A BRIEF HISTORY OF MUSIC SPONSORSHIP

Over the last couple decades, the evolution of music distribution – now predominantly streaming – has paved the way for brand sponsors to serve as true connectors between bands and fans, while empowering emerging artists to continue writing, recording and touring.

During a time when artist revenue is down 65%, and 99% of active artists are struggling to make ends meet, brands have been facing struggles of their own. Millennials (there’s that “M” word) have $1.3 TRILLION in annual buying power, and nearly half of them are unreachable via traditional media channels. This means marketers need to find unique and innovative ways to move nearly $600 Billion each year.

One clear solution is to tap into the incredibly engaged fans of music artists. Music drives culture and is often the most meaningful way to capture the zeitgeist, and many marketers have taken note.

Here, we look at the history of music sponsorship among some of today’s leading brands.

ICONIC 1 TO 1 PARTNERSHIPS

One of the most notable music partnerships in history is Michael Jackson’s decade-long integrated reign with Pepsi in the 80s. With a $5 million contract setting the record at the time for the biggest partnership of its kind in history, Michael Jackson played an integral role in helping Pepsi realize its new youthful positioning in the marketplace opposite Coca-Cola.

The incredibly creative and DIY OK Go left Capitol Records and used combination of direct fan support and sponsorship to to take their career to a new level.  Their partnership with Morton Salt reignited the brand and resulted in one of the most groundbreaking viral music videos of all time: 

BRANDED TOURS

Some brands have fully aligned themselves as title sponsors of tours, even creating their own multi-act tours under their own banner.

Honda Stage, a video-centric program that launched in 2014, has featured Ariana Grande, One Direction and Sam Smith. This is just the latest in Honda’s exploration of music, with its Honda Civic Tour, which began in 2001, and individual tour title sponsorships, such as One Direction’s On The Road Tour.

FESTIVALS

Brands continue to find unique ways to integrate themselves into music festivals, from experiential activations to full retail partnerships and everything in between. For brands looking to reach a younger audience, much of this is because music festivals like Coachella have become partying grounds for the Who’s Who of young Hollywood and an opportunity to court celebs and attendees alike with special events and immersive activations and, most importantly, product.

According to Nielsen, 76 percent of festival goers say they feel more favorable toward a brand that sponsors a tour or a concert, and 51 percent of consumers in general feel the same way. Brands such as Anheuser-Busch, Red Bull, H&M, Guess, Lacoste and many, many others have reaped significant benefits having a presence at live music events.

TENTPOLE INITIATIVES + PROGRAMS

A trend we will continue to see more of is brands taking a stand for emerging talent and helping to create opportunities big and small for those that don’t have the same monetization opportunities due to the double-edged sword of accessibility and streaming.

Music is a core part of our DNA, which means for many brands, music is an endemic passion pillar within their audience. Red Bull Records helps to nurture and develop the next generation of music talent as a completely brand-funded independent label; Taco Bell’s Feed the Beat aims to help fans discover new and bands discover new fans; Converse Rubber Tracks provides recording studios in several major markets for artists to use at no cost; and the list goes on…but it’s not nearly long enough.

ARTISTS AS SOCIAL INFLUENCERS

Influencer marketing has become one of the fastest growing channels in digital and social media. While influencers exist across many, many categories, music continues to be one of the most engaging and impactful. For many emerging artists today, social media and email are the only ways they can market to their fan-base, and they often have personal connections and relationships with many of their fans.

For brands that don’t have the marketing budget to align with the Taylor Swifts of the world, there is an opportunity to partner with large groups of artists – micro, mid-tier and macro, at scale – to generate the same reach, but twice the engagement. Brands such as Ford and Angry Orchard are finding unique and effective ways to embed themselves in these thriving online communities to achieve real ROI. Click here to view BYGMusic case studies.

Music and social media are the two greatest connectors in history. Imagine the power of them working together.