CMT has been trying to turn its annual awards show for country music into something advertisers can sing about.
Over the past two years, the Viacom-owned cable network has turned its one-night-only awards telecast into a festival lasting almost a week. This year’s celebration includes a two-day block party in downtown Nashville, featuring performances by emerging CMT musicians; a fitness exhibit; and even a dog festival. Ram Trucks, Boston Beer and Kind Bar are among the new sponsors joining the event.
The key to building the event has been building events around it, says Adam Steingart, senior vice president of partnerships for CMT, in an interview. Visitors to the awards used to “end up at the honky tonks on lower Broadway,” he noted, “but there’s so much more to provide to them that enhances the overall experience.”
To draw fan interest, CMT planners put an emphasis on ideas that would play into lifestyle and luxury, tempting visitors to check out the network’s events around town. “Our fans are much more than music fans,” notes Steingart, “They love their pets. They love good food. They love having good times. They love sharing these experiences with their families.”
CMT’s build-out comes as parent company Viacom is placing new emphasis on tapping into the growing power of events to woo audiences – and the marketers that might follow them. The idea is that appealing festivals, concerts, and gatherings can spur customers in their 20’s and 30’s to share their experiences on social media, which can also lend a promotional boost to the sponsors supporting the whole thing. Already, Viacom’s Comedy Central is readying its second “Clusterfest,” a gathering of comedians and performances, while kid-centric Nickelodeon is about to launch “Slimefest,” a similar outing for an even younger demographic.
Key to the CMT effort is weaving its party into life in Nashville, says Steingart. “Our events during award week become part of the local conversation and are treated as organic happenings around town, rather than something that’s built in Times Square with no rhyme or reason and that you hope people happen upon,” he said. “It’s bespoke and strategic and we strive for authenticity – we don’t want people to think they’re going to a sponsored activation but rather an event powered by a partner providing fans access to something very cool and memorable. “
Other sponsors include Aveeno, Bar-S, Cracker Barrel, Hershey’s, Little Caesars, Twisted Tea and Pepsi.