Taking A Chance on An Unknown - Justin Bieber
It’s October 2009. As Director of Marketing for Universal CityWalk, I was presented an opportunity by Hard Rock Cafe to fund the first CD launch of an up-and-coming, YouTube sensation named Justin Bieber.
Every day someone is launching a CD and wants to break it at CityWalk. However, most launches are paid for by a sponsor or a record label. CityWalk did not want to set a precedent of funding CD launches. At this time, Justin Bieber was not receiving significant Top 40 airplay. No one over the age of 20 knew who he was, let alone Universal Studios management who needed to OK the expenditure. CityWalk would lose the opportunity to a competitor if it didn’t participate. I negotiated funding from the full cost to a third of the cost, gaining participation from Hard Rock Cafe and the record label.
Question: Still, even with only a third of the cost, do we do it?
“Who is this kid again?,” asked members of the marketing and management team of Universal.
“Justin Bieber. Trust me. You don’t know who he is, but every girl under the age of 14 knows who he is. I’ve done my research. He’s all over YouTube and Twitter. We should go for it.”
The CityWalk Entertainment Director and I knew the popularity of Bieber and campaigned for the funding approval. To prove how popular Justin Bieber was, we even cold-called a staffer’s teenage daughter from the meeting. With the cell-phone on speaker, we asked the teen “Have you ever heard of Justin Bieber?” The reaction was first an ear-piercing scream, then “Mom are you going to get Justin Bieber at CityWalk? Oh my God. Oh my God. Is he coming to CityWalk?”
More than 2,000 fans showed up to pack CityWalk’s Cinema Plaza on November 17, 2009, with fantastic results, including:
The rest is history…
Justin Bieber went on to become one of the country’s most popular pop recording artists. Bieber’s team was so impressed with CityWalk that it came back to film the most popular music video in YouTube’s history, “Baby.”* To date, this video has over 280 million views, which has provided CityWalk with millions of dollars worth of free brand exposure.
Worth the risk? Let’s just say CityWalk became a “Belieber.”
Campaign Role: Director, CityWalk Marketing - Universal CityWalk
*(Recently unseated by PSY’s “Gangham Style” in late 2012)