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Super Bowl Concerts Will Spill Well Past the Meadowlands

Ben Sisario
Monday, 23 Dec 2013 | 11:17 AM ET
The Barclays Center will host the Red Hot Chili Peppers as part of the Super Bowl concert series this year.
Jim McIsaac | Getty Images
The Barclays Center will host the Red Hot Chili Peppers as part of the Super Bowl concert series this year.

By the time Bruno Mars sings his first note at the Super Bowl XLVIII halftime show on Feb. 2, a musical lollapalooza will already have made its way through New York and New Jersey, fueled by corporate sponsorship and the growing affinity between pop music and sports.

Among a wave of public and private concerts around the big game, which will be played—weather permitting—at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., and telecast by Fox, are the Foo Fighters and the Roots along the west side of Manhattan, courtesy of Bud Light; Red Hot Chili Peppers at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, presented by CBS Radio; and John Legend and Band of Horses at an intimate space in Chelsea, put on by Citibank.

Not long ago, the pre-Super Bowl scene consisted largely of "celebrities walking the red carpet" at branded parties, said Marcie Allen, whose company, MAC Presents, arranges sponsorships for musical acts. But that scene has evolved as part of the ever-expanding media spectacle of the Super Bowl, giving prominent stages to promotion-hungry musicians and helping marketers dazzle their customers with access to special events.

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"Brands now realize that a way to connect to their fans and produce a meaningful event is through the power of music," Ms. Allen said.

Corporate sponsorship, once a small and often hidden part of the music business, has become one of its most important sources of revenue. IEG Sponsorship Report, a trade publication, estimates that music events drew $1.24 billion in sponsorship in 2013, up from $575 million in 2003.

The audience is evolving, too. Nielsen recently found that 51 percent of consumers—and 76 percent of those who attend music festivals—say they favor brands that sponsor a tour or concert.

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One of the game's official musical tie-ins is VH1's Super Bowl Blitz, a six-stop mini-tour through New York City and New Jersey, starting at Queens College on Jan. 27 and broadcast live. The 2014 performers will be announced on Jan. 9. Previous editions have included big names like Rihanna and Justin Bieber.

Sports and music stars have something to gain from an association. Tom Calderone, president of VH1, said that the Blitz had never been short on athletes—regardless of whether they are in the big game—and that for bands in the depressed music business, an appearance can be a powerful stunt to publicize a new album or tour.

Chris Oliviero, the executive vice president for programming at CBS Radio, whose New York station WFAN-AM is broadcasting the game, said, "If you look at the relationship between musicians and athletes, they are all commingled as part of that pop-culture phenomenon, and they all want to hang out with each other."

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The National Football League's involvement with music has been shifting. In the years after Janet Jackson's halftime mishap in 2004, the game booked a series of older acts unlikely to suffer a "wardrobe malfunction" like Ms. Jackson's, including Paul McCartney, Bruce Springsteen and the Who. Lately, though, they have been getting younger again; Mr. Mars, the singer of hits like "Locked Out of Heaven," is 28.

"Every year was a legendary, iconic music artist," said Ron Semiao, the N.F.L.'s vice president of programming and media events. "But at a certain point you start to run out of them. With Beyoncé last year and now with Bruno, we are moving into a progression of a more youthful type of artist performing at halftime."

Around the Super Bowl, musical events range from small, private shows to public arena concerts. Citi's series, at the McKittrick Hotel in Chelsea, the home to the theatrical show "Sleep No More," will accommodate fewer than 300 fans.

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"For us, it's about getting Citi card members access to events that are truly once in a lifetime," said Jennifer Breithaupt, Citi's senior vice president for entertainment marketing.

For musicians, the rewards can go beyond buzz. Performers at major brand-sponsored events can earn more than $1 million, according to the executives and agents who book them, although some presenters—particularly media organizations,which often view the performers' appearances as promotional—do not pay.

Bud Light,sold by the Anheuser-Busch division of Anheuser-Busch InBev, will put on concerts under a tent across the West Side Highway from Pier 86, where the USS Intrepid is docked. They begin with a salute to New York hip-hop featuring the Roots, Run-DMC and Busta Rhymes on Jan. 30; on successive days are Imagine Dragons, Foo Fighters and Fall Out Boy with the country singer Jake Owen.

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But the bands there may be upstaged by their surroundings. Expanding on the Bud Light Hotel concept at previous Super Bowls, the brand will take over an area of more than 300,000 square feet, encompassing not only the tent—which can hold 4,000 people—but also a temporary lounge, events on the Intrepid itself and a cruise ship docked at Pier 88. The ship's more than 1,900 staterooms will be blanketed on nearly every inch with the name of the sponsor.

"The shampoo bottles in the rooms, the towels, the soaps, the pillows—everything will say Bud Light Hotel New York," said Mike Sundet, a vice president for marketing at Anheuser-Busch.

"We want to give our consumers something they are not going to forget," Mr. Sundet said. "It's Bud Light, it's the Super Bowl—it needs to be big."

—By Ben Sisario of The New York Times

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