Lollapalooza Lures Major Marketers

Microsoft’s decision to top the bill when Lollapalooza returns to the stage July 3 is the latest, and one of the most ambitious, of recent attempts by videogame makers to exploit music’s potential to reach young Americans.

Thanks to an estimated $1 million-plus sponsorship deal, Xbox, the Redmond, Wash., technology firm’s videogame system, is the presenting sponsor of the concert tour, Microsoft’s largest music tie-in yet, said director of marketing Bill Nielsen. (Xbox has also sponsored bands Linkin Park and Blink-182.) It is the largest-ever corporate backer of the event, which launched in 1991 and ran annually until 1998.

The words “Presented by Xbox” and the Xbox logo will appear on all Lollapalooza materials, and Xbox will be mentioned in regional print, radio and TV ads (created in-house by the tour). Nielsen said he has not decided what role Xbox agency McCann-Erickson, New York, will play in marketing the tour.

“Lollapalooza has always been about lifestyle and youth culture, and in 2003, youth culture has a lot to do with videogaming and interactive entertainment,” said tour managing director Michael Abrams.

Verizon Wireless has also signed up as a major sponsor, in part, said vp, advertising Marvin Davis, because “there are so many tours out there, [and] this one is an established entity. Plus, the diversity of the bands will appeal to a bigger mix of audience.”

Both deals were done by entertainment-media consultant and ex-Initiative Media CEO Michael Kassan, who called the Microsoft/Lollapalooza link “a natural marriage: the convergence of music, lifestyle and technology.”

Verizon’s media buying shop, Publicis Groupe’s Zenith Media, New York, brought the idea to its client. Davis said Verizon’s creative agencies, Lowe, New York, and GlobalHue, Southfield, Mich., likely will be asked to create ads touting the sponsorship.

Xbox competitor PlayStation2, owned by Sony, is sponsoring this summer’s OzzFest. And Def Jam Records artists have embarked on a 20-city tour for “Def Jam Vendetta,” an Electronic Arts videogame.

“Xbox aligning itself with this tour is a way for it … to reach the quintessence of cool,” said Jay Horwitz, an analyst with Jupiter Research in New York. “A lot of the folks who attend think of themselves as cultural influencers rather than followers.”

As part of Xbox’s participation in the 33-city tour, which kicks off in Grand Rapids, Mich., and features acts such as Jane’s Addiction, the Donnas and Incubus, an Xbox GameRiot pavilion will travel with the tour, giving concertgoers a chance to play the latest Xbox games.