Levi's Tunes into Teen Issues
Charting the future of public relations
Holmes Report

Levi's Tunes into Teen Issues

Knowing kids are more receptive to a company’s advertising message if it’s delivered through music or tied to a good cause, Levi’s and Ketchum developed such a marketing campaign to reach teens.

Paul Holmes

With roots dating back to the gold rush era, American iconic brand, Levi Strauss, has long set the industry standard for blue jeans.  But, in the last decade, the brand lost market share to mainstream and designer labels that held more appeal to the capricious teen market.  In the late 1990s, styles evolved toward baggy jeans and kids quickly latched onto the urban, over-sized looks peddled by Tommy Hilfiger and Diesel, while Levi’s watched sales of its traditional brand shrink.  

Recognizing the need to contemporize the brand, Levi’s collaborated with Ketchum in 1999 to reverse the brand’s “stodgy” image and make it more relevant to teens.  Knowing kids are more receptive to a company’s advertising message if it’s delivered through music or tied to a good cause, Levi’s and Ketchum developed such a marketing campaign to reach teens.  Starting in 1999, Levi’s signed as the title sponsor of Levi’s Fuse ’99, a summer concert tour featuring the hot musical act, Goo Goo Dolls, and teamed up with PAX, a non-profit organization dedicated to ending gun violence.  Based on the success of Levi’s Fuse ’99, Ketchum recommended that Levi’s continue its support of cool music and hot topics in 2000 with another music tour sponsorship and a renewed partnership with PAX.  Dubbed Levi’s Presents D’Angelo (double-platinum R&B artist), the 23-city tour helped Levi’s successfully tap the teen market to add new appeal and relevance to a fading brand and spark discussion about an important teen issue.


Teen Market Research:  Ketchum conducted teen market research in 1998/99 that confirmed that the best ways to reach teens with an advertiser’s message were through music and good deeds.  This information lead to the creation of the Levi’s Fuse ’99 tour.  To test the soundness of the Levi’s Presents D’Angelo tour in 2000, Ketchum reviewed more current studies that again supported the music sponsorship/PAX partnership concept.

Musical Act Selection:  Ketchum worked with Levi’s and tour producer SFX to identify an appropriate musical act to support via a summer tour sponsorship.  The team investigated acts that were hip and relevant among teens and young adults.  After auditing several acts, Levi’s selected R&B artist D’Angelo, who the company deemed to be an “original” act much like Levi’s heritage as the “original” jeans.  At the time, D’Angelo held the number one spot on the Billboard chart, was being heralded as a “masterpiece” by publications as diverse as Time and Spin, and was highly regarded by Levi’s target audience.  

Partnership Development:  Based on the success of Levi’s Fuse ’99 and the company’s commitment to ending gun violence, Ketchum recommended that Levi’s continue its partnership with PAX.  Ketchum had originally recommended PAX to Levi’s in 1999 based on the organizations’ common goals and target audience, as well as a relevant concern among teens about the gun violence epidemic.     

Tour Market Analysis:  Due to a limited tour budget, Ketchum focused on national media and select local market press.  An analysis of the 23 tour cities was conducted to select 10 markets where an on-site Levi’s/PAX presence would have the greatest impact.  Analysis factors included Levi’s key sales/retail markets, high youth populations, and strong media outlets.  



  • Strengthen Levi’s reputation as a hot, relevant, teen brand
  • Drive teens’ intent-to-purchase Levi’s


  • Reach teens through music by aligning Levi’s brand with a hip, musical act
  • Support a compelling youth issue
  • Target print and broadcast media outlets read and watched by teens


  • Levi’s is sponsoring one of this summer’s hottest tours, Levi’s Presents D’Angelo, and is encouraging teens to help put an end to gun violence by signing the Levi’s Denim Wall to support PAX’s Youth Petition to End Gun Violence
  • Log onto www.levi.com and sign the Virtual Denim Wall.  For each cyber signature, Levi’s will donate $1 dollar to PAX
  • This is the second summer Levi’s has taken PAX, a leading anti-gun violence organization, on the road
  • Audiences:
  • Teens
  • Youth-focused media

Budget: $220.0 ($170.0 fee, $50.0 OOP – does not include D’Angelo fee)


