When next you tip a can (or bottle, as some of us are still used to) of your favourite soda to your lips, note that you're not merely obeying your thirst but you're adding to a rivalry (conflict may as yet be inappropriate) between the two giant beverage brands that goes way back into the last century and is still being played out today.
Consider: Ronson (@iammarkronson) is in town to talk "Move to the Beat," one of Coke's largest ad campaigns to date, created to support its sponsorship of the 2012 London Olympic Games. Ronson's original track, "Anywhere in the World" featuring Katy B, is the campaign's official anthem, and by the time it's finished Ronson will have traveled to Singapore, Russia, Mexico and the United States to turn the sounds of five Olympic athletes training in everything from archery to table tennis into a truly global dance track.
"This is the one shot for me. It may be the biggest exposure I have for a song," Ronson tells MIDEM panel moderator Ian Rogers of Topspin.
Meanwhile, somewhere in Argentina, Nicki Minaj is in the midst of shooting what will become a global ad campaign for Pepsi-the company's first-featuring her 2010 single "Moment for Life" as its soundtrack. It's a deal that will make her a worldwide spokeswoman and also give her enough fodder to fuel two songs' worth of material on her sophomore album, Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded, including its title track (and trashing other rappers with the boast "The ad is global/Your ad was local" may be a hip-hop first).
The above, from music industry standard Billboard, shows just how starkly the battle lines are drawn and the magnitude of the stakes in this latest iteration of The Cola Wars. The two companies have battled for supremacy in the pop music space just as they've battled on supermarket shelves, spending big as they do so. PepsiCo and Coca-Cola are the most powerful presences in U.S. sponsorships, spending $330 million and $240 million, respectively, on entertainment and sports programs across all its brands, according to research firm IEG.
Here in Jamaica (and to varying degrees across the Caribbean), that kind of pitched marketing battle has really only been witnessed amongst the cellular telecoms, LIME and Digicel in particular. Digicel is about to enter the ninth season of its Rising Star (The American Idol knock-off); of the previous eight winners, only Christopher Martin and Romain Virgo have had any appreciable impact on the wider entertainment landscape, but voting volumes have remained high enough, one assumes, to justify the company's continued faith in its creation. LIME has had demonstrably less success in this area and strangely, passed on the 2012 Global Battle of the Bands Jamaica leg, even after knowing that a Jamaican band, Dubtonic Kru, had copped the Global champions prize in 2011. LIME's aspirations of connecting with dancehall fans have taken several hits over the years, the most recent being the flap over their decision to sign artist Potential Kid, whose single (and new dancehall catchphrase) Yahso Nice attracted public ire over explicit lyrics, including a suggestion of rape.
In the beverage space, an interesting battle is emerging between centuries-old heavyweight Wray & Nephew and a slew of contenders, chiefly RumBar, all vying for attention from the bread-and-butter white (clear) rum market. Parties, some with elaborate themes, along with get-togethers at street bars have traditionally claimed the bulk of sponsorship dollars in this space, and with the hyper-busy Emancipation-Independence Day period upcoming (given more weight because of the 50th), competition is expected to be keen. The local outlet of global beer brand Heineken (which has also stepped up its presence in the music space over the last five years) stepped out into the broader entertainment/arts world with its Inspire promotion. Cash prizes were awarded to creative aspirants in the categories music, art, film, fashion and design. The promotion also sought to highlight the core area of downtown Kingston, staging its grand unveiling inside the former Railway terminal, and mere steps from the Coronation market vending hub.
Meanwhile, another industry standard publication AdAge, is reporting on another joint venture trend in the business of entertainment. As free streaming music and video make it tougher than ever for musical artists to earn a living, AdAge says, they are increasingly forging relationships with agencies in hopes of striking a commercial licensing deal. Acts are squeezing into their schedules intimate shows at shops in adland, and making time not just to perform for agency staff but to chat with creatives who may be hunting for music to include in campaigns.
As touring continues to eclipse recorded music as the primary source of artist revenue, artists are growing more comfortable with working with brands on an endorsement or partnership basis to diversify their earnings. However, both artists and corporations will have to learn the art of tempering their expectations if such campaigns are going to be sustainable. Labels and artists want exposure; companies want increased sales and brand recall.
In such a dynamic environment, the term selling out has less validity than it did even 10 years ago, as Robert Valdes, head of production at TBWA/Chiat/Day outlined in the AdAge piece. Music distribution is "so fragmented now, and the bands and artists are savvy," he said. The new realities are blurring and erasing the former hard lines between art and ad, video and commercial.
The TBWA exec whose agency roster also includes Jay-Z and Johnny Greenwood of Radiohead - also said established acts are more into the idea, recognizing the potential for viral exposure. names are into talking to us because there's budget attached, and the younger bands are really looking for the promotional tool ... they're the ones calling the agency to get their name out there," said Mark Figliulo, chairman-chief creative officer at TBWA. "We're looking for something where everybody wins."
This, of course, is only possible when both both sides realize that they're essentially fighting for the same cause.
Photo Credit To Iris Nation