Is Branding Entertainment

With traditional entertainment mediums being forced to reappraise themselves in the face of rising digital distribution and falling audiences, can brands help galvanise them? We look at how this can be done effectively, without seeming forced and un-natural.

Amplify recently ran a future-proofing workshop for a leading FMCG brand. One of the questions asked was to define who they thought their key competitors were and could be in order to establish how we could make them appear broader than their immediate competitor set.

The ‘threat’ that many brands face now is that beyond their core business they are competing as ‘entertainment brands’. Rather than a ‘threat’ this should be seen as a ‘great opportunity.’ Consumers are increasingly hungry for content and, as the lines blur between the two, the entertainment industry is willing to collaborate and enter into brand partnerships – particularly the struggling record labels. This provides the chance for brands to create truly innovative, rich experiences that generate compelling content – a huge step away from the traditional ‘tagging’ and sponsorship route.


Broadly speaking marketing can be split into two ends of the spectrum: awareness through to affinity. A brand such as Carling – when pursuing music – took the ‘buy it’ approach. Their logo appeared everywhere yet consumers didn’t feel the affinity – they were merely forced to drink their lager in the venues and festivals they sponsored. Similarly many branded, club-based events offer nothing more than what you could get on a normal Friday and Saturday night in most cities.

To properly engage with consumers it’s not enough to slap your logo everywhere; you need to show empathy and add value to the target consumers’ lifestyles. Brands need to integrate.

Great examples of this are obvious:

  • When Groove Armada’s deal came to a close with Jive Records they instead signed to drinks giant Bacardi – a close fit. Groove Armada found new channels to market and distribute their music, and Bacardi benefited from the duo’s exclusive content and fanbase.
  • Nokia is offering a new revenue model to the big four record labels with its ‘Nokia Comes With Music’. The labels get ‘paid’ for the music they produce whilst consumers feel a loyalty to Nokia as they ‘house’ their virtual record collection.
  • O2 has a legitimate claim on music with the access they bring through their sponsorship of the former Millennium Dome. Yes, the O2 arena gets name-checked on a regular basis but, more importantly, O2 customers get their hands on tickets in advance of the general public – and can win access to O2’s special hospitality boxes.


It will be interesting to see which route HMV takes with its recent acquisition of live venues, including Hammersmith Apollo and Kentish Town Forum. As well as securing naming rights at the venues for the next 10 years, the venture also frees up the possibility of merchandising and CD sales; an area previously in the domain of the artist.

It’s in the ‘live arena’ where brands can add real value to their activity and make genuine connections with the buying public. Amplify breaks the levels of consumer engagement into four stages: expose, explain, experience and endorse. Mass advertising such as TV and press buying ‘expose’, but two-way experiences do a far better job in terms of gaining advocates that ‘endorse’.

However events on their own should not be seen as a complete campaign solution – they need to be amplified. Events create the drivers, for example to win over journalists or bloggers, or the content created can be leveraged digitally to reach a wider audience than just those physically.

Examples of this approach that work effectively in the live music environment are numerous, however it’s not strictly confined to that market – the approach is starting to cross over into TV and film.

There’s a proliferation of branded television programmes; contra deals with TV companies ‘short on content’ are everywhere: The ‘JD Set’, T-Mobile’s ‘Transmission’, ‘Shockwaves Album Chart Show’… What is key with these programmes is that they’re screened at the right times so they actually get an audience (so many are ignored as they’re pushed to early hours) and more importantly they tell the brand story. Branded shows range from not so great examples such as Nokia’s’ Green Room’ through to the genuinely compelling Red Bull’s ‘Air Race’ and Orange ‘Mobile Act’.

With film, Orange brought a welcome boost to the cinema going public with ‘Orange Wednesdays’. This approach meant they were able to cement the association through their in-cinema ‘Turn off your phone’ ads, which ensured their subsequent sponsorship of the BAFTAs seemed natural.

Recently Virgin Media took a more prosumer approach as ‘Virgin Shorts’ engaged over 6,000 young filmmakers – showcasing their winning entries at cinemas across the UK.

In the campaigns we’re working on, social media and other interactive technologies such as mobile, can further enhance what an entertainment property has to offer a brand. San Miguel ‘Hidden Depths’ is a great example of this. We used bloggers to excite and pre-promote branded activity, creating an alternative to paid for media – if you get these super-influencers to talk about your brand, they’re more trusted than those coming from the brand itself. Once the content has been generated we then seed it and disseminate it via these bloggers.

Digital also forms the basis of many of the CRM systems we’ve been creating – those that sign-up to get unique access to interviews, mixes, events and videos.

The danger in adopting this approach is that the content is not relevant and the activity becomes forced. Brands need to fully understand the consumers they’re targeting and the cultural context they’re living in, and look at why their brand is relevant to their lives. Demonstrate empathy and added value and you’ll win their respect, their hearts and their minds. Get it wrong and at best they won’t notice you and at worse you’ll face their scorn.


The one guarantee through this recession is that digital media will continue to innovate, so it’s now even more relevant for brands to market themselves correctly online. What digital does do when approached in the right way is to deliver a long-term dialogue, which can turn the ‘quick chat’ of attendance at an event to a ‘meaningful conversation’. Digital shouldn’t be used because it is perceived as being cheap; to make good quality viral films that generate high viewing rates costs money. If anything with TV you can assume a certain amount of people watch it because it’s there. With online for anyone who passes it on, it reflects on them – so it needs to be good.

The biggest fear for brands when stepping away from traditional forms of marketing is the inability to evaluate the return on investment. With measurability being at the forefront of every campaign, Amplify has developed an evaluation model that quantifies the depth of interaction with consumers – and ultimately advocacy. This is measured both through online and offline means, and gives a fuller and more holistic picture of the campaign.

Online we can measure buzz using a mix of sophisticated algorithms and human analysis. Computer programs are yet to understand the subtleties and nuance of colloquialism and sarcasm. Offline we work with independent research agencies to measure physical word of mouth and increase in sales through both qualitative and quantitative research.

It’s clear that soon the symbiotic relationship between brands and entertainment will be developed into increasingly sophisticated methods of co-existence. Played right the benefits to both parties will be substantial; for the brand they can create empathy, affinity and awareness with huge numbers of potential consumers, while the world of entertainment should find reason to embrace, rather than fear, the corporate world.

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