AT&T Rings Up Positive PR With Olympic 'Soundtrack'

Pop Stars Pitch In to Support Athletes, and Everyone Wins

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Team U.S.A. had a lot of fans -- and even more airtime -- in the two weeks they monopolized the country's normally fleeting attention, but their quest for Olympic gold was backed up by a few other medaled all-stars as well: the multi-platinum recording artists who contributed to the "AT&T Team USA Soundtrack," a compilation of original tracks laid down in support of the U.S. athletes in Beijing.
The videos aired during NBC and Telemundo Olympic coverage, and sat in wait at AT&T's online entertainment hub, the Blue Room, where fans could download the tracks via iTunes and on AT&T wireless phones, with the proceeds funneled to Team USA.
The videos aired during NBC and Telemundo Olympic coverage, and sat in wait at AT&T's online entertainment hub, the Blue Room, where fans could download the tracks via iTunes and on AT&T wireless phones, with the proceeds funneled to Team USA.

Throughout the past two weeks of games, you very well may have seen them, slick videos by Kate Voegele, Chris Brown and Sheryl Crow, coming on every night between events and offering a 40-second shot of patriotic motivation.

Breakneck production
Shawn Robbins, founder and director of Robbins Media, took up the task of producing the videos, which required they all be shot and online in just over a month.

"It sounded like a bar bet among filmmakers, or some new reality show," said Raymond Ecke, president of Right World Media Inc., who represents Robbins Media.

But it was for real. Robbins Media collaborated with Dallas-based agency The Marketing Arm (an Omnicom Group subsidiary) and AT&T to produce the video component for the campaign, which all told, threads together 16 Olympic-themed songs from the Goo Goo Dolls, Taylor Swift, Nelly and over a dozen more.

Chris Smith, chief strategy officer at The Marketing Arm, said the impetus for the campaign came out of the unique community formed by the games.

"Usually sponsorship is designed to help the brand, but the Olympics are different," he said. "Our objective was to support the athletes."

Money isn't everything
Though 100% of the download proceeds were donated, AT&T didn't leave Beijing completely empty-handed. The company's brand awareness and web traffic saw a substantial spike during the games, despite not being an official Olympic sponsor.

Mr. Smith credits prime positioning on iTunes and Facebook, and the requisite buzz garnered with exposure on those outlets. But because the actual musical content covered a swath of genres, publicity for the campaign naturally followed suit, appearing in People magazine, US weekly and the Country Music Television network -- "places you wouldn't expect to hear about these things," according to Mr. Smith.

The videos aired during NBC and Telemundo Olympic coverage, and sat in wait at AT&T's online entertainment hub, the Blue Room, where fans could download the tracks via iTunes and on AT&T wireless phones, with the proceeds funneled to Team USA -- something the athletes seem to have appreciated.

"A lot of the athletes have the ring tones" from the project, said Deborah Buentello, senior marketing manager at AT&T. "It encapsulates a certain aspect of the experience for them."

Due to the quick turnaround required for the videos, Mr. Robbins focused less on elaborate concepts and more on placing the artist in an environment that made sense to the song. For Sheryl Crow, that meant shooting in an open field in Tennessee near her home, while for Nelly the location was his private recording studio. The Goo Goo Dolls were filmed in an abandoned warehouse in Los Angeles probably large enough to hold half the games themselves.

Quality production
The 3 Doors Down video, featuring an ambitious wide mountain shot and an elaborate light show, was developed in part by NBC, which in turn used it during its ratings-behemoth reality show, "America's Got Talent."
Rather than relying on elaborate concepts, artists were placed in environments that made sense to the song -- for Sheryl Crow, that meant shooting in an open field in Tennessee near her home.
Rather than relying on elaborate concepts, artists were placed in environments that made sense to the song -- for Sheryl Crow, that meant shooting in an open field in Tennessee near her home.

"We couldn't fake this," Mr. Robbins said. "All of these artists have shot high-budget music videos before, and we had to give it a look comparable to their stature in the industry. Everyone gave us their approval very quickly, so we must have done something right."

Robbins Media regularly traffics in high-end commercials and slick promotional content. They've been behind the "Pitching Prince" commercial campaign for the NFL and CBS promoting the Pepsi Super Bowl XLI Halftime Show; the Dave Matthews Band "Stand Up" campaign, similarly for the NFL and CBS; and the 2003 "Getting Ready for the NFL Season" campaign featuring rapper Ja Rule.

The music-sport hybrid model is not uncommon ground for The Marketing Arm, either. The firm was responsible for the "World's Largest Pep Rally" campaign last fall, also in conjunction with AT&T, in which college students were encouraged to band together and text using their AT&T devices to win a Dave Matthews Band concert. In the end, the bit drew 3.5 million responses.

With the "Soundtrack' campaign, Mr. Smith said they were given another unique position to get consumers to participate.

'A chance to interact'
"Most of the stuff you see during the Olympics is the brand talking to you," he said. "We wanted to give the viewer the chance to interact with the brand."

And while final results for "Team USA Soundtrack" are still being tabulated, Mr. Smith says the response succeeded initial estimates, and is poised to "actually blow the doors off."
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