Boost Mobile's Rap Connection

Kanye West, Ludacris a part of national rollout

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%%STORYIMAGE_LEFT%% Hip-hop's street cred has fueled branding success for an array of categories from cars and sneakers to clothes and cellphones. Boost Mobile is the latest brand to jump on the back of urban culture.

The cellular phone service provider is betting on hip hop's powerful attraction for its expansion from two West Coast markets to national service, covering seven major markets that is underway. Three of today's hottest rap artists—Kanye West, Ludacris and The Game, a member of 50 Cent's G-Unit— star in Boost Mobile's new TV, print and radio campaign, tagged "Where You At?".

For Boost, a brand founded in Australia and launched in Southern California only in 2002, tapping into hip hop "represents an evolution in strategy," said Darryl Cobbin, Boost Mobile's VP-marketing. A division of Nextel Communications, Boost, which provides pre-paid service, has grown quickly by embracing youth sub-cultures; it has a huge following among skateboarders, for instance, and has sponsored various athletes and competitions. The mission, said Cobbin, is to build Boost into a unique and sustainable brand targeted to 14 to 24 year olds, "street savvy, irreverent youth that live large yet hunger for the next level in their lives."

%%PULLQUOTE_RIGHT%% In "Anthem," the first execution of the campaign set to break Sept. 6, created by WPP Group's Berlin Cameron/Red Cell, New York, the artists plug the service in a style informed by music videos. All three artists actually use Boost Mobile phones and the Push to Talk service in a performance of music created by these artists specifically for Boost Mobile. "It's taking something that is happening naturally in the marketplace—people using their cellphones, and the walkie-talkie feature—and creating an artistically credible piece of music," said Ewen Cameron, CEO, Berlin Cameron.

Both a rapper and a producer, West, in the commercial, kicks out the beat from his studio in Chicago, and each of the others—Ludacris from his hometown Atlanta, The Game, in Los Angeles—listen to it and pick it up, over the cellphone, and perform. Cameron said that at least one radio station has played the song on air.

The campaign's goal, said Cobbin, a former VP-brand director for Coca-Cola's Sprite, is to tap into the same affinity that young customers have for communication like online instant messaging.

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