Miller Rocks Online

CHICAGO Miller Brewing’s Genuine Draft brand has a long history with music in its marketing, from sponsoring the Robert Page-Jimmy Plant reunion tour in the early 1990s to its “Blind Date” series of concerts a decade ago.

Now, the brand is bringing that history into the digital age, partnering with the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame to sponsor artist interviews and performances in key markets that will be videotaped for rebroadcast on the Web.

“The Craft” series of interviews, developed in conjunction with promotional agency Arc and executed by GMR Worldwide and digital agency Digitas, aims to explore the experiences that shaped the songs written by popular musicians. (The Craft refers both to songwriting and brewing beer.)

“The program is trying to create this linkage between what goes into [a song] and what makes it great,” said Jonathan Sickinger, associate manager for sports and entertainment marketing at Miller. “This is experience from an artist standpoint. How did they create their masterpiece? Who were their influences?”

The series began last week in San Diego with Jim James, the singer and principal songwriter for My Morning Jacket. Other artists will include Patty Griffin, Death Cab for Cutie’s Ben Gibbard and Paul Westerberg in cities such as San Francisco, Denver, Chicago, Minneapolis and Seattle, which are considered key markets for MGD. In all, 12 shows are planned over the next 11 months.

Miller tested the idea with focus groups and found a positive response, Sickinger said. “People got the connection between making music and making beer,” he said. “And they wanted to know more about both.”

A prime component of the program is local marketing, and the interviews and performances will be videotaped and edited for posting on the Web sites of MGD and the Hall of Fame.

Miller also has established partnerships with Yahoo Music, MySpace and the online home pages of music publications Rolling Stone and Spin to create microsites around the program, Sickinger said.

The interviews, which are meant to be a mash-up of an unplugged performance and an Inside the Actors Studio discussion, are really an extension of the museum’s conversation series it has been conducting since its inception, said Warren Zanes, education advisor and public programs director for the Hall of Fame. (Zanes serves as the program’s host and interviewer.)

Because of the Hall of Fame’s mission as a nonprofit museum with education as a core tenet, much of MGD’s sponsorship of the series will be subtle. “It’s got to look like museum programming,” Zanes noted. All of the sites (including partner sites Yahoo Music and MySpace) will have an age verification component.

Promotion for the videos will include online banner advertising on the Web sites and print ads in the corresponding magazines, Sickinger said.

The museum had explored several potential corporate sponsors in the past. But officials there were never sold on companies’ commitment and understanding of the music industry until Miller approached them about sponsoring the series last year, according to Zanes. One of the things that impressed him about MGD, he said, was its team’s knowledge of key rock ‘n’ roll artists. In one early meeting, each participant was asked to write a list of people he or she would like to see interviewed. Zanes was surprised to see how well the lists from Miller and the Hall of Fame executives meshed.

“Not only did we see significant overlap between the lists,” Zanes said, “but when it came to why they selected the artists that they did, there were a lot of similarities.”