Nike Sportswear Isn't Going To Just Fade Away

Producing high-quality, shareable content is the way to get noticed these days, and it doesn't have to be that hard. There are tons of musicians and artists out there with huge followings, and the inability of the record industry to deal with this in the internet era means that these artists are looking for other options.

Corporate sponsorship is one of those options, and a great example of this is Nike Sportswear's Pitch Perfect series of albums:

With full-on football (aka soccer) mania about to consume the minds and hearts of billions around the globe, The FADER wanted to express what the sport means to us. Faced with that seemingly daunting task, we decided to focus on what we know—music, art and culture—and view the game through the creative endeavors inspired by it. To that end, The FADER has joined with Nike Sportswear to present our collaborative project, Pitch Perfect.

Starting on June 1, 2010, and stretching over the next several weeks, we will give you new music from all over the world via continental mixtapes made by top selectors, limited edition screen-printed posters inspired by football’s global reach, and, best of all, a special documentary series filmed in South Africa by The FADER crew as football fans deluge the country. While we’re there, Nike Sportswear and The FADER will present a live music event on June 16 at Nike’s brand new Football Training Center in Soweto, featuring artists from all over Africa, that will also be streamed live on nikesportswear.com and thefader.com/pitchperfect so that all those who couldn’t make it to South Africa can feel like they did.

I've argued before that this kind of promotion is a win-win-win: fans get to listen to the music they like; the artists get paid for their work and gain new fans; and the brand is able to connect with their audience in a meaningful way.

Scion (the car company) has done something similar, and so has the Cartoon Network with their ATL-RMX album (probably the best mix of southern hip-hop and electronic music you're likely to find outside of The Hood Internet).

...And as I was wrapping up this post, I realized that Starbucks has teamed up with iTunes for a similar deal. From Frappucino.com/iTunes:

"Starbucks has created a free music mix to complement your Frappuccino® beverage. Featuring electrifying summertime favorites ranging from Frightened Rabbit to Hot Chip, your free Frappuccino® Beverage Music Mix is available to download on iTunes now!"

How do you feel about this model for sponsoring musicians? Do you like it when your artists team up with brands you may or may not like?

Corporate Sponsorship

These days, people expect to get things for free.

They expect to things for free because they should be getting them for free.

I'm not talking about hard goods like cars and clothing, but rather information. Mp3s, video files, newspaper articles: all of these things are nothing more than information that are processed in different ways by the end user. It costs nothing to reproduce them.

However, it costs something to initially produce them. Musicians need to buy instruments and recording equipment, and they spend long hours writing and crafting their songs.

The recent public support for the four founders of The Pirate Bay shows that people aren't going to give up their ability to get free content that easily (swelling membership in Sweden's Pirate Party supports this as well). As Mike Masnick has demonstrated time and time again on Techdirt, this kind of model is also capable of supporting musicians (but maybe not the record labels).

Jeremy Wright also spoke about this at the recent Third Tuesday Toronto event. When commenting on the future of advertising, he mentioned that there will probably be more examples of "great content, great conversation" brought to you by a corporate sponsor, rather than "sponsored" posts written by that sponsor.   (I'm writing this from memory, so please correct me if I'm wrong about what he said or what he meant).

In the same way that corporation's might have the opportunity to sponsor "great conversation" in an online environment like Jeremy Wright's blog network,  I think we'll start to see examples of corporations sponsoring music and other types of art. Fans and the general public will be able to get the music for free, while the artist doesn't starve to death. Its really a win-win situation.

I think that some people will frown upon this model, and will see it as another way that corporations are manipulating our culture for their own benefit. If that is the case, then these same people

I, however, don't see this model of corporate sponsorship or patronage as a bad thing at all. I think it will create all kinds of new opportunities for artists in many different mediums to create art.

What are your thoughts on corporate sponsorship?

-Parker Mason

Corporate Sponsorship: Blood and Wine

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post outlining some of my thoughts about corporate sponsorship. Shortly after that, wine blogger Steve Heimoff wrote a good follow up post musing about what corporate sponsorship for a wine blog might look:

"This may work in the entertainment industry, but it’s not clear to me that it can succeed in wine. For one thing, why would a non-wine industry corporation sponsor a wine blogger?"

I don't know a great deal about wine, but I do know that there are probably plenty of companies that would like to be aligned with a wine blog. For as long as there have been people reviewing things, there have been people providing them with free versions.  Movie reviewers get free passes to opening night, car magazines are frequently invited to test drive new vehicles and I'm sure that video game magazines and blogs are given consoles and games for free.

What I like about Steve's blog post about wine sponsorship is the discussion it created, particularly one comment by Charlie Olken: "An online blog with sponsorship is a magazine."

While part of me wants to disagree with Charlie and say "a blog is a blog, not a magazine," I'm also inclined to agree with him.

As I've mentioned above, magazine editors and writers frequently receive free goods to review in their publication. They have to be ensure that their reviews aren't unduly influenced by the swag, as they have a responsibility to their readers. Similarly, I think that Charlie is saying that a blogger has a responsibility to his readers as well.

He also makes a good point that unpaid bloggers blog for the love of it, adding that...

"....When someone is paying you to reach a set number of eyeballs on a schedule with minimum number of words, your world will change. For guys like Steve and me and others of us who comment here, we are already in that boat with out day jobs. When you get paid to blog, that becomes your day job."

Related is the tale of Gawker Media allowing Blood Copy, an adverblog created by a PR/Advertising agency working on behalf of the HBO Television series True Blood, to "join" its network. This is clearly advertising content, not represented as such and generally seen as a huge fail by both the editors of the various Gawker blogs and their readers.

Annalee Newitz, the editor of i09 ("strung out on sci-fi" - part of the Gawker network and by far my favorite blog these days), writes of the debacle:

"I know it is wearying to see ads masquerading as editorial, and it's especially difficult for us at io9 since we've been covering the show True Blood for over a year without any incentive other than the fact that it's part of our beat...Blood Copy's ads, however, are not clearly marked as advertising and that is the problem. We're not happy with that, and you shouldn't be either. But that isn't going to stop us from covering a show that we think is worth critical attention. Please learn to be a critical reader yourself...The point is, we're not going to change our coverage of a media property just because somebody paid to put an ad on our site."

Gawker as an organization clearly agrees with this, writing that "Gawker the editorial staff and Gawker the advertising staff don't tell each other much about what they're doing. And they shouldn't."

I understand why some readers might be upset advertising copy making its way into their favorite blogs. But I also understand that someone needs to pay for the cost of keeping the lights on at these blogs and if HBO wants to foot the bill as a way of promoting their show, I'm glad.

Does this change your opinion of the way corporations should sponsor blogs?