Music News

BlackBerry enters sponsorship arena with Mayer tour

NASHVILLE (Billboard) - In a first for both sponsor and artist, BlackBerry will present musician John Mayer’s upcoming North American tour, Billboard has learned.

Portable communication device BlackBerry will use the Mayer tour to help launch its upcoming AT&T-carried mobile phone, Curve.

The 40-date BlackBerry Presents John Mayer in Concert tour begins June 1 in Ridgefield, Wash., with Ben Folds supporting. Live Nation is promoting the majority of dates on the tour and reports that sales are strong in the early going.

Paul Kalbfleisch, senior director of corporate marketing for BlackBerry parent Research in Motion (RIM), said recent additions to the BlackBerry product line such as Pearl and the new Curve make live music a viable avenue to reach consumers in search of devices with plenty of capabilities.

“John Mayer’s concert tour gives us that venue and that context to talk about BlackBerry to a group of people that maybe we haven’t talked to before,” Kalbfleisch said. “We’re able to reach out to a new audience, maybe a slightly younger audience in their 20s, without at all alienating the existing BlackBerry audience,” he added.

BlackBerry will launch a site highlighting the tour. Marketing in traditional and new media are part of the promotion, as is an on-site presence at concert venues. The details of consumer-interactive contests are being finalized, and BlackBerry will host VIP parties and backstage meet-and-greets at shows.

“On-site during every concert we’ll have the ability to showcase and demonstrate BlackBerry Curve, along with our carrier partner AT&T, so that people coming to the concerts will see, touch and feel our product, learn what it has to offer them, take pictures with it, have a little bit of fun with it,” Kalbfleisch said. “We will have the ability to interact with the audience without interfering with the concert itself.”

Live event sponsorship, particularly music events, has experienced huge growth in the past few years as marketers struggle to reach consumers in an efficient way. So why is BlackBerry just now getting into the tour sponsorship game?

“The product offering and our strategy had to be in line with reaching out to this type of audience,” said Kalbfleisch, who noted that the BlackBerry brand is more mainstream than it was only a few years ago. “The entertainment world and more unique opportunities started to make sense to us now. Two years ago it probably wasn’t time yet.”

Both parties to the deal declined to cite financial specifics, but typically such extensive tour sponsorships are valued at more than $1 million in cash and more in marketing. Michael McDonald, Mayer’s manager, said that upfront money from BlackBerry goes into upfront tour costs.

“Something we’ve really focused on is putting the check to good use,” McDonald said, adding that marketing is also a big plus.