The program was conceived and brokered by Omnicom Group’s Radiate Group, based in Boca Raton, Fla. Radiate's Entertainment Branded Solutions recruited both Chesney and Cruzan and put the partnership together.
"A lot of artists who do corporate deals put out muddled messages because they're bad deals that lead to confusion with consumers. Kenny has a clear-cut message; he lives the [Cruzan] lifestyle. He is the Caribbean cowboy," said Steve Groth, the president of Radiate, who along with Erica Johnson, VP-business development for Radiate EBS, was instrumental in the deal.
During the "Guitars, Tiki Bars and a Whole Lot of Love Tour," Cruzan has signage at the concert venues and in certain markets—where alcohol-restriction laws permit—the brand will also have rum shacks set up serving Cruzan. The TV monitors at venues will be affixed with the Cruzan logo. Before the shows, Chesney has also taken to running a video where he thanks Cruzan for its support, which was done on Chesney's initiative and was not a specific deal point.
Radiate brought in Omnicom's Aaron Walton Entertainment to execute the sponsorship. AWE is responsible for all aspects of the tour sponsorship execution including exhibit setup, promotion, meet and greet, and signage. Adding to the buzz factor has been Chesney's signature Cruzan concoction, the "Cruzan Confusion." The artist's recipe has been featured in major national publications including Jane, US Weekly, USA Today and Vanity Fair.
"Had Radiate approached us a year earlier than when they did, we couldn't have done it. We're now at the point where we're looking to take our brand awareness to another level," said Tom Valdes, president of Cruzan.
Valdes said the company is also doing a "heavy-up print campaign" for the brand in tandem with the Chesney program. Valdes said early returns on the tour sponsorship have been good, with 45% to 50% sales growth in the tour markets so far. He predicts half a million cases in 2004 sales, which would be about a 40% increase over last year. Valdes declined to reveal the cost of the deal with Chesney.
%%PULLQUOTE_LEFT%% Groth's inspiration for launching EBS was born out of a "few decades of frustrations in the celebrity-association game" as a concert promoter. "When an artist really gets involved [like Chesney] and does his homework, that's when magic happens. Often, agents just do deals. We created EBS to work with a select group of celebrities who can become brands. There are only a few who can do that."
Groth said EBS pitched Chesney and his manager, Nashville-based Clint Higham, last summer on his team coming up with a brand development plan for his client in a similar manner to what agencies do for consumer-brand marketers. Higham signed off and the plan was put together in six months. This culminated in the deal with Cruzan at the beginning of this year. Groth points to the career of Jimmy Buffett as a template for what he hopes to achieve with Chesney.
While Groth would not divulge the specific financial aspects of the deal, he did say that generally, Radiate gets paid a fee to develop the plan; a retainer to maintain and update that plan as needed; and a percentage of all revenue generated for the client. Groth said Radiate EBS would only take one or two clients a year, which could be athletes as well as artists.