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Cracker Barrel Signs On As Brad Paisley Tour Sponsor

Chain's Deal With Country Music Star Could Signal Demographic Shift

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Country singer Brad Paisley is ready for a rocking chair.

Brad Paisley
Brad Paisley Credit: Ben Enos

The artist has signed with Cracker Barrel Old Country Store to sponsor his "Beat This Summer Tour," which will hit 29 cities throughout the U.S. and Canada, kicking off on May 9 in St. Louis. The 40 year old singer - and the author of the 2011 New York Times best-seller "Diary of a Player" – ranked No. 16 in Billboard's Top 25 Tours of 2012, grossing over $33 million dollars in over 50 shows last year, 31 of which were sellouts.

"Brad (Paisley) is known for looking for very organic partnerships that are a true fit for him, similar to what he has done with Chevy and Hershey's," said Shari Lewin, Brand Partnerships Agent at William Morris Endeavor. "Those sorts of brand partnerships have always been very true to who Brad is. I think some of the other things that drew him to Cracker Barrel is that he is a family man and [Cracker Barrel's] demographic really aligns with his - it's country."

With over 620 locations in 42 states, Cracker Barrel has long been involved with country music. Since first partnering with country songstress Alison Krauss in 2005, the restaurant chain has partnered with country performers such as Alabama, newcomers such as Edens Edge and hit makers such as the Zac Brown Band.

"Brad (Paisley)'s fan base fits together with our consumers," said Cracker Barrel Marketing Manager Julie Craig. "He has a broad span of age groups in his fan base and we love being able to bring them into the picture. It just took some time to make sure we had the best activation in place."

Many tour sponsorships involve not much more than signage, but Cracker Barrel's "activation" truly steeps its brand into a tour. While details aren't finalized for the Paisley tour, in the past its partnerships have included everything from placing its iconic rocking chairs at an artist's meet-and-greet to tour buses wrapped in Cracker Barrel signage to concert sets specifically designed to resemble the interior and exterior of the Cracker Barrel restaurant. Artists have also been known to stop at a local Cracker Barrel close to a tour stop for exclusive concerts on the front porch. And the chain has toyed with the idea of putting allied artists' favorite meals on the menu, though that has yet to happen.

The signing of Mr. Paisley, moreover, seems to point toward a bit of a demographic shift for the restaurant that has long appealed to baby boomers. Cracker Barrel reported total revenue of $702.7 million for the second quarter of fiscal 2013 ended Feb. 1, representing an increase of 4.4% over the second quarter of the prior year. Same-store sales rose 3.3% in the quarter, including a 3.1% increase in average check.

"This is the biggest thing in country music that [Cracker Barrel] has ever done and I think that's what drew Brad [Paisley] into it," said Ms. Lewin. The chain "is trying to do something a little bit different, and by partnering with an artist of Brad's caliber, I think they are going to reach a much larger audience and, I don't want to say a younger demographic, but a different demographic than what they have traditionally reached."

"While no official details have been released on Cracker Barrel's plans to include Mr. Paisley's April 9 release of his eighth studio album "Wheelhouse" in its exclusive music program, there is a good chance there will also be a enhanced CD component to the overall partnership, with exclusive tracks only available for purchase at Cracker Barrel Old Country Store locations and crackerbarrel.com.

"Artists at the level of Brad Paisley don't necessarily need a tour sponsor, but they remain intrigued by brands that will be true partners," concluded Ms. Lewin. "It's not about the old model of throwing up a name and logo on a screen - - it's about doing things that are a little bit different."

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