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Entertainment News

Sunday, 31 August, 2008 10:50 PM

Kenny Chesney and Corona Team Up (CMA)

Photo courtesy of Crown Imports

Ad for Corona Extra features Kenny Chesney

By Randy Rudder
© 2008 CMA Close Up News Service

Celebrities have consistently scored big endorsement deals, but Michael Jackson's arrangement with Pepsi in the early 1980s lifted the practice to an unprecedented level of income potential. Alabama, Garth Brooks, Brooks & Dunn, Tim McGraw, Brad Paisley, Randy Travis and Shania Twain are among the many Country artists who have worked out similarly lucrative arrangements with tour sponsors.

As significant as this has become as an income source, it will become even more critical as the topography of the music industry continues to shift.

A prime example of this potential is three-time CMA Entertainer of the Year Kenny Chesney's "Poets & Pirates Tour" this summer, which is sponsored by Corona Extra, one of the many products distributed by Crown Imports, LLC, a Chicago-based company that distributes Corona in the United States.

In the spring, Chesney's single "Don't Blink" remained at No. 1 for four straight weeks, raising expectations that attendance for the summer's "Poets & Pirates Tour" would peak even higher than the 1.2 million fans who attended his "Flip Flop Summer Tour" of 2007. Extra draw was supplied by adding LeAnn Rimes to the bill along with Gary Allan, Big & Rich, Brooks & Dunn, Sammy Hagar and Keith Urban on selected dates, plus Chesney's "Next Big Star" contest that allowed local acts to vie for the chance to open the show in their hometown and even play the final weekend of the tour.

"Kenny Chesney is, in terms of attendance, the top touring act in North America over the past five years, in any genre," said Ray Waddell, Executive Director of Content and Programming, Touring and Live Entertainment, Billboard. "As the impact of traditional advertising models decreases, sponsors are increasingly looking to live music as a way to reach consumers in an efficient, targeted manner. Country Music fans are very highly regarded by brands as loyal, active consumers. Given the images of both, in my opinion, Chesney and Corona are a natural fit."

The partnership that Chesney inked with Corona doesn't end Sept. 13, when he plays his last date on this tour in Indianapolis. "This will be a seven-year deal, including a five-year tour sponsorship," said Clint Higham, VP, Morris Management Group, which manages Chesney. "We already filmed the first two commercials down in Tulum, Mexico, a few months ago."

"We approached Kenny's team a while back about the idea of exploring various projects that might be a good fit for both Kenny and Corona," said Timm Amundson, VP of Marketing, Corona Extra and Corona Light for Crown Imports. "As we began these discussions, it became very clear in very short order that this would be a perfect fit for both parties. And we just kicked things off this year."

"The term 'partnership' really is the most accurate description of the relationship between Kenny and Corona in that it goes well beyond your standard tour sponsorship," Amundson continued. "The partnership involves a whole range of activities, including advertising campaigns, digital initiatives and retail programs. In fact, we introduced the TV commercials with Kenny this spring."

"Corona is something Kenny has always been identified with," Higham added. "They are selling the same message we are. They get our vision and we get theirs as well: Corona personifies escape."

Chesney was fully onboard with the idea from the start. "If you want to capture my audience, the thing that stands out is their ability to have more fun in a single day than most people have in a month," he said. "Corona is part of those relaxed, hanging-out-with-your-buddies kinds of days."

The arrangement with Chesney is not the first long-term deal that Corona has signed with a major artist. The company did have a 25-year-long contract with Jimmy Buffett, another good fit for their product, which ended recently.

"Some sponsorships are just about cashing a check, but not this one," said Higham. "As we continue to figure out ways to grow the Kenny Chesney brand, this is going to be a big piece of the puzzle. The vision of the two brands intersects very well. They refer to the brand as a 'vacation in a bottle' and we refer to ours as a 'vacation on the stage,' and when you can marry those two brands so well, it just makes sense. I mean, it's not like Kenny's selling Cheez Whiz or something."

"Songs like 'Old Blue Chair,' 'Beer in Mexico,' 'No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problems' all speak to the laid-back, island vibe that Kenny articulates so well in much of his music," Amundson observed. "It's that same attitude and persona that Corona has been communicating over the years. So although there are a number of obvious reasons we would love to work with an artist of Kenny Chesney's stature, that one would certainly be right at the top of the list."

"I can't think of an artist more devoted to his fans than Kenny Chesney," he added. "It's an amazing thing to experience that connection between Kenny and his audience at a live show. And for Corona to be part of that is really exciting. It has much less to do with demographics and target audiences than it has to do with the level of involvement and enthusiasm that comes out of that whole experience."

On the Web: www.kennychesney.com

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