Partying for profits

A handful of aggressive entrepreneurs are learning there's money to be made in managing entertainment festivals around the globe--but corporate sponsorship is still the key to success

cornering a market that Kmart was targeting, Sinbad himself was the main reason the company signed. “Sinbad has tremendous appeal in that market, and he has a great crossover appeal. It was an excellent opportunity to generate exposure throughout our stores because of his celebrity,” Musselman says. While she won’t give any specifics about the cost of its sponsorship, as part of its contract, Kmart was the exclusive seller of official festival merchandise.

Ironically, the curtain may be poised to fall on the event just as it’s being embraced by corporate sponsors. Despite the show’s strong attendance and ratings, executives at HBO want to tinker with the event as a prerequisite for televising it again. “They want the music to be more ‘contemporary,’” says Sinbad. “Personally, I feel no matter how well received a show is, some people won’t be happy if all you have are blacks in the audience.” Calls from BE to HBO were not returned.

While Sinbad says the event could continue even without HBO’s support, at this point he’s undecided. “It’s like a family reunion with a homecoming phere,” he says. “I’m gonna miss it terribly. But you never know. Right now it’s up in the air.”

AN ALL-STAR JAM
Cancun isn’t just hot come summertime–it’s scorching. Funny thing is, this past May the heat had as much to do with the scantily clad tourists as with the mid-afternoon sun. A throng of young black 20-somethings descended on the exotic locale for a nonstop three-day party. The affair in question: the third annual Cancun All-Star Fiesta.

The architect behind this fete was Chris Latimer, president and CEO of the Cancun All-Star Fiesta, a New York-based entertainment and marketing firm. At age 28, Latimer’s goal was simple: create a “players’ paradise” for his peers. Panels, seminars and workshops were abandoned in favor of bikini contests and album-release parties. The only goals:
mix, mingle and have as much fun as legally possible. With three- to five-night hotel, airfare and party packages that ranged from $429 to about $700, Latimer says this year’s event attracted approximately 13,000 attendees and grossed a respectable quarter-million dollars.

“I grew up in the generation of the Greekfests in Philly and Atlanta,” says Latimer, “so I wanted to have my own event where people my age could just get together and have a good time.”

But as ringmaster of the event, Latimer spent much of the three-day Memorial weekend on the run–checking last-minute details with sponsors, making sure featured musical acts were on site and on time, and in general putting out “small fires” before they turned into big ones.

It’s a far cry from Latimer’s original entree into entrepreneurship. His four-year-old firm had started out primarily as a product-placement company that clad music artists in various videos in products like Reebok sportswear. As that operation took off, his business slowly spread its urban marketing arm across advertising and new media fields. It wasn’t until 1994 that Latimer began exploring event management. Through contacts he’d established in the entertainment industry, he began

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  • Thomas Wright

    I am searching for the issue which published 500
    corporate sponsors from A to Z across the US.