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Partners needed for Live 8, not sponsors

ROCK festivals have come a long way since 400,000 people gathered in 1969 at Woodstock, New York, to celebrate the original summer of love and watch Jimi Hendrix turn the Star Spangled Banner into a feedback-filled indictment of the Vietnam War.

Even Glastonbury - forever branded in the memory of many for its muddy fields - appears to be tilting towards the "middle youth" market with 125 weekend tickets and acts such as Paul McCartney, David Bowie and Paul Weller.

While purists may bemoan corporate involvement, big events need the money, and major brands like the association.

Live 8 already has some corporate involvement. The mobile phone network O2 has operated the text ticket competition while internet giant AOL, part of the Time Warner group, will be webcasting all five Live 8 concerts on 2 July. Capital Radio, owned by GCap media, will be the radio broadcast partner for the Hyde Park show.

A Live 8 spokesman tells The Scotsman there was one major sponsor yet to be announced for the Hyde Park concert, and Live 8 dismisses media speculation that Coca-Cola is going to be a major sponsor, but say it is likely the drinks giant will have a smaller presence at Hyde Park.

AOL's sponsorship illustrates just how profoundly the media has changed since the 1985 Live Aid shows, when the internet and e-mail were unknown to all but a handful of academics.

Jonathan Lambeth, director of communications for AOL, tells The Scotsman the online giant is keen to webcast the concert at Murrayfield: "It depends on such issues as the production company involved, but the desire to do it is there."

Live 8 has employed a number of advertising agencies, including M&C Saatchi, to sift through potential sponsors. Steve Martin, M&C Saatchi's head of sponsorship, says company involvement would be discreet and would not involve big logos slapped everywhere: "This is more about companies wanting to be supporters and partners of the event rather than big sponsors."

Live 8 wants to sign up companies with tartan credentials for the Edinburgh concert. A spokesman for the event says: "We would be very keen for Scottish companies to be associated with the Murrayfield show."

One potential issue for sponsors could be the political dimension of the Live 8 concerts and the accompanying Long Walk to Justice, as Sir Bob Geldof has made it clear the concerts and the walk will be political, rather than charitable, events.

The music events will be a safe bet, in corporate terms, as no sponsor can fail if it is perceived as opposing world poverty.

More uncertain is whether the demonstrations surrounding the G8 summit could take on an anti-globalism dimension. That could present public relations problems for companies keen to back Live 8, but who also might have strong involvement in US markets or developing countries.

Gordon MacMillan, from the marketing website Brand Republic, says: "It's very tricky for an event like Live 8 because, on the one hand, the event has an anti-capitalist tilt to it but, on the other, they need the cash.

"I think you will see a number of corporate names lend their support to Live 8 simply because it is such a young target audience and the advertisers want to reach them."

 
 
 

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