Media: Strategy Analysis - Levi's breaks UK's hottest new bands

Brand: Levi's Red Tab
Client: Melanie Lowe, marketing manager, Levi Strauss UK and Ireland
Brief: Associate Levi's Red Tab with authentic music
Target audience: 16- to 24-year-old men
Budget: Less than £100,000

Media: Starcom
Creative: Exposure


Music has long been a key territory for Levi's, owing to the brand's heritage. This has been driven by, among other things, the seven UK chart number ones in 20 years created from Levi's TV ads. The challenge was to find a sustainable, credible way to tap into this heritage while remaining authentic to today's target audience.

The key insight that dictated the direction Starcom took within music was that, once again, kids were heading into garages with guitars and drum kits, as they did in the early 90s during the Britpop era.

However, Starcom wasn't interested in simply sticking a corporate badge on established music already in the public domain. Instead, Starcom partnered with Channelfly Group, which had a history of promoting authentic, original talent such as The Strokes, The Darkness, Keane and Franz Ferdinand before they reached the mainstream.

Starcom created a series of monthly gigs, called Levi's Ones to Watch (LOTW), which ran across six Barfly live music venues and showcased the best emerging talent in the UK. Activity in three main areas built Levi's association and maximised awareness.


- Gig branding: Levi's presence at the venues was kept minimal, with the focus on embedding the LOTW sub-brand rather than Levi's, because the purpose of the messaging was to be seen to be supporting new music. Stage backdrops displayed the LOTW logo and the bands were provided with Levi's clothing to be worn at their own discretion.

- Media: In Channelfly's own publication, The Fly, a monthly LOTW editorial review section included news and listings of upcoming LOTW gigs. Barfly's gig listings magazine Order also featured the LOTW gigs.

A 30-minute LOTW television show broadcast on Channel 4 featured exclusive footage of Editors, Kooks and Kubicheck, among others, all shot on the recent LOTW tour.

- In-store: One of the key parts of this association was the tie-up between each of the five LOTW venues and the Levi's store in that city (London, Cardiff, Liverpool, York and Glasgow). The activity within the stores was designed to extend the partnership beyond the venues to promote the LOTW nights to a much broader but still local population. Within the stores, The Fly magazine was distributed, sampler CDs were given away with each purchase, postcards and photos from previous LOTW bands were given away and consumers could get free tickets to the monthly gigs just by asking a member of staff ... a cool tool for the store manager.


To date, there have been 60 gigs featuring three new bands, with more than 90,000 people attending the shows. The gigs have helped launch bands such as Bloc Party, Kaiser Chiefs and Arctic Monkeys. Channel 4 has also commissioned another six programmes and the PR in publications such as the Evening Standard and the NME has been worth £550,000 in real media terms.

THE VERDICT - Toby Roberts head of strategy, OMD UK

Levi's is one of those brands we'd all like to work on. It has consistently been placed in "Brand Heaven" by the OMD Roar survey of 15- to 24-year-olds for the past ten years (only Coke and Nike can claim the same). It has also been responsible for some of the most famous ads ever.

What, then, of its foray into branded content (such an ugly term), Levi's Ones To Watch? It's a bit of a boring name, but, that aside, this is fantastic work.

On paper, the idea is simple, even cliched - associate the brand with emerging music. But if you're looking for ways to connect with a young audience, music is about the best route open to you. What marks this programme as outstanding is the depth of the association and the way it has been integrated back into the business.

A quick trip to the LOTW microsite shows that the big headline bands mentioned in the review (Kooks, Editors et al) are really only the tip of the iceberg. I counted 40 different bands, and I'd only got to the Gs. This is serious commitment.

The in-store stuff is brilliant, making the association real and allowing it to be activated at a local level. Something carried through to the subtle branding at the venues themselves.

The inevitable gripes: the Channel 4 show really holds the media element of the programme together, providing a focal point. But it could be pushed further with a stronger online presence and radio seems like an obvious channel choice. That said, the whole idea is so scaleable that, should more budget become available, these elements could easily be added.

Finally, the write-up was a bit short on results. This is a wider issue, and is actually an industry problem, rather than one that can be levelled at Starcom. As we move to the "engagement" model, where branding is necessarily subtle, but the depth of consumer connection is much greater (at least in theory) a new set of metrics and methodologies will be necessary if we are to convince the majority of clients, rather than just the braver ones such as Levi's, that this is how they should invest their money.

It is fortunate that there are already agencies and clients out there, as is amply demonstrated here, that are blazing this trail.

SCORE: 4 out of 5.

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