One of the most notable trends emerging from SXSW earlier this month was the increasing prevalence of financial partnerships between artists and brands. The highest-profile example of this phenomenon came courtesy of Lil Wayne, who taped a Mountain Dew spot from the stage at his Young Money/Cash Money showcase gig at the Austin Music Hall.
The commercial won't be a one-off project for Wayne or the Dew. The rapper and the soda company are teaming up for a wide campaign comprising print advertising, TV spots and digital outreach. There are also plans to drum up publicity by building skate parks around the country, starting with the rapper's hometown of New Orleans.
Brands partnering up with artists is hardly new -- who could forget Madonna's infamous "Like a Prayer" Pepsi ad? But with digital album sales failing to offset declining CD purchases over the past several years, partnerships like Wayne's with Mountain Dew could soon become standard for music-industry superstars.
Big advertising campaigns like Mountain Dew's DEWeezy promotion put artists' faces and music in front of a lot of people at no cost to the musicians or their labels, and some brands are signing deals with artists to finance concerts, tours and other musical projects, decreasing creative expenses and increasing revenues.
These partnerships offer real opportunities for the corporations, too. Renaud Skalli is head of artist and label relations for MyLoveAffair, an international matchmaking agency that's paired artists like Katy Perry, David Guetta and Coldplay with brands looking for some star power. He says artists' increasing reach has more companies than ever looking to sign deals with musicians.
"The majority of brands in all sectors are now looking at building campaigns around music," Skalli says. "One of the main reasons for this lies in the fact that artists are now seen as media of their own thanks to their online profiles.
Artists like Rihanna (53 million fans on Facebook) or David Guetta (31 million) can use their official Web profiles to spread out messages, including branded ones, to millions of people."
The promise of making millions together is obviously a powerful motivator for brands and artists to team up. But surely these things can backfire, too--Even the biggest rock stars have their cred to consider. That's why guys like Skalli get paid to come up with matches that make sense.
"All partnerships between brands and artists have got to be thought through in an organic way," he says. "Rarely has the relationship between an artist and their fans been damaged following a genuine collaboration with a brand.
"We believe that every brand partnership needs to be a win-win situation where the brand gains exposure and engagement through the link-up and where the artist can benefit from the campaign and take this opportunity to provide his fans with even more exclusive and unexpected content."
At Rocks Off, we've got our own ideas about what could result in a profitable "genuine collaboration" for both parties. Skalli and his colleagues at MyLoveAffair didn't ask for our help, but we like to think of ourselves as generous. That's why we came up with our own list of prospective artist/brand partnerships that we believe could serve the interests of both.
10. Justin Bieber for Vidal Sassoon:Teens and tweens are an underserved market when it comes to hair care and styling products, and they've already proven they're willing to shell out their parents' money for practically anything associated with Justin Bieber. The "Baby" singer is already famous for his luscious hair, so why not exploit that perfect fringe with his own lucrative line of shampoos and gels? You can't tell us that a new 3D concert movie covered in Sassoon's logo wouldn't shift a few million units of conditioner.
9. Jay-Z for Charles Schwab:Jay-Z's unparalleled flow is matched only by his business acumen. Daughter Blue Ivy Carter's got a financially secure future ahead of her; her daddy has a net worth of nearly half a billion (Mom's not doing too bad, either).
A deal with brokerage and banking giant Charles Schwab could greatly enhance his international rep as a major financial player, putting his name and projects in front of millions of investment newsletter subscribers.
For its part, Chuck would be associating itself with the man who continues to shape the streets' conception of wealth and success. Does the NBA stadium going up in Brooklyn have a naming rights deal in place yet?
8. Adele for Match.com Adele just took home six Grammies for writing powerful songs about an unhappy relationship -- maybe it's time to turn her love life over to the professionals. With one the most famously lovelorn superstars of the past decade touting its service, how many of the millions of music fans that bought 21 might give Match.com a try?
With a little luck (or PR strategy), the online matchmaker might even find Adele a man who will treat her right for a change.
7. Marilyn Manson for RevlonMakeup companies have a long history of using pop stars in their advertising campaigns. For some reason, though, they've all been female.
As far as we're concerned, that's just another line for the Antichrist Superstar to cross. After all, dudes represent a pretty large uptapped market for a brand like Revlon, and nobody has inspired more guys to slather on foundation than Marilyn.
The makeup maker could market their wares directly to teens searching for an identity with new signature colors like Latex Black and American Filth, and Marilyn could keep more of his earnings thanks to a truckload of free concealer.
6. The Flaming Lips for Frank's Red Hot: It doesn't get much more perfect than this. Frank's Red Hot is an ideal accessory of any good backyard picnic, much like the Flaming Lips' music. Also, the band's name conveniently describes the wing sauce's effects.
You can't tell us that tickets to the Flaming Lips' Hot Wings and Music Festival presented by Frank's Red Hot wouldn't sell out faster than, uh... rock stars signing a fat sponsorship deal, we guess.
5. Madonna for EnsureDancing for hours on stage every night on a world tour requires strong muscles and bones. That's what makes Madonna the ideal face for Ensure, the successful brand of liquid nutrition shakes formulated to keep older adults from drying up and wasting away.
The Material Girl is no stranger to shilling beverages, and the Pepsi Generation ain't as young as it used to be. If Ensure's got what it takes to keep Madonna roger rabbiting well into her fifth decade, it could totally catch on with the same crowd that bought all those Kabbalah bracelets a few years ago.
4. Paul Wall for ColgateIf there's one celebrity out there who's known for his smile, it's Houston's own Paul Wall. The iced-out rapper knows a thing or two about treating his teeth like a valuable asset, and he's got the business sense to grasp the synergistic possibilities presented by teaming up with Colgate. Together, they could make a bundle popularizing perfect dental hygiene among the young hip-hop set.
3. Bon Iver for 5-Hour Energy Who could use a jolt of energy more than the fans of Bon Iver's brand of sleepytime lullaby music? 5-Hour Energy could make a killing by setting up shop at the songwriter's live shows, and Bon Iver could ensure that his fan base makes it home from his concerts safely without falling asleep behind the wheel.
This is the kind of corporate sponsorship that could save lives.
2. Eminem for Mars, Inc.Frankly, we've grown a bit tired of the talking M&M's characters that have been starring in Super Bowl commercials well past their sell-by date. Forget naked candies; the ideal spokesman to give Mars products an edgy new ad campaign is none other than Marshall Mathers himself.
Beneath that hard outer shell, there's a sweet, chocolatey soul within the man, making his borrowed MC moniker altogether appropriate. The Reese's Pieces diss track alone would make this pairing a hit for both parties.
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1. AC/DC for Energizer These high-voltage hard rockers have been going and going and going since 1973 through good times and bad, even weathering the loss of front man Bon Scott without missing a downbeat. That makes AC/DC the perfect international superstars to spread the word on the batteries that last longer than the competition.
Nobody own a Sony Discman that eats batteries for breakfast like they were Vegemite anymore -- Energizer has got to do something to keep music fans buying their products. Hell, we'd be willing to purchase a few dozen packs of AAs ourselves if it would help coax the band back out on the road.