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Brand Partnerships: Owning the label

Brand Partnerships: Owning the label

Chair: Jeremy Paterson, IF Media Consultancy (UK)

Panellists: Francesca Blackburn, WME (UK) | Gary Cohen, ATC Live (UK) | Will Dowdy, AEG UK | Debbie Ward, Paradigm Talent Agency (UK) | Bob Workman, Warner Music (UK)

Chair Jeremy Patterson from IF Media referenced brands' developing approach to the music industry and asked panellists what they think has changed the most in the past five years.

Bob Workman from Warner Music said the emergence of Instagram and similar platforms, and a focus on visual content, has increased the bandwidth for brands, maximising the ability people have to consume high-quality content in all its forms. 

Concerning what the industry has to offer brands, Paradigm’s Debbie Ward said that the scale of the agency’s roster is attractive to sponsors, while Francesca Blackburn from WME added that artists now want to work with brands more, as they can see how it can elevate their presence.

A brand can form part of the experience that live events create and “from a marketing perspective, that beats anything digital can do,” said AEG’s Will Dowdy.

Dowdy added that the digital world has led to a developing of “short-termism” in the minds of marketers. “You can now alter campaigns minute by minute,” he explained, “so we have to justify that ten-year investment a lot more.” However, he maintained that the long-term investment is still needed to “get that authenticity of partnership."

Gary Cohen said the digital landscape allows fans to see more of the human side of the artist, while Workman talked of the bandwidth of artists like Stormzy, with music only forming a “small percent” of his brand. “We have to tap into that width.”

“The most successful brand campaign is one that covers all aspects of the industry,” said Blackburn. “We need to pull together to do this.” 

Paterson said the music industry can seem like a confusing world for a brand to approach and asked each panellist how we can rectify this. Cohen admitted that brands may have been “stung” by the music industry in the past - so “we need to win back the trust.” 

“It’s a gamble for a brand investing in an artist,” added Ward, “so it’s really important to focus on the delivery side.” 

For Blackburn, having a direct relationship between the brand and artist can introduce a degree of flexibility. Workman agreed that, with some artists, it works well to get them in the room from the beginning. “Involving the artist is a really powerful thing sometimes.”

Workman offered the example of Ed Sheeran’s Heinz Ketchup campaign, which he calls a “rarity”. The brand went with the artist’s creative idea and let all communication be done through his own channels.  

Dowdy agreed that we are seeing more willingness from brands to go all in, citing the Ray-Bans partnership at All Points East with Peggy Gou.

What has allowed this kind of fluid partnership? “Visibility has changed,” said Blackburn, “everyone is constantly consuming content.”

Workman said there is a lot more innovative work and ideas coming out of brand agencies nowadays, with Ward and Dowdy agreeing that you have to work a lot harder and develop an authentic integration to be effective.

Paterson asked if a partnership with a artist tends to turn into a personality, rather than music brand, at some point. The panellists said yes, offering Rihanna as an example of an artist that is “now her own brand”. 

Blackburn added that we should expect to see more artists owning their own brands as well. 

Cohen said a shift towards long-term partnerships, “relationships with legacy” is what he is really after, adding that the music industry needs to understand the brand’s business a lot more for this to be successful. 

In terms of landing deals, Dowdy said that “fewer, better and bigger KPIs” (key performance indicators) would help delivery. “It is difficult to show the value of partnership and we need to find a way to put these metrics in.”

Cohen said sometimes data can get you the deal, while Ward added that data needs to be supplemented with some “anecdotal, character-led case studies.” 

When it comes to working with emerging artists, Cohen heeded caution. “It’s up to us to put a value on where we see artists going.”