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Friday, Dec 8, 2023

Puttin’ on the Glitz

It began like any adolescent boy’s dream. Robert A. Olshever and Murray L. Schwartz wanted to travel the world, listen to their favorite bands and meet girls. Twenty years later, the two partners have parlayed that dream into a $30 million business with offices in four cities soon to be five worldwide, that boasts a roster of Fortune 100 clients and a track record for providing innovative programs in industries as diverse as pharmaceuticals and entertainment. Calabasas-based RPMC packages travel and event promotions around musical events like rock concerts and sporting events such as the Super Bowl for use by corporations, radio and television broadcasters and other marketers seeking to garner attention and sales. Coca-Cola Co. is a client. So is McDonald’s Corp., MGM Home Entertainment, Anheuser-Busch Companies Inc. and The Discovery Network. RPMC served as the official travel promotion agency for the Recording Academy at Feb. 13’s Grammy Awards, offering packages with airfare and hotel accommodations, tickets to the show and entry to the post-event parties. For Coke and 7-Eleven Inc., the company engineered a “Live Like a Star” promotion that gave prize winners a trip to Hollywood and the chance to record a demo record and attend the finale of American Idol. For Anheuser-Busch’s Budweiser brand, it arranged a weekend at the Monaco Grand Prix complete with a behind the scenes tour. “We can dream up and implement things that they thought money can’t buy,” said Schwartz, who has been working with partner Olshever ever since the two were in high school in Canoga Park. As Olshever tells it, the two met when he needed a photographer and a ride to a Van Halen interview at the legendary Whiskey A Go Go. Schwartz had a rep as a rock photographer and a car. The two founded a fan magazine, “Raw Power Magazine,” and built it to a 72-page glossy publication, less concerned about its business potential than the perks it delivered. “We got every record and went to every concert and we were interviewing every band in the world,” said Olshever. “Who needed money? That was priceless.” Olshever and Schwartz retired briefly in order to get through college at California State University Northridge, but by 1983, almost to the day that they graduated, they were back in business. Already established on the music scene from their days publishing RPM, Schwartz and Olshever used a connection they had developed with the band Journey, to launch RPMC with a promotional concert package. More rock ‘n’ roll vacations followed, marketed to radio stations for use as promotional giveaways. “In a few short years we were dealing with hundreds of radio stations, and through that process, we started looking at other mediums cable, magazines, anyone that could use a promotion,” Olshever said. More trips There were trips to London’s Albert Hall for an Eric Clapton concert, a ride on the Concorde to see Genesis in Paris, a trip to Rio de Janeiro, a location the pair touted as ideal for viewing Haley’s Comet (mostly because they’d never been to Rio), and a weeklong promotion commemorating the 20th anniversary of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band with its “It was twenty years ago today” lyric at The Beatle’s Abbey Road studios. When the radio stations started integrating their promotions with corporate advertising sponsors, Schwartz and Olshever realized they could do the same, and they expanded their business and their contacts. So by the time corporate America became a key element of big band tours and sporting events, RPMC was well positioned with just about all the players. “As long as we have our ear to corporate America access to the artist is easy,” said Olshever, “because the artist wants that access now. All the rules have changed because the music industry has changed.” With its business spanning travel and promotions, RPMC took a hit after Sept. 11, 2001. Revenues fell off by 20 percent to 30 percent. But the partners say that most of that wasn’t lost business, merely events deferred that have since resumed. “Their creativity and execution is outstanding, said Sean O’Neill, general sales manager at KFWB News 980, who engaged RPMC for sales incentive promotions while at Y107 and its successor radio station VIVA. “Mainly they did our travel incentive business. They did great work.” About 60 percent of the company’s business is currently travel related and about 40 percent comes from marketing and promotions. Some clients, like the Recording Academy, contract for several years at a time, others use RPMC on a project basis but about two dozen clients account for about 80 percent of the company’s business. “We have hundreds that will come to us from time to time,” said Schwartz. “The challenge is how do you get them to the next level. How do you get that person who comes once every three years to work with us on a few projects a year.” Creative concepts Besides concerts, there are trips to the Ryder Cup golf championships and the World Cup soccer games. If the location of a Super Bowl isn’t very attractive, no worries. RPMC will deliver its version, the Paradise Bowl, in an exotic location where the weather is better and the game is just one of a number of activities available. Promotions like the Paradise Bowl are geared more toward corporations seeking to reward their top performing sales executives, a business RPMC has moved into more aggressively in recent years. “Two years ago we started getting knocks on the door from pharmaceutical companies,” Schwartz said. “We’ve always had a few clients, but now we’re making a conscious effort to clients that aren’t exposed every day.” Companies that have sponsored these major entertainment and sports events for years have become used to the glitz and glamour of many of RPMC’s promotions. But for those in industries such as pharmaceuticals, financial services and health care, well out of the entertainment arena, many of the programs still hold tremendous appeal. At the same time, these companies are finding that monetary incentives don’t carry the same weight as an event that can well be the experience of a lifetime. “The world has become a very sales-based environment,” said Olshever. “In order to hit your numbers you have to motivate your people. It’s not always about money. It’s about experience and memories.” RPMC Year Founded: 1983 Revenues in 2001: $25 million Revenues in 2005: $30 million Employees in 2001: 78 Employees in 2005: 100 Goal: To move into new categories the company is not now involved with. Driving Force: The need by corporations to provide sales incentives.

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