The changing face of music tie-ups

The proliferation of digital music has led big brands to shift toward collaborations with music artists across a variety of platforms

Professor Green
Professor Green

By 1986, when Sam Cooke's Wonderful World reached number two in the UK singles chart 26 years after its original release, due to its use in a Levi's 501s TV ad, the power of marrying a brand with music was plain to see.

Music and brands: Old school vs new wave

Case Study: Smirnoff and Madonna

Indeed, the 'Levi's effect' propelled classic tracks by artists such as Marvin Gaye, The Clash and T Rex back into the public consciousness throughout the 80s and 90s, as well as helping tracks by unknowns such as Babylon Zoo and Mr Oizo become chart-topping hits.

Sweet spot

Connecting with consumers through their passion for music has long been a sweet spot for marketers, with the medium enabling companies to bring their brand story to life. Pepsi's recent announcement that its first global campaign will focus on music proves the point. Live music sponsorship, too, has been favoured by brands as a route to winning over customers.

With so much music now being consumed via digital channels such as Spotify, and Vevo, there are more ways than before for brands to forge deeper relationships both with artists and their fans.

Coca-Cola, which has a relationship with the music industry that dates back to ads featuring Ray Charles almost 50 years ago, recently struck a global partnership with Spotify to collaborate on technology and content. The digital music service also partnered rock band Primal Scream and Levi's last year for a series of gigs in the latter's store on London's Regent Street.

Significant evolution

Daniel Ek, co-founder and chief executive of Spotify, described the Coca-Cola deal as a significant evolution, noting: 'A young tech company partnering a 125-year-old company isn't something you would normally see.'

Adam Williams, UK sales director at Spotify (right), says that the platform has noted a surge of 'in-depth integrations' between brands and artists, often with a level of experiential marketing involved.

'(Brands have) become a lot more focused on creating a rich experience across multiple platforms, as opposed to using music on a single ad to create a sonic trigger,' he adds.

Unilever is another to have tapped into the growth in digital music. It recently became the first company to sign an exclusive deal with online music video-sharing site Vevo in the UK. Its Lynx deodorant brand now sponsors Vevo's Summer Six programme, which follows six artists, including Chiddy Bang and Benga, through the UK summer festival schedule, providing co-branded digital content.

Heightened credentials

'Consumer perception of brands and their credentials can be heightened through the right collaboration with musicians,' says Selena Sykes, the Lynx marketing manager who led the campaign. 'Bringing both worlds together creates a relationship whereby a brand is able to talk to people with similar interests, and vice versa.'

According to Vevo's UK managing director, Jonathan Lewis (right), artists are 'no longer reliant on traditional models to get their message out'; digital music platforms enable brands to partner acts to do something 'meaningful'.

He claims brands can create a 'package of content' on Vevo that can be 'amplified to a wide network and distributed to a broad audience' and used on social media.

Lewis adds that artists are now much more 'savvy' and willing to participate with brands 'in a big way', citing UK rapper Professor Green - who has deals with Puma, Doritos, ZTE and Huawei - as an example.

Brands over labels

Likewise, for music producer Mark Ronson, who recorded and released a track with Coca-Cola for its Olympics 'Move to the beat' activity, recording with a brand is no different from working with a record label.

'As long as the music you make is good and you're not compromising the level of the material, who cares whether you're making it for Columbia, Universal or Coca-Cola?' he told Marketing in February.

Dom Hodge, planning director at specialist music marketing agency Frukt, agrees that, with the music industry changing 'dramatically', artists need support to develop. 'Big brands can give artists the reach and scale a label can't always offer,' he says, although he argues that brands should 'add to and complement' the existing support infrastructure, rather than replace it. Drinks manufacturer Diageo is another company that has long used musicians in its marketing.

It recently struck a year-long partnership with Madonna (see case study, below). Meanwhile, its vodka brand, Smirnoff, enlisted unsigned artist Sun for Moon to cover Kiss' rock anthem Crazy Crazy Nights for an ad campaign, which it then went on to sell on iTunes worldwide.

Dual strategy

For Michelle Klein, vice-president, Smirnoff global marketing, communications and digital at Diageo, digital music marketing is about creating a 'dual brand strategy' with an artist for 'richer, more integrated programmes'. She adds: 'It's not just about sponsored performances any more. I don't think that is meaningful for a consumer.'

Experts insist that brands must stay 'authentic', picking an artist who is true to the brand and its audience, and making sure there is a mutual understanding.

With digital media offering opportunities to forge meaningful relationships with consumers, many more brands will be tempted into music tie-ups. However, to achieve the harmonious musical matrimony they strive for, staying in tune with consumers' tastes is key. l Additional reporting by Loulla-Mae Eleftheriou-Smith


Old model

A big-name brand ambassador in a heavyweight TV campaign

In 1984, for example, Pepsi signed Michael Jackson and his brothers to star in a highly publicised campaign for the brand, which introduced the strapline 'The choice of a new generation'.

Top-tier brand sponsorship of a music tour or venue

O2 struck a deal with Live Nation in 2008 to rebrand the Academy music venues, previously known as the Carling Academies, in a £22.5m deal. It complemented the brand's £36m sponsorship of The O2 venue, formerly the Millennium Dome.

New model

Collaboration with artists

Coca-Cola's Olympics campaign, 'Move to the beat', gave producer and DJ Mark Ronson the freedom to create his own track, providing the platform for its production and release.

Pepsi's latest music initiative, 'Live for now', includes an interactive digital platform that pulls in the latest trending topics from Twitter, while its marketing will feature pop stars Nicki Minaj, Katy Perry, and a revival of its association with the late Michael Jackson.

Collaboration with consumers

O2 stepped up its location-based rewards service, Priority Moments, staging an exclusive Kasabian gig on New Year's Eve. Consumers who couldn't get tickets were able to watch it on the brand's dedicated YouTube channel.


What happened?

Last August, Diageo kicked off a year-long partnership with Madonna as part of Smirnoff's Nightlife Exchange Project, which aimed to get 10m people in 50 countries to share 'original' experiences.

What activity did it involve?

The first part was a drive to discover the world's best unknown dancers, through a competition in which hopefuls created a 60-second video of themselves dancing and uploaded it to Smirnoff's or Madonna's Facebook page.

In March, Smirnoff released a remixed 'Nightlife Edition' of MDNA, Madonna's latest album.

In the UK, a limited number of fans could download it for free. Smirnoff also printed a 'VIP access card' on limited-edition packs, giving fans access to a free remix track to download. It has recently rolled out an ad campaign featuring the artist, while the brand also features in a Madonna video.

Why did Smirnoff work with Madonna?

Diageo has a track record working both with world-famous artists, such as DJ Tiesto, and unknowns, such as Sun for Moon. The partnership of global superstar and global brand helps both parties to gain mass exposure.

According to Michelle Klein, vice-president, Smirnoff global marketing, the brand 'listens' to its fans when selecting artists.

The idea behind the Facebook giveaway was to give Smirnoff fans a 'high value' item.