Music takes flight at World Cup - Bamboo

With artists like Shakira, Wyclef Jean, and Il Divo in the mix, stars are aligning in Germany for the world's biggest soccer party.

The most popular recording this year may not be a song, but rather a five-note melody called "Bamboo."

The simple chant of the word, composed by the relatively unknown Nadir Khayat and Bilal Hajji, will almost certainly be heard by an accumulated audience of as many as 30 billion TV viewers in the space of about a month.

Voices, the official FIFA compilation.

Such is the branding reach of the Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), world soccer's governing body. "Bamboo" has been selected as the official melody for the 2006 FIFA World Cup, the biggest soccer festival on Earth, which will kick off June 9 in Germany.

The melody will be sold as a ringtone, used in special FIFA-targeted remixes of hit songs and will feature prominently in advertising from such sponsors as Adidas, Budweiser, Coca-Cola, McDonald's, and Phillips.

The sheer universality of soccer--"football" to fans of the sport everywhere outside the United States--has given it an unrivaled advantage over other spectator sports in luring the global music business to its commercial possibilities. Three million spectators are expected to attend games during the monthlong tournament. FIFA reckons a TV audience of 1 billion will watch the July 9 final in Berlin and expects some 30 billion views of the tournament in total, up from the 28.8 billion from the 2002 event.


This year, though, it's not just music smartly courting FIFA's audience, but FIFA seeking out the unique marketing and branding possibilities--and energy--that today's music stars offer. To that end, FIFA hired an outside agency, Sweden's Engine, to manage music projects, as opposed to licensing those projects to a major recording company, as it had done in the past.

It was Engine that commissioned "Bamboo"--the highest-profile composition from the World Cup, but by no means alone.

The tune is featured in a specially commissioned, official FIFA remix of the Shakira/Wyclef Jean track "Hips Don't Lie," in EMI-signed German megastar Herbert Gronemeyer's "Celebrate the Day" and in classical crossover group Il Divo's "The Time of Our Lives," performed with R&B star Toni Braxton. All these tracks--and scores of catalog hits from such international stars as Elton John, Elvis Presley, Kelly Clarkson, Rod Stewart, and others, strategically selected for various territories--will be included on Voices, the official FIFA compilation that Sony BMG will release June 6 around the globe.

Those hips don't lie.

Gronemeyer will perform "Celebrate the Day" before the opening game. Il Divo and Braxton will perform "The Time of Our Lives" at halftime in that game and also at the July 9 tournament final. Shakira and Jean will perform their FIFA-endorsed collaboration before the final kicks off.

Beyond the enormity of the viewing numbers, these are fans who are ripe for a strong marketing campaign, says Ben Padfield, London-based group account director at advertising agency GCI. In the United States, GCI accounts include the Women's Tennis Association Tour and Major League Baseball.

"It goes beyond demographics into psychographics," he says. "If you're talking to an audience on a subject as emotive as sport or music, you connect with them on a level that's impossible through mainstream advertising."


FIFA turned to Engine to strategize the best possible approach to music and marketing. "We're the governing body of world football, but we're certainly not a music company," says Rupert Daniels, World Cup music program project manager for FIFA. "We do have a lot of expertise in the world of entertainment, licensing, TV and marketing rights, but we identified the need to work with a professional company with a wide range of experience in the music area to act as our consultants."

Engine's strategy for the 2006 games was to build a branding campaign around an "official melody"--"Bamboo." This is the first year the tournament has had such a recording, which Engine managing director Bjorn Lindborg describes as "the FIFA sonic brand."

Daniels says "Bamboo" is as much about branding the event as it is about selling the tune. "We hope there'll be some commercial success for it, but that's not the prime motive for producing this. It's to give our event an added dimension."

Engine commissioned the New York-based Khayat, who records as RedOne, and Hajji to compose the melody. Once completed, Engine approached songwriters and asked them to use it as inspiration. "We only went to a handful of writers," Lindborg explains. "Rather than picking an artist to record the song, we wanted to start with the song. (Il Divo's) 'Time of Our Lives' was based on the melody line."

With "Time of Our Lives," Lindborg says "we wanted to create an exciting meeting between two different cultures. We always had the vision of a bilingual song in English and Spanish."

If the Engine approach succeeds, Lindborg suggests that "other sporting events but also brands--for instance, those sponsoring (the World Cup), will open their eyes to the fact that there are several ways of including music in their marketing platform and their branding strategies. Particularly for sports events and brands, it's a very attractive model."


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