But U2 doesn’t love BlackBerry, nor give a shit about them. That’s the feeling I get after attending the kick-off concert for U2′s 360 U.S. tour. What’s incredible is that after thinking about this strange and odd pairing of two corporate brands, it makes less sense than I even previously thought. For starters, it’s a pretty large investment to be the title and only sponsor for a huge national or worldwide tour — major money. If we had to guess we’d say RIM paid a minimum of $7M and a maximum of $15M. What’s so unsettling is how disconnected RIM was from the event. Sure, there were a couple banners strewn about Soldier Field, but no one noticed. And the folks that did notice didn’t care. Instead of using this opportunity to push their brand forward, it almost seems like just a second thought to throw some quick marketing dollars to try act like your company is doing something in the consumer and “cool” department.
There are really two main reasons to do something as big as this: one is to get a huge return on your investment. If RIM spends $10M (we averaged our guessed figures) and signs up a boatload of new BlackBerry subscribers (or even just does upgrades and sells hardware) there’s a good chance they’d quickly make that $10M back plus more (profit). The second reason which is more likely for a company as large as RIM, is just to have brand presence, reinforce your identity to consumers, and possibly reach a new demographic that you can later market and sell to. But again, I saw enough BlackBerrys at the event. More iPhones than BlackBerrys (everyone was taking videos on their iPhones so apparently everyone in America bought the new 3GS), but still, a shitload of BlackBerrys. And no one is switching to a friggin’ BlackBerry from an iPhone just because they saw a couple dusty BlackBerry banners at a U2 concert.
So I ask again, what’s the purpose of sponsoring a tour like this if you’re going to throw up some lame signage and call it a day? Seriously, there wasn’t a single BlackBerry logo on the main screen on the stage, nothing on the video monitor — zilch. There was a dingy 5×5 ft booth that looked like a hot dog stand converted into something with a BlackBerry logo right outside the stadium and that’s about it. Did Live Nation tell you to bugger off? Did U2 say they didn’t want a brand to be integrated into their show anymore than you were already? If so, this is a pretty shitty investment and makes RIM seem desperate to just find something to get involved with to try and hold on to what’s left of the hype (which is quickly, quickly fading) surrounding the BlackBerry Tour launch. Sure it’s a nice tie-in for upcoming product launches like the Storm 2 and BlackBerry 9700, but there’s zero involvement.
Why didn’t RIM have 10 RIM reps at the venue demoing products an hour before the concert started? Doing giveaways? Getting people excited or at least engaged? Why couldn’t you sell devices and do activations at every stadium/arena on the tour and clean up? You couldn’t even do some RIM accessories with U2 logos on them? Seriously? Do you understand how many drunk 50-year-olds would buy BlackBerry/U2 leather holsters, skins, etc. for their devices at the concert? This might go back to what they could and could not do in terms of licensing agreements, merchandising restrictions, promotional and marketing guidelines, but if so, it was a pretty stupid idea to half-ass something that could have been a major coup for your company and brand in a time when it’s much needed.
For $10M, RIM could have set up shop at 50 college campuses across the country and done hands-on sessions with students showing off how cool a BlackBerry can be compared to Apple’s iPhone. “Look, you can get Twitter on your BlackBerry and you can stream music even while the application is in the background!” or maybe “look how fantastically it integrates with your college email account.” “Look, even Yelp! is on the BlackBerry now and it will even show you where the best place to get chicken wings at 3AM is.” and the obvious sexy angle: “you guys use Macs? No problem. We just launched BlackBerry Desktop for Mac which will sync all of your stuff over so you can use all of your Mac applications you’re used to using. Have fun — import your photos into iPhoto and enjoy the fact that we geo-tag your pictures automatically!”
For $10M RIM could have made a meaningful commercial that demonstrated why a BlackBerry is better than an iPhone instead of Bono on LSD channeling his previous commercial he did for the iPod with Apple. For $10M RIM could have launched an actual developer program where they, you know, focus on making software development easier and better? Maybe have real support and real documentation that makes sense? All RIM has to do is copy Apple and for the most part, they’ll win. Yet they refuse. They start things and never finish them and their follow-through is horrible just like how this U2 sponsorship turned out to be. I was actually a tad bit excited, or at least a little bit hype. “BlackBerry sponsored this entire thing? That’s kind of cool.” Then all I saw were a couple banners like the one above and everyone pleasantly using iPhones. And some dude buying nachos.