to one more foundational component: Levy’s long-term industry relationships. While attending Boston University, Levy interned with Sony Music. Literally the day after graduation, she started working full-time in the radio promotion department at Columbia Records in New York. A gig as the label’s video booker followed, as did a more senior booking role at Epic Records. Then in 2007, Levy joined former Sony Music Label Group CEO Don Ienner’s label and production company, IMO Entertainment, as director of business development.
“By being at Sony, I built relationships on steroids,” says Levy. “It was just so exponential between the people and talent that I was meeting and working with. Going from that corporate environment to the entrepreneurial space at IMO, along with having been taught at home that anything is possible … the combination of all those experiences put me in the position to take the risk and start BCL Entertainment. What forever holds true and allows me to continue to succeed — no matter the evolution of the industry — are relationships.”
What’s changed most in my line of work is that after having BCL Entertainment for nearly 14 years, I feel surrounded more regularly by female executives. As a matter of fact, there are a few companies we partner with where all the executives are women. That’s awesome to see as well as be part of. Also, the prevalence and importance of events and brand partnerships have grown exponentially over the past 20-plus years. Every event and brand partnership today has — and often needs — talent attached, particularly for press and social media reasons. The latter has become invaluable and is a very different form of promotion than when I started in the business.
What most people don’t understand about what I do is they often think it’s easy because every day looks like so much fun. And it is fun because I love what I do. But there are usually 752 things going on in my mind at once and it’s all hard work. Each and every client is my No. 1 priority — at the same time.
I would tell people coming up in this industry that it’s tough. But keep your head high; operate with transparency and class; and build and nurture relationships, because it’s the business of “know who” more than “know how.” Also always remember, one opportunity leads to the next. Explore every opportunity, as you have no idea where it will take you and who you will meet next.
The best advice I received is from my dad; I quote him all day long. Some of my favorites: “You only need one ‘Yes’; and no means ‘Not now.’” “Don’t give up. Ever.” “If you want to get something done, ask the busiest person you know. Busy people get everything done.”
I’ve learned it’s important to be loyal, be honest and be yourself and you will always win. Also, if you aren’t learning, you aren’t growing.
Spotlight is a Billboard Business series that aims to highlight those in the music business making innovative or creative moves, or who are succeeding in behind-the-scenes or under-the-radar roles. For submissions for the series, please contact email@example.com.