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MARKETING

That's Their Ticket : Sprint-Stones Link Shows Corporate Sponsorship of Concerts

September 18, 1997|GREG JOHNSON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

"When you see the Rolling Stones and Sprint, you wonder 'Where's the connection?' But country music fans, our research consistently shows, are tremendous Fruit of the Loom purchasers," said Dirk Herrman, Fruit of the Loom's brand marketing vice president. ". . . These are our people."

Sprint's Stones affiliation borrows from affinity marketing programs honed by credit card companies that give away everything from concert tickets to airline miles, said Mike Kamins, a USC advertising professor.

Mike Goff, Sprint's director of corporate sponsorships, acknowledges that long-distance providers are "beating the crap out of each other" with ads touting lower prices or better service.

"The beauty of the Stones is that they have a relevance to many of our customers' lifestyles," Goff said. "We're now able to give them something special. We're saying 'We know what you want and we can give it to you.' "

Fans attending Fleetwood Mac's October concerts at Irvine Meadows and the Hollywood Bowl will walk away with vouchers for a Fleetwood Mac CD-ROM, $50 in store coupons and compact discs featuring solo work by band members and other artists whose albums are on sale at Best Buy.

Corporate sponsors generally expect the benefits of a high-profile sponsorship to be three or four times what is being spent, Daugherty said, "so if the company is spending $3 million, they expect the final value to be worth $9 million or $10 million."

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Sprint, for example, will leverage its Stones investment by using band members' pictures in commercials long after the group has left town.

For the sponsorship to work, Sprint will have to grab customers from competitors and hold onto them.

What's unique about the Stones deal is that Sprint customers will be first in line for about half of the seats to be sold during the 32-city tour that culminates next February in Mexico City.

"It's all about building business," Goff said. "And we think the beauty of the Rolling Stones ticket promotion is that we'll be able to track it in a quantifiable way."

Industry statistics suggest that 30% to 40% of residential phone customers will switch long-distance services for a pint of Cherry Garcia or the opportunity to see Jagger strut his stuff during a Nov. 9 show at Dodger Stadium.

But Stuart R. Taylor, a Boston-based senior manager with Anderson Consulting, cautions that customers who can't get satisfaction with Sprint "are just as likely to jump back next week."

"It's dubious that Sprint will generate customer loyalty with a one-shot deal like this," he said.

Sprint executives acknowledge that some customers are switching their long-distance service to the Kansas City, Mo.-based company to score hard-to-get tickets and then sprinting right back to AT&T Corp. or MCI Communications Corp.

And, while some fans are grumbling about the Stones' commercial sellout, most seem to understand that the band is simply taking care of business--much the same way sports teams use someone else's money to finance their events.

"Sprint having access to the tickets is far less intrusive and obnoxious than the constant calls I get from MCI asking me to switch," said New York City resident Ira Stein, who used his Sprint card to buy tickets for the Stones' Oct. 16 date at Giants Stadium.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

Jumpin' Jack Cash

The Rolling Stones, which embark Tuesday on a 32-city North American tour, are a powerhouse wherever they play. The rock band was the top-grossing musical act around the world during the 1995 leg of its "Voodoo Lounge" tour. The top 10 gross ticket sales internationally that year were:

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Group Gross Location (number of shows) Dates 1. The Stones $27.6 million Tokyo (7) March 6-17 2. The Stones 19.8 million Buenos Aires (5) Feb. 9-16 3. The Stones 11.8 million Mexico City (4) Jan. 14-20 4. The Stones 8.7 million London (3) June 11-16 5. The Stones 8.6 million Paris (2) June 30-July 1 6. The Stones 6.2 million Belgium (2) June 24-25 7. The Stones 5.9 million Australia (2) March 27-28 8. The Stones 5.6 million Switzerland (2) July 29-30 9. The Stones 5.2 million Australia (2) April 1-2 10. The Stones 5.2 million Netherlands (2) June 13-14

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Note: All shows were sellouts.

Source: Amusement Business magazine

Rock of Aged

Only a handful of rock bands have the drawing power to mount national tours that can fill the country's largest concert venues. Last year, aging rockers such as the Eagles and Kiss revved up their engines and dominated the concert season. The Rolling Stones didn't tour in 1996.

Top 10 Touring Acts of 1996

Ranked by gross ticket sales

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Shows Act Gross Attendance (sellouts) 1. Eagles $60.3 million 1,061,321 45 (45) 2. Kiss 36.6 million 1,011,701 76 (57) 3. Garth Brooks 33.6 million 1,843,328 115 (115) 4. Bob Seger 26.3 million 923,829 64 (46) 5. Neil Diamond 25.6 million 847,655 50 (31) 6. Rod Stewart 23.0 million 599,496 52 (12) 7. Reba McEntire 21.5 million 835,042 62 (33) 8. Alanis Morissette 19.5 million 873,855 82 (70) 9. Jimmy Buffett 18.4 million 621,306 30 (23) 10. Ozzy Osbourne 17.6 million 767,916 78 (23)

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Source: Amusement Business magazine

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