Mercedes-Benz Canada and Live Nation Canada have entered into a three-year partnership to provide premium ticket access to the automotive brand's customer base and build VIP hospitality programs for its dealers.
Live Nation Canada puts on 1200 shows a year. Mercedes-Benz Canada has a network of 11 owned retail operations and 47 authorized dealerships.
The "star access" service is available to all customers who have leased, financed or purchased a vehicle through the Mercedes-Benz Canada dealer network. In 2016, it sold 48,320 vehicles.
This is the first national deal Live Nation Canada has done with an automobile company, Live Nation Canada's John May, president, media and corporate partnerships, tells Billboard. Concert tickets of all genres and for all venue sizes from clubs to arenas and stadiums will be offered.
"Obviously Mercedes, as a brand, is traditionally associated with luxury brands," says May, adding, "[but] let's face it, a concertgoer's interest and love and passion for [music] genres, it's never really necessarily associated with a socio-economic status. People love who they love. So we want to make sure that we extend access to as many people as we can and connect them to the artists they love."
Brian Fulton, president and CEO of Mercedes-Benz Canada, tells Billboard their customer demographic ranges from late-20s to 60s and 70s, and the company is "really excited about the millennial demographic," even though there is the perception that Mercedes-Benz is "an old man's car."
The partnership with Live Nation is for "all our customers," Fulton says, "but, for sure, we're hoping that we can really appeal to that younger demographic that when they come into a concert at the Air Canada Centre -- and they see what we've created with [ad agency] BBDO and the Be Moved campaign -- that maybe it resonates with them and they start looking at the Mercedes-Benz, the three-pointed star, in a little bit of a different way."
Fulton says they want their dealers to take advantage of the VIP program, where they'll be able to give 50 of their top customers the star treatment at venues including the Air Canada Centre in Toronto or Centre Bell in Montreal.
The Mercedes-Benz brand will be "highly visible" at Live Nation events across the country, as it was at Toronto's Bon Jovi concert at Air Canada Centre Monday, where the partnership was announced at the exclusive private-members Sher Club, designed by Drake and Ferris Rafauli. A G550 SUV was parked outside gate 6 and the brand was on a screen at the front entrance.
Inside the Sher (where no photos were allowed as per policy), Live Nation's May and Mercedes-Benz' Fulton both spoke generically but enthusiastically about the partnership to the media, and left the details to Virginie Aubert, vice-president of marketing at Mercedes-Benz Canada.
She pointed out the DJ's playlist contained only songs that mention Mercedes-Benz. "We've read that Mercedes Benz is mentioned in more lyrics than any other automotive brand," she said.
Aubert then showed the short creative that will be played on digital screens at concert venues. "Beyond the in-venue presence, this partnership is an opportunity to do something special for our customers," Aubert said.
"This partnership also extends to our dealer network with star access VIP, a program that allows our dealers to create bespoke experiences with our customers at Live Nation events coast to coast -- think hosting suites, special access, meet and greets with their favorite performers, and special touches to make that concert going experience even more memorable."
After the announcement, May told Billboard that not every Live Nation show will be offered through star access. That would be "a huge undertaking" but there will be offerings right across Canada.
How might non-Mercedes owners react to yet another pre-sale opportunity to snatch tickets from the general public onsale? "Really the objective is connecting the passionate fans with the artists they love and the shows they love," says May.
"Live Nation, the company, we do everything we can to get tickets into the hands of the true fans -- for both the artist and the fan," May says. "So it's a constant battle to protect the authenticity of tickets and make sure that they get direct to fans. So this is an integrated program, it won't be taking the access away from the general public in any way."
Fulton is also aware of the recent public upset over ticket access. "We get it," Fulton says. "If it's of any consolation, it's not that we've got thousands of tickets put aside. I would say it's a reasonable amount of tickets, but I get it. It's a great business opportunity for us. Live Nation thinks so as well. We hope we can win over many of those customers by doing great sponsorships and partnerships like this."