While the marketing budget for a digital network with just 38 million subscribers may be relatively small, VH1 Classic has found a way to get its brand splashed at the venues of several major concerts this year without shelling out a dime.
The network has cut deals with classic rock artists ranging from Pat Benatar to The Beach Boys, agreeing to run free commercials and other promotions that market their tours. In exchange, VH1 Classic gets plugs at the concerts in the form of banners or videos running before the shows.
“It's a barter deal,” VH1 Classic general manager Eric Sherman said. “Anything we can do to support artists in touring is great for us. It's helped us really brand ourselves among classic [rock] lovers.”
VH1 Classic partnered with EMI Music Marketing and Tower Records to hype the release of “Pat Benatar's Greatest Hits.” The network ran a “VH1 Classic Presents Pat Benatar Live in Las Vegas” sweepstakes, which drew 50,000 entrants, according to VH1. The winner and a guest received a trip to Vegas for three nights at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, tickets to a Benatar concert and a collection of her CDs.
In exchange for the VH1 promotion, the network is included in all print ads promoting the tour, including “As Seen on VH1 Classic” stickers affixed on all of Benatar's greatest hits CDs in retail outlets.
VH1 Classic is running similar promotions with an eclectic list of bands, including performances by The Beach Boys, Al Green, Whitesnake, Donna Summer, Judas Priest and the Loggins & Messina reunion tour.
When VH1 Classic began running the tour promotions a few years ago, the network would take “any tour we could get,” Sherman said. “We've gotten to the point this year where we have to turn away tours.”
VH1 Classic sets aside about one minute per hour of ad time to promote the tours, Sherman said. Some artists ask the network to “front-load” 30-second spots promoting their concerts when tickets go on sale, while some of the smaller tours, which sell ducats over time, ask the network to spread out the promotions over a longer period, Sherman added.