When the BBC chose Luciano Pavarotti’s Nessun Dorma to accompany its coverage of Italia 90, no-one could have predicted the impact it would have on the competition.
Although it wasn’t the official Italia 90 theme song, it was immediately adopted as such by UK football fans. Even those who had no interest in football knew that Nessun Dorma equalled Italia 90.
This indicated two things – the power of music as a communication tool, and the power of television and radio in associating a piece of music with a particular product or event. Marketing people had long been aware that music played an important role in product and event promotion, but the way in which the BBC achieved this remarkable success opened many people’s eyes to the possibility of deliberately using music to reach new audiences.
In recent years, household brands and major sporting events have been making music an intrinsic part of their marketing campaigns. Official theme tunes, music in advertising, sponsored albums and even premium albums given away free with particular products have been developed to broaden the brand or event’s appeal – and in some cases to re-position the brand so that it appeals to new consumers.
Rick Blaskey, head of the Music & Media Partnership which was established six years ago to promote music as a strategic marketing and communication device, believes music has immense power in advertising campaigns, sales promotions and sponsorship programmes.
He says: “Our success lies in our ability to bring together partners in joint ventures, both of whom are targeting the same audience and who will benefit equally from their association with each other. We create the concept for the brand and then work with music suppliers to put the package together.
“With sporting events such as the Rugby World Cup tournaments in 1991 and 1995 and more recently Euro 96, our aim was to use music to increase the event’s profile and attract new audiences. Getting radio and TV networks behind a theme song is vital because without airplay audiences won’t automatically associate the song with the event.”
As executive producer of music for Euro 96, Blaskey was aware that the choice of songs was crucial if he was to fulfil the Football Association’s brief – to give Euro 96 a musical branding that would create mass- market awareness and a definite feel-good factor.
The official theme song – Simply Red’s We’re In This Together – was chosen for its universal appeal, and was immediately embraced by BBC TV and Radio, Germany’s ARD, RTE Ireland, Televisiona Svizzera Italiana and Portugal’s Channel 1. The song may also have helped attract female audiences thanks to Simply Red’s extensive female fan base, many of whom tuned in to see them perform at the opening and closing ceremonies.
For the England team song, Blaskey wanted a football anthem that everyone could sing – a feat achieved by Baddiel & Skinner and Lightning Seeds with their anthem Three Lions which went straight into the UK charts at Number One.
The official Euro 96 album, The Beautiful Game, was seen as an opportunity to promote Britpop bands such as Blur, Black Grape, Supergrass and Primal Scream. It was released through RCA and sponsored by Coca-Cola, which ran a related music promotion for a three-track sampler on over 100 million cans.
Steve Lowes, product manager at RCA, says: “All the bands involved are football fans and by agreeing to take part in this album they helped football gain a more acceptable image. The music – combined with the way Euro 96 was portrayed on TV – enabled football to lose its drunken, skinhead image and gave ordinary people a chance to wave the patriotic flag.”
For brands wanting to achieve similar results, the choice of music is equally critical, particularly if they are sponsoring TV-advertised CDs that will retail at full price through traditional music retail outlets.
Georgina Capp, commercial manager at EMI, says compilation CDs now make up 35 per cent of music sales, and the public expects to like 80 per cent of the tracks. Given the sophistication of today’s music buyer, Capp feels brands must be careful with sponsored albums because consumers are put off if there is no obvious link between the brand and the music.
She adds: “We only undertake these projects if we see added value for EMI in terms of increased sales. When we do agree, we work very closely with the brand on elements such as packaging and artwork – all of which are equally important to the success of the project.”
EMI has been involved with sponsored albums for a number of brands including the indie-based guitar/pop album Unlaced with Doc Martens and the smoochy Dedicated To Pleasure album with HÃÂ¤agen- Dazs – both brought in by the Music & Media Partnership.
Capp says: “These albums gave us a lot of scope for cross promotion in-store and the brand got access to over 3,500 music retail outlets they wouldn’t otherwise have reached.”
Kerry Pettit, marketing manager for HÃÂ¤agen-Dazs, adds that The Dedicated To Pleasure CD was designed to directly link with all other marketing activity from advertising to PR and sales promotion. Both title and album tracks were chosen to reinforce the company’s strategy of emphasising the pleasure of eating HÃÂ¤agen-Dazs ice cream by picking up on themes used in press and TV ads. The TV spot, for example, uses a Sarah Vaughan track – Make Yourself Comfortable – which is included on the CD.
“With this album we were able to reach new consumers who might not be familiar with HÃÂ¤agen-Dazs through the normal channels, further extending the brand franchise and the indulgence and pleasure brand proposition,” says Pettit.
The album sold over 100,000 units and gave EMI a Top 20 hit.
Fiona Beeching, sales and marketing manager at PolyGram, has been involved in a number of sponsored albums over the past year with clients such as Sunkist, Rover and Aero. Major record companies like PolyGram can bring a wealth of experience to these projects. They know the TV-advertised compilation world, and they can easily identify and source the right tracks for the album. Record companies put a significant proportion of their own money into advertising, promoting and distributing sponsored CDs, with the sponsor contributing towards the marketing spend in return for having their logo tagged on the sleeve.
Beeching, too, advises caution. She says: “The most important objective behind any project of this kind is to ask the simple question: ‘Would we do it anyway?’. If the answer is no then, tempting though the sponsor fee might be, we stand aside. We have already turned down two household names this year because their objectives and our own did not match.”
PolyGram’s aim is to develop highly selective long-term client relationships to provide a legitimate new media channel for brands wishing to invest in music. Beeching would like to see more brands contacting PolyGram direct or through music consultancies. In her view, only a handful of consultancies have genuine expertise. “Typically, the concepts presented through third parties are unimaginative and badly executed or worse, the client has been over promised and we are left to pick up the pieces,” she says.
Patrick Fleming, Rover’s brand manager for Mini – the car True Brit was promoting – says: “The Mini has a tremendous appeal and is particularly attractive to younger age groups. The aim of the CD is to raise awareness of the Mini brand among 17 to 30-year-olds and we felt that music was an ideal way of reaching them.
“The True Brit CD was one element of our marketing campaign for this year. We needed a high-quality CD that matched our brand image exactly and we feel that the True Brit CD achieved this by linking a truly great British car with the best in British music.
“Rather than producing something that is just given away with the car or a test drive we wanted to produce an excellent album that people wanted to buy. This premium album is a valuable product proposition that our target market will want to buy and keep, providing us with a lasting and high-quality brand message.”
Sunkist’s category manager Mike Fairman also comments on the added possibilities offered by music. Apart from the Summer Vybes CD with PolyGram – again conceptualised by the Music & Media Partnership – Sunkist is also sponsoring a live acoustic music programme for independent radio featuring bands such as Dodgy, The Manic Street Preachers and Ocean Colour Scene.
“We are using music to help modernise the brand’s image and give it energy, life and fun,” he says. “We wanted a cool, innovative product and we were fortunate that PolyGram already had an album concept that fitted our brief.”
By piggybacking a ten-second commercial onto PolyGram’s main 30-second ad for Summer Vybes, Sunkist illustrates how two products can be marketed side by side for maximum impact.
More campaigns like this are bound to follow now that the power of music as a communication tool has been recognised. And with record companies seeing sponsored albums and theme songs as a valuable source of extra revenue, it’s unsurprising that they are keen to encourage the trend.