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Musical Youth: Sears re-targets teens with pop singer Christina Aguilera.

By Jun 01, 2000

Sears Roebuck and Co., Hoffman Estates, IL, continues its cool-kid marketing makeover this summer, this time enlisting pop singer Christina Aguilera for support.

The initiative centers on a co-sponsorship with San Francisco-based merchandise partner Levi Strauss & Co. of the singer’s first North American headliner tour, which swings through 35 cities in late summer. Sears advertising breaks in August, followed by a back-to-school campaign that includes consumer promotions, cause-related tie-ins, and ads focused on the general, teen/ tween, and Hispanic markets. TV spots will run on English and Spanish-language stations.

In-store elements will include interactive premium incentives tied to Internet activities. Case in point: Shoppers will score Aguilera CDs with purchase of select Levi’s merchandise, which will feature codes giving access to online chats with the teen singing sensation. Einson Freeman, Paramus, NJ, handles sales promotion elements. Impiric, New York City, takes care of event marketing and (Impiric parent) Young & Rubicam’s Chicago office handles advertising.

Aguilera, Sears, and Levi’s will also team with nonprofit organization Do Something for local cause efforts beginning in August. Named after an Aguilera song, the Come On Over and Do Something program will provide 50 Youth Empowerment Grants to consumers 18 and under who create “positive social change” within their communities. Winners receive a $500 grant to fund community service projects, and recipients in the 35 concert cities score tickets to the show and a chance to meet the star backstage.

Sears has been trying for more than a year to electrify its image among younger shoppers and reposition its stores as “a cool and contemporary place to shop,” says John Lebbad, director of event marketing and sales promotion. “While mom is the primary customer, teens are the primary influence on buying decisions.”

The company has rolled out several major programs in the last 18 months in hopes of luring mallrats out of specialty stores and into its Juniors departments. The latest effort follows a sponsorship of The Backstreet Boys tour last fall (September 1999 promo).

“We’ve taken a lot of key points from The Backstreet Boys [campaign],” says Lebbad. “This effort will be a farther-reaching campaign, since we’re targeting a broader market.” While The Backstreet Boys fan club consists predominantly of screaming teen females, Aguilera has proved popular among teen boys as well (for obvious, different reasons).

With Aguilera’s mixed heritage (she is part Latino), the singer gives the discount department store chain an effective way to appeal to Hispanic consumers, too.

Elsewhere on the concert scene, online brokerage house E*Trade is sponsoring the summer reunion tour of Diana Ross and the Supremes. Beginning last month, consumers who open a new brokerage account receive two tickets to a local performance. E*Trade is donating $10 for every new account to one of three charities. EMCI, Stamford, CT, handles.