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Vonage Is A Primary Sponsor Of Live 8 On Premiere Radio Network And MTV

Vonage In Print News

Live 8 As An Advertising Vehicle

June 30, 2005

By Abbey Klaassen

NEW YORK ( -- Saturday's multiple-concert Live 8 event, the elaborate sequel to Bob Geldof’s 1985 Live Aid, is expected to draw the world’s largest broadcast audience and, while the focus is on world poverty, marketers such as AOL, Nokia and Volvo hope a few consumers take notice, too.

The three companies are global sponsors of the anti-poverty entertainment effort that involves 10 concerts, 100 artists, a million spectators and a projected 2 billion viewers.

AOL audience builder
Time Warner's America Online will broadcast every performance from every concert and offer for six weeks after the event access to streaming video archives of all the shows and songs. Live 8, the Internet company said, will help raise consumer awareness of AOL's impending switch to a free, all-access, ad-supported operation. It will also provide exclusive content to help drive its popular online channel, AOL Music.

“You can literally jump back and forth with a mouse between the concerts in London and Rome and Philadelphia,” said Jim Bankoff, AOL’s programming chief. “There’s no better way than with a massive global event to proclaim we’re now open for business on the Internet around the world.”

As a media partner, AOL also holds the exclusive online rights for the event along with U.S. broadcast rights, which it has licensed to Walt Disney Co.'s ABC (for broadcast TV), Premiere Radio Networks, XM Satellite Radio and Viacom's MTV Networks (for cable TV).

Nokia, meanwhile, is the title sponsor of ABC’s prime-time Live 8 programming and will help roll out ancillary Live 8 messages after the July 2 event, said Tim Sexton, who is heading the U.S. Live 8 effort and helped secure many of the deals.

Volvo does 6 TV spots
Ford Motor Co.'s Volvo division recently signed onto the event as well. The automaker will air six 30-second spots during the ABC broadcast and provide artist transportation to and from the London and Philadelphia concerts. It will also host a VIP entertainment suite at the Philadelphia concert.

The event, said company spokesman Soren Johansson, “fits with the DNA of the company” and “appeals to people’s emotions.” The automaker will use its six TV spots to air three different creative executions, one featuring its "Volvo for Life" award-winner Rosamond Carr, who operates an orphanage in Rowanda, and two others talking about Volvo’s values and their reasons for Live 8 involvement.

Not every marketer had to shell out multimillions of dollars to buy into the event. Broadband phone company Vonage spent “six figures” to become a primary sponsor of Premiere Radio Networks’ coverage and will also run a Live 8 schedule on MTV Networks. More than 200 affiliates are broadcasting Premiere’s 12-hour feeds of the event, and Vonage will have 12 minutes to allocate between 30- and 60-second ads. It also scores ad units at no incremental cost in Premiere’s Best of Live 8 broadcast slated for Labor Day. For Vonage, the event was perfectly timed.

Early summer opportunity
“Labor Day and July 4th are a challenging time from a mass-media perspective,” said Dick Wechsler, president of Havas' MPG Direct, which negotiated the advertising buy for Vonage. “Radio is the great strength during summer and particularly during these weekends. It gives us a strategic foundation for our campaign at a critical time for us.”

Reuters, meanwhile, isn’t a sponsor of the event but yesterday announced a co-promotional partnership with AOL that will direct traffic back and forth between and The news service is leveraging its editorial coverage to position itself as the world’s go-to site for Live 8 and G8 information, part of a larger branding effort, a company official said, to grow its American readership. As part of the AOL deal, the massive Reuters sign in Times Square will air live clips of the concert and then highlights through July 12.

“We’re hoping to drive traffic to AOL and for them to conversely link back to Reuters for the editorial coverage,” said Janet Scardino, head of Reuter’s global marketing. Ms. Scardino says Reuters has 180 dedicated local journalists in Africa and 90 journalists covering Live 8 globally. “We’re covering not only the major entertainment event but also the economic and political sides to the story,” she said.

Shopping event to marketers
The event was being shopped to marketers as recently as two-and-a-half weeks ago, according to those familiar with the deals. Without advance planning, marketers involved had to commit to the event in a fraction of the time most traditional marketing decisions are made. “I’ve heard people say ‘That’s just rock and roll,’” AOL’s Mr. Bankoff said. “Now I know what they mean.”

Volvo, which only announced its support June 27, was able to move quickly because it’s a smaller company with “fewer layers,” Mr. Johansson said. The sponsorship isn’t an incremental buy for Volvo and the company reallocated media dollars from other areas. Vonage also reallocated its Live 8 dollars from its general TV and Internet budgets, Mr. Wechsler said.

And then there’s the politics of it. Bob Geldof’s comments that the event is “not for charity, but political justice” were potentially alienating to marketers. Additionally, many wondered if the concerts would attract an anti-capitalist sentiment.

Mr. Bankof said he hasn’t found that to be the case.

“We met with concert organizers from beginning and they made it clear this isn’t a partisan thing, this is about raising awareness around poverty and trying to mobilize governments to act on poverty,” he said. “They’re taking great pains to make sure it’s not partisan or ideological.”

Coca-Cola controversy
Rumors of Coca-Cola Co.’s backing the London event set off a series of criticisms about the company’s record with the environment and worker’s rights. Critics claimed the beverage company’s corporate values were at odds with the concert’s poverty-fighting mission. A spokesman for the company said it wasn’t involved with Live 8 at a corporate level.

“I think it’s safe to say this is really one of the most ambitious and well-conceived global marketing efforts where we’re threading the needle between content and brand extensions,” Nokia's Mr. Sexton said. “Anything of this magnitude with the dollar amounts connected to it isn’t easy. But for those brands interested in doing the right thing and serving the greater good of many, this certainly falls into a sweet spot.”

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