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Big sponsors scramble for piece of CMA Music Festival

First published on http://www.tennessean.com

The best number to measure the health of the CMA Music Festival may not be the 80,000 fans drawn to downtown each year, but the 60 corporate partners for the event.

CMA Fest counts some of the most recognizable brands and most successful companies as its corporate partners. Names like Chevrolet, Pepsi, Anheuser-Busch, AT&T and Jack Daniel’s.

The list of CMA sponsors, which reads like a who’s who of corporate America, serves as a reminder of the boom times for modern country music and the desirability of country music fans.

“When we looked at what the customer base looked like, it just made sense,” said GW Shaw, vice president for U-Verse and video product marketing for AT&T.

Country music fans are trending younger, more technically-inclined than before, and have disposable income, Shaw said. That made them perfect targets for the company’s new immersive country music application for subscribers called Country Deep.

AT&T is the corporate sponsor for the Fan Fair X events at Music City Center this weekend.

Damon Whiteside, CMA senior vice president of marketing and strategic partnerships, said the goal is to find sponsors that enhance the fan experience and make sense for the association.

“We have nearly 60 partners that will be activating,” Whiteside said. “That’s quite a huge footprint, and has a huge effect to be able to bring fans meet-and-greet experiences.”

Whiteside said the festival has more technology sponsors than ever before, such as Samsung, which increased its sponsorship this year and is the name sponsor for one of the CMA performance stages.

“I think there’s a lot of interest in the country music consumer and it’s growing very rapidly,” Whiteside said. “The consumer is growing in terms of size. We estimate, (and Nielsen consumer research estimates) there are 102 million country music fans out there. We also see the audience getting younger which is really important to us especially 12 to 17 and 18 to 24 demographics.”

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