Advertising Week

Bacardi, Swizz Beatz Partner to Free Artists With 'No Commission' Fairs

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(l.-r.) Brian Schultz (CEO/Partner, Magnetic Collaborative) and Swizz Beatz (Global Chief Creative for Culture, Bacardi)
(l.-r.) Brian Schultz (CEO/Partner, Magnetic Collaborative) and Swizz Beatz (Global Chief Creative for Culture, Bacardi) Credit: Advertising Week Europe

What does a global chief creative for culture bring to a brand? In Bacardi's case, Swizz Beatz, a hip hop recording artist and music producer who also collects art, brought an idea he was already working on that in the last year has become a platform called No Commission.

In partnership with Bacardi, Mr. Beatz is involved in organizing and curating art fairs where artists can sell their work directly to buyers without paying the high commissions to galleries that Mr. Beatz said can amount to 50% or more of the price of the work. The events, which also include musical performances, draw big crowds as well as helping artists.

Mr. Beatz, who signed his deal with Bacardi in August 2016, described the partnership in an Advertising Week Europe session called "Evolving Brand Sponsorship and How We Tap Into Celebrities."

"I look for an authentic partnership," he said. "I want to feel good standing next to that brand. I don't want to feel like an ad."

He also brought previous experience gained working with other brands including Adidas, and currently has other partnerships in fashion and technology. In earlier partnerships before he came to understand the inner workings of the marketer company, he said he sometimes got impatient when a big organization didn't immediately jump on his ideas. He also learned not to take every deal that comes along: "I can't do cheesy things that'll hurt me later," he said.

Mr. Beatz had already piloted the no-commission art fair in Miami in 2015. With Bacardi, he did a No Commission show in an unlikely area β€” New York's rough South Bronx –in August 2016, followed by London in December.

Swizz Beatz
Swizz Beatz Credit: Advertising Week Europe

"I'm from the South Bronx and I thought it was important to bring the craft back where it started," he said. "With brands, it's easy to go high and go to Manhattan or Brooklyn." He noted that No Commission happened in the middle of the South Bronx, at an event serving liquor, "and there are no fights."

"This move was brave for Barcardi because there's no money involved," he said. "Artists keep the money they make, and people get in free. In the last three shows, Bacardi was part of giving back $3 million into artists' pockets. And brand awareness for Bacardi is up 30% with No Commission."

At all the shows, he said 98% of the work sells, and a lot of artists are picked up by big galleries. Mr. Beatz said he tells the artists they can call him, and he'll help them negotiate with the galleries.

Initially, he said the experience "was a little bit of a headache, when we had to explain the process to every new agency. Now it's on auto pilot and we have a structure that can plug and play. That's why we can do so many No Commissions in 2017."

A video about the project shown during his session listed five cities for No Commission events in 2017: Shanghai, Berlin, New York, Miami and Dubai.

He said that China in particular has been a complicated market for No Commission. "There are different rules and approvals, and every artwork has to be approved by the government," he said.

In an Advertising Week Europe session on experiential marketing, a Diageo exec also stressed authenticity as a major criteria for success. Leila Fataar, head of culture & entertainment for Diageo Europe, advocated doing something that positively contributes to the culture – fashion, music or sports. "Be part of it and shape it, as opposed to just trying to buy around the edges," she said.

For instance, Ms. Fataar said electronic music is a passion for Smirnoff, but only 17% of DJs are women. So Diageo has committed to a three-year, multimillion dollar plan to double that figure by 2020, including partnerships with Live Nation and Spotify, she said.

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