Nine-City Event Targets Teens, Showcases Hip-Hop Singer Rihanna

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CINCINNATI -- Procter & Gamble Co.’s Secret deodorant long used ads that promised women protection “strong enough for a man” and newer ones that promise protection “strong enough for a woman.” Never, however, has it made its consumers scream like little girls. Until now.

Teen hip-hop star Rihanna's Secret Body Spray concert tour will hit nine cities.

The deodorant brand has launched Rihanna’s Secret Body Spray Tour, a nine-city concert series featuring Island Def Jam’s 17-year-old, Barbados-born, reggae-inspired hip-hop phenom in her first headline tour since releasing a hit single in the summer.

Radio station and MySpace.com promos

The concerts are free, but P&G is distributing hundreds of VIP stage-front tickets in each city via promos with local radio stations and online networking site MySpace.com, where it’s sponsoring Rihanna’s page. She’s already signed on about 4,000 friends on MySpace through her first two stops in Cincinnati and Chicago.

In her first stop Oct. 26 at a shopping mall in Newport, Ky., just across the Ohio River from P&G’s downtown Cincinnati headquarters, Rihanna drew about 200 VIPs and easily three times as many other attendees, including boyfriends or moms in tow, on what was otherwise a light-traffic weeknight. As Secret distributed body-spray samples and entries for a trip to Barbados, screams of the assembled teen female consumer target carried to the river.
It’s far from mass marketing in the P&G tradition, but Secret is banking on a mix of music and teen social networking to build buzz behind its body spray.  

“We really want to play an important role in the lives of our teen consumers and show up in the places where they have passion. And they have a ton of passion for music and entertainment and celebrities who really are in the moment, and Rihanna has all of those things,” said Kim Yates, Secret brand manager. “We feel like we’ve hit upon an emerging artist who’s extremely relevant for our target consumer.”

WPP Group's Alliance

The P&G brand is using WPP Group’s Alliance, New York, to develop this and other entertainment partnerships, Ms. Yates said. Marina Maher Communications, New York, is handling PR.

Rihanna’s fan base is “right in the sweet spot of a 14- to-17-year-old female [consumer base],” said Jeff Straughn, VP-strategic marketing for Island Def Jam, adding that the deal with P&G aims to expand her audience. “Based on where radio is today and how limited you are sometimes in reaching that audience, we go to online opportunities and tie-in to partnerships,” he said.

Rihanna also is opening for Gwen Stefani this fall and was part of a Teen People tour in the summer but hadn’t had a headline tour of her own.

The deal expands P&G’s use of MySpace and emerging musicians. Previously Secret had sponsored a MySpace page for already-established Hilary Duff. And P&G’s Herbal Essences brand last year signed Jadyn Maria, a Christian contemporary artist attempting to migrate mainstream, to star in a commercial integrated into WB’s sitcom What I Like About You.
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