Guitar Center Picks Many Media for Contest

Guitar Center is using several media to promote a DJ turntable competition that offers performers the chance to showcase their talent.

The Guitar Center Spin Off employs a national radio ad campaign, direct mail, print media and the retailer's guides to promote the contest, which is in its sixth year. Spin Off is among several events the company promotes, including Guitarmageddon and Drum Off.

“Spin Off serves as an identifier for what's next in the urban lifestyles by touching thousands of turntablists, creators, movers, inspirers and leaders,” said Dustin Hinz, promotions manager at Guitar Center, Westlake Village, CA.

Participants compete for thousands of dollars in prizes. The grand prize is a 2005 Scion x6 model automobile.

Direct marketing plays a crucial role. The company dropped an eight-page booklet in the spring to more than 50,000 DJs on its mailing lists, mainly in the early stages of the promotion to encourage sign-ups. Sponsors were mentioned in the mailer.

Hinz said eight pages provided the perfect amount of space to promote sign-ups, rebrand last year's competition and include ads for partners and sponsors. The booklet features an interview with the Spin Off '03 champ.

Spin Off also gets a mention in the Guitar Center Buyer's Guide, sent monthly to 2 million names in its database. The effort is also plugged in Guitar Center's quarterly All Things DJ specialty guide that goes to 200,000 consumers.

Guitar Center markets guitars, amplifiers, percussion instruments, keyboards and recording equipment. It operates 130 stores nationwide under its name and another 20 under the American Music brand. It owns the Musician's Friend catalog and Web site.

Its Spin Off effort began with in-store competitions, known as prelims, after the spring mailing. One winner from each store moves on to one of 14 district competitions. District winners graduate to one of three regional competitions in Los Angeles, Chicago or New York. The regional winners and runners-up advance to the final Aug. 11 at the Hammerstein Ballroom in New York. The final features Grammy award group The Roots.

Contestants are judged on originality, technique, style, stage presence and overall performance. The three judges per store are independent of Guitar Center. The final has five to 10 judges, including celebrities.

“It drives traffic into our stores, it affects sales by getting contestants' hands on gear [and] adds value by providing an experience they might not have otherwise had,” Hinz said.

Guitar Center has partnered with the Scion car brand, Nike, XM Satellite Radio as well as XXL and Scratch magazines. It is airing ads on alternative and urban stations nationwide. The spots reach 30 percent to 50 percent of men in the targeted ages 18-34 three to six times a week. This amounts to roughly 10 million on-air impressions weekly.

The chain garners millions more impressions through print ads, phone on-hold music, in-store broadcasts, posters and signage and e-mail blasts to its house file. The site at will support the effort. It attracts more than 2 million unique visitors monthly.

“Direct marketing allows us to communicate with our existing customer base,” Hinz said. “Direct mail is the most targeted marketing tactic for Spin Off and Guitar Center in general. It's a proven tactic that's woven into our marketing strategy.”

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