Let’s face it: Sponsoring a music tour is no longer groundbreaking marketing.
For years, marketers of everything from soft drinks to automobiles to retail chains have linked their brands to marquee musical acts to enhance equity and promote trial. Despite the significant money involved, many companies have had little or no accountability to the bottom line. Strategy focused on creating entertainment value, building an image through a halo effect with signage, sampling, and ticketing, has been all about image and not much about sales. As competition mounts and the marketplace becomes increasingly cluttered, savvy marketers need to scrutinize every penny spent to make sure there is a direct correlation between sponsorship dollars and business objectives.
Sears continues to focus on enhancing its image for the right target audience. Music sponsorships provide an excellent vehicle to reach our consumers nationally and in local markets and venues. Since we first ventured into music sponsorship five years ago, we have employed an aggressiveapproach in strategic planning to ensure that our involvement goes beyond putting our brand name on the tour and affords us an opportunity to tie in with our retail business. We did this with our Phil Collins and Gloria Estefan tours, and continue it with the Backstreet Boys. This time, we’re also focused on developing integrated programs that drive sales.
The old venue-driven event marketing model will soon be a distant memory, and Sears will help break the mold through its partnership with the Backstreet Boys. We’ve teamed up with the integrated marketers at five Chicago agencies – Wunderman Cato Johnson, Young & Rubicam, Donnellon Public Relations, Schwarz Worldwide, and ABD Group – to make our investment work harder for us at retail, and ultimately hit harder against our sales objectives.
We’ve also drawn on the successes of our past sponsorships of Estefan and Collins to craft a strategic architecture using sponsorship to promote sales with a fully-integrated, comprehensive marketing plan.
As we enter the crucial back-to-school and fourth-quarter holiday periods, we’ve broadened our focus beyond our core target, women 25 to 54, to recognize the purchasing power and clout of teens. Our goal is to build long-term growth and loyalty by drawing tomorrow’s consumers today with a fun, contemporary, and value-packed brand positioning.
At face value, the Backstreet Boys property is a powerful marketing vehicle. The group is an undisputed pop phenomenon, having sold more than 30 million albums. As presenting sponsor of the group’s August-through-December tour of 41 cities across North America, we receive top billing: “Sears Presents Backstreet Boys Into The Millennium Tour.”
But our marketing dollars don’t stop there. For Sears, the Backstreet Boys is a smart fit with our business goals: The group appeals not only to hard-to-reach teens but to their moms as well. Our marketing program was crafted to build retail sales through national and local in-store promotions. We have national back-to-school promotions, in-store merchandising, Backstreet Boys licensed products, Internet activity, national ads, local tour promotions, cause-related programming, public relations, and in-venue efforts. We’ve covered every way to reach teens and moms.
We launched the program six weeks before the concert tour begins in Ft. Lauderdale on Sept. 14. We want younger customers to think of Sears as a cool place to shop. We broke a TV spot on Aug. 1 that parodies the 1960s Beatles movie A Hard Day’s Night, with a mob of female fans chasing the five Backstreet Boys. The creative execution also features exclusive commercial use of the Backstreet Boys song “Larger Than Life.” The 30-second spot promotes a back-to-school sweeps that will award each of five fans a $2,000 shopping spree with their favorite Backstreet Boy, a trip for four to the tour’s final concert on Dec. 1 in Tampa, front row concert seats, and a backstage meet-and-greet with the group.
To reach teens, we bought ads on MTV, WNBA games, and the Teen Choice Awards program on Fox. Point-of-sale, signage, direct mail, and Sunday newspaper inserts will help spread the message. The Boys were on the cover of our Aug. 1 back-to-school newspaper insert. A series of 15- and 30-second ads for Sears merchandise including athletic shoes, nylon pants, and private-label Canyon River Blues apparel uses “Larger Than Life” as a musical backdrop to tie back to the sponsorship.
Everything works to drive teens to our stores. Once they’re there, they’ll see videos of tour highlights running on TVs in our consumer electronics departments and in the Mainframe juniors shopping area. More than 450 stores in tour markets will sell Backstreet Boys gear including apparel and hats. Two gift-with-purchase offers will give a different Backstreet Boys poster each week of the sweeps with every $35 purchase.
We want to keep serving teens when the tour is over, so we’re introducing a loyalty program called Pulse Card. Kids who sign up for a card and make a $35 purchase get a limited-edition Backstreet Boys CD-ROM. Cardholders get frequently changing discounts and exclusive offers during the tour. We’re telling kids about the card through tip-ins in August issues of teen magazines and applications distributed to concert-goers. And in each concert market, we’re linking with Youth Service America, a national organization promoting teen volunteerism, to create the “Larger Than Life” awards to honor volunteers.
Our partnership with the Backstreet Boys will be a strong contributor to an improved bottom line. As we move forward in strengthening our value messaging and presenting a unified view to our customers, we will continue to seek out entertainment and event marketing opportunities that, like the Backstreet Boys, can be tied closely to selling merchandise and products at retail.