- In 2008, American Eagle Outfitters created The New American Music Festival in Pittsburgh.
- The Advance Guard developed a marketing strategy that included influencer outreach, custom design and on-site blogger attendance
- Results: a sold-out concert with exclusive online video and crowd sourced photos.
Pittsburgh is probably best known for The Steelers Primanti Brother’s sandwiches and Heinz Ketchup. What they are not known for is being a tour stop for most major musical acts.
American Eagle Outfitters (whose headquarters are located in Pittsburgh) set out to change that in the summer of 2008 with the creation of The New American Music Union, or NAMU.
A two-day summer music festival, with acts carefully selected by Anthony Kiedis of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and with a college band showcase on a second stage, the goal of the festival was to provide an unheard-of line up at a price that anyone - especially American Eagle’s younger target - could afford.
“Music is a defining influence in our customers’ lives. said Kathy Savitt, Chief Marketing Officer for American Eagle Outfitters. “We’re excited to offer AE them the opportunity to see today’s best musicians—both professionals and college acts—at a price that’s unheard of for a summer festival of this caliber.”
Realizing that, to be successful, they had to attract the attention of more then just local fans, American Eagle set out to build buzz around the festival nationally. Working with social media agency of record, The Advance Guard, a three-phased marketing and communications strategy was developed that began with casting a wide net of buzz generation, narrowing down to a secondary level of contact that included a ticket give away to key pop culture blogs, and finally organizing an innovative on-site program for local and national bloggers at the concert itself.
From the day of the initial press release, every major blog or podcast that focused on music, entertainment or pop culture was sent of the show with links to a specially-designed Social Media Press Release which provided easily-accessible facts links, graphics and quotes. This combined with traditional PR activities to create intense interest across the country. ”It’s exciting for Pittsburgh,” says Melissa Franko, marketing director for WYEP-FM. “I think it’s going to bring some national recognition to the city.”
Meanwhile, The Advance Guard began to design the NAMU web site - a constantly evolving beach head for information surrounding the concert. Starting with the line-up announcements, ticket information and purchase links, it would evolve to include full bios and song samples for all the artists. Once the lights dimmed on the concert stage, exclusive performance videos from the show would be posted to the site.
With a line up that included The Raconteurs, Spoon, Gnarls Barkley, The Black Keys and Bob Dylan on the main stage and a second stage with fifteen of the top college acts vying for a major prize, it was an impressive and eclectic mix. Anthony Kiedis summed it up by saying, “My experience tells me that concerts can be life changing. That is how I approached putting this lineup together.”
Ticket sales began strong and - with the team creating listings on major music social networks such as Last.FM and integrating promotions into the AE Facebook Fan Page - it didn’t take long for concert to sell out completely, exceeding all expectations.
A block of tickets had been held in reserve specifically to offer to a select list of blogs and podcasts that had reacted positively to the initial outreach. . Knowing that each site editor knows their audience better then anyone, they were encouraged to run a contest that fit their style and their readers. Some asked Pittsburgh Trivia, while others decided to do a good old-fashion raffle to give them away. One wanted to hear the most desperate plea for tickets in order to determine a winner.
August 14th 2008. The parking lot two blocks from American Eagle’s headquarters had been transformed into a stage and, as the artists began to arrive for the show, so did the press and blogging communities. Publications including Paste Magazine and Blender Magazine were invited to attend, and - alongside the traditional press - local new media creators were given all-access passes.
In the photographer pit at the front of the stage, it was no surprise to see a blogger with an iPhone shooting beside a seasoned veteran from Getty Images. A Flickr Photo Pool under a Creative Commons LIcense was set up so that all the photos from the day could be shared by all, and it was a photograph from this pool - shot by The Advance Guard’s CC Chapman - that was used as a full-page ad in Rolling Stone congratulating the winning college band, The Black Fortys.
For all those in attendance - both audience and media - the concert was an amazing event. Paste Magazine wrote “The festival as a whole was a great success… Seeing these bands without even needing a video monitor was a nice change of pace. To have this (level of access) with the caliber of bands Kiedis and AE attracted is truly remarkable.”
To maintain the enthusiasm generated from the stages, exclusive video from the performances were quickly edited together and posted to the web within 48 hours of the last fan leaving the venue. Everyone who had covered the concert to date was contacted again with links to the videos. Fan sites of each band were also notified with links directly to their favorite artist’s videos.
Ultimately, Pittsburgh showed that it could be the host for a major music festival, made possible by the vision of American Eagle Outfitters. By transforming their local parking lot into a venue into the hottest concert venue with thousands of appreciative fans singing along, they brought a world-class music festival to Pittsburgh, and national and new media attention to the City of Bridges.
- The New American Music Union Festival Report - Blender
- New American Music Union Recap - Popwreck(oning)
- Highlights From The New American Music Union Festival - GeekStar.com
- Dylan, Gnarls Barkley and Other Rock SouthSide Works - Times Online