Brad Paisley even went off script during last year's Country
Music Association Awards show to sing "Are you here to sell
insurance?" to the tune of the Nationwide jingle, addressing the
insurer's other spokesman at the event, Peyton Manning. That was
unpaid. "Trust me, we would have tried to monetize that," says
Emily Evans, senior director of strategic partnerships at the
Several attendees at the boot camp said they were drawn to the
genre's comparative cost-effectiveness. Tanvi Sikand, senior
marketing manager for brand and media partnerships at
Balsam Hill, a maker of artificial Christmas trees, advertised
on the "CMA Country Christmas" show last year—and got her
trees onstage as set decoration.
"I was nervous watching the show because it was a big chunk of
our budget," she says. But Balsam Hill's website visits climbed
beyond her expectations during the airing, she says. She is
returning this year as a sponsor.
Tara Dowling, associate director of strategy at Spark Foundry,
says she came to explore allying a client with music as a potential
differentiator in a high-spending category. Another person in
attendance said that a buy on the CMAs is a relative bargain
compared with shows like the Grammys.
According to an Ad Age analysis, the average cost for the 2016
CMA Awards show was $250,000 per 30-second spot, compared with
$985,000 in the 2017 Grammys. Last week's CMA Awards delivered a
3.2 rating in viewers age 18 to 49, up 10 percent from last year
when it was facing Game 7 of the World Series, and drew 14.3
million total viewers, up 14 percent, according to Nielsen. By
comparison, the Grammys brought in a 7.8 rating in adults 18 to 49
and 26.1 million viewers in total.
In an industry where "authenticity" is a huge buzzword, the CMA
claims it delivers in abundance. "Rihanna probably doesn't drive a
Chevy, but country music stars do," says Shari Lewin, a partner at
WME handling commercial endorsements.
They also drive Mack Trucks—or at least have relatives who
work on them. Mack tapped singer-songwriter Steve Moakler to pen
the song "Born Ready" for a dealer event to unveil a new truck.
Moakler says he was drawn to the project because his granddad once
was a truck mechanic. He ended up creating a stirring anthem to the
workingman who spends most of his time on the road to make life
better for his family. The marketing team "came to my release show"
for a chemistry meeting, says Moakler, and they got so fired up
that "we shut that bar down."
It was a risk for Mack, however, because it had little to no
input in the song. "I downplayed it in the boardroom because I had
heard some of these deals don't go so well, so if that happened I
was going to bury it," says John Walsh, Mack's VP of marketing.
"Then crap, we have this fantastic song." Mack produced a video for
it that clocked more than 50,000 views on YouTube in its first two
months, and is expanding its relationship with Moakler.
Liz Daney, exec VP and chief media offer at Fitzco in Atlanta,
attended the summit on behalf of a financial client that normally
sponsors sports. "There has been some tarnish on sports these
days," she says. "I'm looking for something a bit more
Daney says she was taken aback by "the openness of the CMA and
talent agencies to explore opportunities across budget levels." The
event, she says, helped break down stereotypes, citing a performer
the CMA brought in to entertain the group—a country beatboxer
named Walker Hayes.
"Diversity is happening in country music," she says. "It is not
this C and D county 50-year-old white guy listening. The genre has
so many nuances to it, and a breadth of different artists."