September 3, 2006

Reggaeton strikes chord with advertisers

By Leila Cobo

MIAMI (Billboard) - Like no other Latin genre before it,
reggaeton is a magnet for sponsors and brands looking to target
a specific youth market.

It is no wonder. The Puerto Rican-sourced rap style burst
into public consciousness at about the same time that the U.S.
Census reported that Latinos were the fastest-growing
population in the United States and that young Latinos were the
segment that was most rapidly expanding. And here was a musical
style that appealed to young Latins of all origins.

But while reggaeton as a musical style is appealing and
multiple brands have picked up specific songs for multiple
uses, very few such acts have actually become the face of a
brand or a campaign.

"Marketers are still not fully aware of the reggaeton
market, compared with acts like Juanes, Mana or Carlos Vives,"
says Henry Cardenas of Cardenas Marketing Network, an event and
concert promotion firm. "They're still a little skeptical."

There are exceptions, of course, including Tego Calderon's
participation in 2004 as one of the faces of Hennessy's "Never
Blend In" campaign. The highly visible association included
Calderon billboards in 10 major U.S. markets, ads in regional
and national publications, radio spots and point-of-sale

In another high-profile campaign, this past spring Burger
King launched its "My Music, My Style" promotion with Puerto
Rican reggaeton artist Voltio. The sponsorship included a
promotional and performance tour with Voltio in several cities
and also promoted the mobile download of a Voltio single.

Although Burger King has done promotions with Latin music
artists before, this is the first time it teamed with a
reggaeton act.

The most visible face of reggaeton sponsorship deals is
Daddy Yankee, who has a clothing line with Reebok (DY), hosts a
syndicated radio show on the ABC network sponsored by Ford
Fusion, appears in a Pepsi campaign in Puerto Rico and has been
supported on tour with sponsorship from the likes of American

"The artist's image has to be consistent with the product's
image," says Javier Figueroa, marketing manager for Pepsico
International in Puerto Rico. "In Daddy Yankee's case, we were
sure there wasn't going to be a problem."

Daddy Yankee is seen not only as an artist with
credibility, but also as a squeaky-clean, family-oriented act.
But that is not the case with many other artists who often have
legal problems or personal scandals or both. This does not mean
that particular brands do not seek urban Latin music in general
and reggaeton in particular to promote their products.

In the concert arena, because reggaeton draws younger
crowds, liquor companies are a hard sale, Aragon Entertainment
president Ivan Fernandez says. But other types of brands, like
mobile companies, are avid backers.

"Top 20 Latin-Urban Countdown," a weekly radio show on the
Latino Broadcasting Company, has seen "phenomenal" ad sales
growth, according to president/CEO Tony Hernandez. Strong
categories in the space include automotive, retail,
quick-service restaurants, spirits, beer, cell phone service
providers and electronics.

"I believe this is a reflection of the overall strength of
the Latin urban youth market and the growing interest on the
part of major brands to capture a slice of this lucrative,
fast-growing consumer market," Hernandez says.

However, he adds, while reggaeton initially drove the
growth, advertisers now are reaching for a broader Latin urban

"It's really the young Latin/urban 'lifestyle' that's the
driver today," Hernandez says.

But beyond the urban lifestyle, brands will take on songs
as long as they are good and fit a particular product.

Daddy Yankee's "La Gasolina," for example, was used for
multiple campaigns. His track "El Truco" is now being used in a
JCPenney back-to-school TV spot.

Reggaeton served as the backdrop for Ford's recent "Drive
It Like a Ford" TV campaign, and current hit "La Botella" by
Mach & Daddy has been the music for Fruko ketchup in Colombia,
for Cristal beer in Peru, Telcel in Mexico and Atlas beer in

However, when companies actually turn to an act, not just a
song or style, to reach a specific market, they do so because
they think they have something to gain from it beyond a catchy

Pepsi, for example, studied Daddy Yankee's impact and
popularity for several years, boosting its business
relationship with him as his impact grew.

"He was pretty popular in Puerto Rico, years before he
exploded internationally," Figueroa says. Pepsi initially used
Daddy Yankee's music for a local campaign. Then, it sponsored a
show at the Coliseum in San Juan, and after seeing audience
reaction, hired him to be the face of a new Pepsi product.

"He truly understands his audience," Figueroa concludes.