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The Sound of Music

With the arrival of warm summer nights, music festival organisers are booking burger vans, beer tents and port-a-loos in readiness for the invasion. But just how effective is music sponsorship in reaching the iPod Gen? Ardi Kolah investigates.

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In Twelfth Night, Shakespeare wrote: "If music be the food of love, play on; Give me excess of it, that surfeiting, The appetite may sicken, and so die."

Let's face it. Do you know of anyone who doesn't like music? Enough said.

As it gets harder for brand owners to engage with the iPod generation, music looks like an increasingly attractive option.

And of course, it's a useful channel for communication outside of sports sponsorship because it can reach potentially wider demographic and psychographic audience segments.

But any involvement with music in the broadcast context has to make sense from a brand perspective, otherwise it won't work.

Major sponsors are increasingly diversifying their sponsorship property portfolios to include music in their repertoires, although arts sponsorship still only accounts for around five percent of total sponsorship spending on a global basis. But it is growing.

In the UK, all the major telecoms brand owners have invested heavily in music sponsorship.

The O2 wireless festival, Orange Glastonbury and Vodafone Live! are now well established fixtures in the music calendar and great examples of how brand owners are using their technology to connect with the iPod generation.

Other brand owners, such as Nivea, become the sponsor of the MTV interactive chart shows on MTV Hits and MTV Dance channels, while Western Union is the headline sponsor of the MOBO Awards.

Both brand owners are desperately trying to connect with young audiences in a relevant way while remaining faithful to the brand's values and personality.

However, while these "older" music properties benefit from broadcast coverage on terrestrial or cable TV, increasingly brand owners are looking for much more than simply name recognition attached to a music property.

A music sponsorship strategy is therefore essential in order to avoid costly mistakes later.

Copying well-worked music formats such as the X-Factor and Pop Idol won't achieve cut-through and in fact are likely to turn-off audiences unless they offer something different and speak to them in a different way.

So what's the answer?

Some brand owners are looking to differentiate themselves through music by combining the disciplines of corporate analysis, marketing, sonic relevance and musicology to create a sound strategy that's unique for them.

These efforts are focused on drawing audiences closer to them through familiarity, recognition and empathy.

So for example, we've listened for decades to the Pepsi Chart Show but what's the "sonic footprint" of the Pepsi brand?

"Sound can add significant value to a holistic brand. It can be an identifier and unifier in sound-only media and particularly in new media where sound alone is used. Sound can draw the attention of customers to advertising -- through recognition it can inform of new products, new offers, new directions," claims Bernard Carey of Sound Strategies (www.sound-strategies.co.uk) who's currently working on a brief from a leisure group to create a unique sound for the brand.

A five-step development process for creating this "sonic footprint" involves the following:

  1. An audit of the brand owner's culture, image and communications strategy.
  2. An analysis of the existing use of sound, and research into further "sonic opportunities".
  3. The development of an awareness with the brand owner of the potential of sound through workshops and enablement strategies.
  4. The provision of a brief for a sound-based positioning, composed and developed in the same way as a logo and design system for a visual corporate identity.
  5. A collaborative decision making process to agree effective channels and methods for reaching audiences through the creation of a "sonic footprint" within a consistent and all-encompassing sonic architecture.

Perhaps in the not too distant future, every brand will have its unique "sonic foot print" that makes it easier for the iPod generation to recognise the brand and engage with it.

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