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Music events are rapidly becoming one of the hottest channels for mainstream marketers targeting Hispanic consumers.

Concert sponsorships have long been important to advertisers reaching Hispanics, but as Latino music becomes a bigger force in the U.S., music events are taking on a bigger role in promotion and advertising, say marketers.


Certain Hispanic agencies also are finding that handling Hispanic music events and using popular Hispanic music stars in ads and promotions is the key to significant growth.

"Music is deeply embedded in the Latino culture, and no matter how many generations people have been in the U.S., music is still their strongest link to their home country or culture," says Fausto Sanchez, president and executive creative director at Sanchez & Levitan, Miami.

For Seagram Americas' Chivas Regal Scotch whisky brand, Sanchez & Levitan recently launched a series of free concerts in Miami's North Beach area, featuring top Salsa music artists including Eddie Palmieri.

The events, running from July 12 through Sept. 20, are drawing thousands of attendees and each week includes a salsa/meringue dance contest sponsored by Chivas Regal.


Chivas got involved for the first time this year "because of the opportunity to reach trend-setting and diverse consumers in the broader group of local Hispanics," says Al Vrooman, marketing manager of the Southern Region for Chivas.

The biggest challenge in making such events successful is finding music that cuts across the diverse cultures within the broad Hispanic group, Mr. Sanchez says.

"There are many different cultures within the Hispanic world, and finding music that appeals to a broad spectrum is one of the interesting and challenging tasks we face," he says.

Hispanic music is becoming increasingly important in advertising, as well as sponsorship.

Sanchez & Levitan also is using original Hispanic music in more ad campaigns.

For campaigns for the Florida Lottery and telecommunications marketer BellSouth, the agency has commissioned Hispanic artists to create music used in TV and radio spots, including music composed by Israel Cachao, a mambo great from the 1950s who was "rediscovered" by the agency in 1992.


"We fished him out of obscurity and created a concert sponsorship package for a number of our clients that was such a success, his career came back to life," says Mr. Sanchez.

Turning national music events into powerful local promotions is another big task for Hispanic agencies.

Cardenas/Fernandez & Associates, Chicago, an agency specializing in harnessing Hispanic music for sponsorships and promotions, recently inked a first-time deal with General Motors Corp.'s Chevrolet division for a five-market series of music events promoting various car models.

Kicking off Sept. 20, the Chevrolet-sponsored effort consists of concerts starring Latino heartthrob Juan Gabriel in Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami and San Antonio. Chevrolet will promote different models of its cars, backed by on-site and local promotions at each concert site.


"Instead of putting one brand behind the promotion, we're dividing it among several Chevrolet models, based on that particular market," says Bruce Wenner, assistant manager and strategic marketing planning for Chevrolet's relationship-marketing division.

The first-time effort appealed to Chevrolet because of Juan Gabriel's broad appeal among Hispanic audiences.

"We did research and saw him perform live, and I've never seen an artist with such a wide following among everyone from eight to 80 years old," says Mr. Wenner.


Chevrolet will offer targeted prospects a test-drive incentive: Two free tickets to the Juan Gabriel event worth $35 each. If one of these consumers actually purchases a Chevrolet in connection with the promotion, he or she will receive VIP tickets to the show and an invitation to a special backstage reception plus a complimentary Juan Gabriel music CD.

Local TV, print and radio ads support the effort. Chevrolet vehicles also will be on display at the concert venues in each market, says Mr. Wenner.

Music also is driving one of Cardenas/Fernandez' consumer promotions for MexiCali Foods' El Mexicano brand of dairy products.

Launched in 1996, the brand has soared to become No. 2 in its category in the Hispanic market, almost entirely due to music sponsorships, says Eugene Dibble, VP-business development for Cardenas/Fernandez.

The El Mexicano effort relies heavily on in-store promotion and point-of-sale efforts linking the brand with local Hispanic concert sponsorships and musician performances, through sampling and promotional efforts.

El Mexicano is a heavy on-site sponsor, with sampling and signage at concerts. Local Hispanic supermarket executives have been invited to VIP events at concerts and Hispanic radio stations have done live remote broadcasts from inside Hispanic supermarkets, promoting the El Mexicano brand.

"Creating a link between the El Mexicano brand and entertainment has been a very powerful tool, and it seems to satisfy the need consumers have for immediacy and relevance -- when they're shopping they're receptive to the connection we've established between the product and the music and performers. At the events, we're able to cement the connection with on-site marketing," says Mr. Dibble.


Both Sanchez & Levitan and Cardenas/Fernandez say their businesses are growing from 15% to 20% per year, fueled by music-based advertising and promotional campaigns, as mainstream marketers discover the importance of using music and cultural events to reach Hispanics.

"Events, festivals and promotions are the most powerful way to reach the broadest range of Hispanics, because there are so many different cultures within the Hispanic world, and as Hispanics become a bigger part of the U.S. population in the future, we'll see music play an even more important role in marketing," says Mr. Sanchez.

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