GRAMMYs pivot brand partnership strategy amid COVID obstacles

The awards show isn’t confining itself to just a live broadcast this year.

The GRAMMY Awards are usually an extravagant affair recognizing the best names in music. The annual live broadcast pairs show-stopping performances with a star-studded guest list. 

But this year, due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the Recording Academy, the non-profit organization behind the GRAMMY Awards, had to reimagine the entire event, including the brand sponsorships that support the show.

Typically, brands including Hilton, Mastercard and JBL have long sponsored the live broadcast, which will air this year on CBS on Jan. 31. But when major advertisers paused their spending earlier this year, and it became clear that the GRAMMYs couldn’t host a live audience, the Recording Academy had to get creative about how to deliver advertisers value, said Adam Roth, SVP of partnerships and business development for the Recording Academy.

To do that, the team set out to extend the broadcast into the digital world through virtual performances and experiences in the days leading up to the show. This will result in a full week of events streaming on Grammy.com, including  private Q&As with artists, virtual performances, a red carpet experience and other surprises. 

Extending the event beyond the broadcast opens the opportunity for music fans to experience the GRAMMYs — as well as for more interesting brand partnerships, Roth said. The GRAMMYs is creating bespoke content in partnership with brands, which it will air across Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Triller and TikTok to drive traffic back to the virtual experience on its site. 

“Our social team is creating specific content for each channel for each of our brand partners,” Roth explained. “ We want to reach diverse audiences through all of those different channels.”

Roth said that COVID restrictions were challenging, but they led to positive learnings about how to leverage virtual content alongside live events in the future. 

“We're going to look at next year and the year after as a way of integrating virtual events and activations with the live event,” Roth said. “We weren't thinking that way before COVID. Now, we've been thrust into figuring that out.”

The Recording Academy helped raise $20 million in COVID-19 relief funds for its non-profit organization, MusiCares, which offers aid to musicians in need. The company also spearheads its membership program, Grammy U, which provides resources to help young musicians start their careers. 

Even though COVID rocked the music industry, Roth is hopeful the pandemic can pave the way for even more opportunities.

“As the world opens up we'll have this mix of non-traditional Grammy partnerships with a mix of live and virtual events, and that will be the key going forward keeping that balance,” he said.

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