Country star Eric Church has long used his new music to reward his loyal fans, from surprise releasing 2015’s “Mr. Misunderstood” album as a direct fan-club exclusive to impromptu meet-and-greets before his hometown show in Greensboro, North Carolina.
So when Church was prepping the April vinyl release of 2018’s critically acclaimed “Desperate Man,” the singer wanted to find a way to supersize his appreciation for his fanbase, whom he’s dubbed the Church Choir. With partnership discussions already underway between Church’s management at Q Prime and Fiat Chrysler’s Ram Trucks to feature the singer for its latest summer campaign, which in years past has included Brothers Osborne and Miranda Lambert, the concept quickly evolved to include some of Church’s biggest followers on the callsheet.
“His fans are without a doubt his top priority, and you can see that even if you’re a moderate Church fan,” says Brad Turcotte, VP-Marketing at Universal Nashville. “Having the narrative of this campaign tweaked to really focus on his fan club and his live show was a great way to showcase that.”
The resulting campaign “Loyalty,” which debuted during the CMT Awards on June 5, doubled as a document of the unique journey for 28,000 pounds’ worth of Church’s “Desperate Man” vinyl, which needed to be transported from UMG’s mobile record press in Toronto to Nashville in time for Church’s fan club-exclusive show at Nissan Stadium. Ram’s 2019 3500 truck happened to be uniquely equipped to handle the massive vinyl press trailer, and created a soundtrack opportunity for “Desperate Man” standout cut “Solid” as the campaign’s anthem.
“There’s not many trucks out there that can tow that much, so when we were first approached I thought, ‘I don’t know, can we do this?’” says Jeff Summers, Ram’s head of advertising. “And luckily, our new heavy duty [model] tows a maximum weight of 35,000 pounds, so of course it became the right thing to do as we looked at the organic way to work in the storyline we had something that wouldn’t feel forced and a great place to start the creative process.”
An exclusive version of the “Desperate Man” vinyl was pressed and sold at Church’s Nissan Stadium show, which grossed over $10,000 worth of vinyl sold in just two hours. The limited run was also sold at UMG’s CMA Fan Fair X booth in June, which led to sell-outs across several days of long lines.
Though “Solid” isn’t currently slated to be Church’s next single, it ended up syncing to the overall thematic of the campaign, which will air on broadcast and cable throughout the summer. “Oftentimes we go through this process and it’s led by relationships and partnerships, but if you can’t find the right track, then what do you do?” says Andre Gaccetta, CEO of Ram’s agency G7 Entertainment Marketing. “But in this case, we found the song and it had the right melody, the right lyrics and the right tempo and couldn’t have been a better fit for the creative direction. Once the creative was on paper, you could hear the music along to it, and things started to come to fruition.”
Another lesser-known musical bonafide of Ram Trucks that makes an appearance in the latest campaign is the behind-the-scenes involvement of Grammy-winning producer Dave Cobb (Chris Stapleton, Brandi Carlile), who tuned the 1500’s Harman Kardon speakers to the specifications of Nashville’s iconic Studio A. That feature, Summers adds, helps accelerate conversations with artists at the level of Church who are otherwise quite particular with their brand alliances. “It’s something artists appreciate and the music community appreciates,” Summers says. “It’s exciting to create a product that’s gonna best deliver the sound they’re used to in the studio from the beginning.”
Songs for Screens is a Variety column sponsored by music experiential agency MAC Presents, based in NYC. It is written by Andrew Hampp, founder of music marketing consultancy 1803 LLC and former correspondent for Billboard. Each week, the column will highlight noteworthy use of music in advertising and marketing campaigns, as well as film and TV.