To ensure the success of the tour, Ketchum worked with Levi’s and PAX to establish various communication channels and tools to get the message out:

Media access to D’Angelo  - Ketchum worked with Levi’s to successfully negotiate the terms of a contract that would guarantee media access to one of the hottest touring music artists in four top markets (Los Angeles, Chicago, New York/New Jersey and Atlanta)

Teen spokespeople – Secured highly newsworthy spokespeople to emphasize the link between Levi’s and PAX – Devon Adams, a sophomore at Columbine High School during the fatal April, 1999 shootings, as well as David Winkler and Ben Gelt, co-chairs of PAX Students, PAX’s teen program

The Levi’s Denim Wall – Created a huge, Levi’s-branded wall made of authentic Levi’s denim that consumers could sign in support of PAX’s Youth Petition to End Gun Violence.  For every signature contributed, Levi’s donated $1 to PAX

The Virtual Denim Wall – an online version of the Denim Wall housed at www.levi.com within the D’Angelo section that allowed all consumers to take part

Tour Kick-off 

To generate national and teen-targeted media coverage, the Levi’s/Ketchum team staged a kick-off announcement event with D’Angelo and the spokesteens at a Los Angeles high school.  Attended by press and 1,500 students, the event served as a platform to spotlight Levi’s ongoing commitment to hot music and launch the Levi’s Denim Wall.  At the event, D’Angelo signed the Levi’s Denim Wall and joined Levi’s and PAX in honoring the school’s Students for Peace club for its leadership role in the fight against gun violence.  The combination of on-site media attendance and the distribution of media materials (including photos and b-roll) resulted in far-reaching coverage including MTV News, Los Angeles Times, RollingStone.com and Seventeen.com.

Teens Talk to Teens

Ketchum worked with Levi’s and PAX to secure the three spokesteens to serve as youth ambassadors during the tour.  They traveled to all 23 tour cities, playing an integral part in Ketchum’s local media outreach.  Since they were teens themselves, Adams, Winkler and Gelt provided a subtle, but credible link between Levi’s, PAX and concertgoers.  Together, they delivered Levi’s music and cause messages to consumers via media interviews and direct interaction with concertgoers.  They also helped rally support for signatures on the Levi’s Denim Wall.

National and Local Market Media Tour

With limited access to D’Angelo for media purposes, Ketchum booked interviews for a Levi-clad D’Angelo in four markets to promote his tour, PAX and the partnership with Levi’s.  Additionally, Ketchum conducted extensive media outreach and traveled to 10 tour markets, leveraging the compelling stories of the teen spokespeople and their role on the tour.  The simultaneous media effort resulted in teen-targeted and mainstream print, broadcast and online coverage that consistently delivered the program messages.

On-site Activism

To engage and interact with concertgoers, Levi’s hosted a PAX booth located at the front-of-house at each venue, ensuring exposure to virtually everyone who attended.  With the Levi’s Denim Wall as a backdrop, the Levi’s/PAX teens spoke with consumers at the PAX booth about the importance of putting an end to gun violence, collected signatures for the Youth Petition to End Gun Violence and distributed Levi’s-branded premiums.


Objective #1: Strengthen Levi’s reputation as a hot, relevant, teen brand

Results: Sponsorship Research International (SRI) measured the impact of the Levi’s Presents D’Angelo tour in five concert cities:  Los Angeles, San Francisco, Boston, New York, and Miami/Ft. Lauderdale.  D’Angelo concert attendees were screened onsite and then phoned the following week to complete a survey.

Unaided awareness of Levi’s sponsorship was high.  Over two-thirds of attendees correctly recalled Levi’s as a sponsor

The sponsorship upped Levi’s “hip” quotient.   Fifty-seven percent of concert attendees saw Levi’s in a new light, labeling the brand “hip,” “cool,” and “sexy”

The message that Levi’s is commitment to PAX and/or the youth gun violence issue was consistently delivered in 93% of the media coverage, according to a message analysis of print, broadcast and online publicity

More than 42 million branded, Levi’s impressions were secured in top-tier youth-focused and mainstream media, such as Rolling Stone, Billboard and MTV, as well as college campus newspapers

An additional $25.0 donated to PAX through signatures collected on the Virtual Levi’s Denim Wall at levi.com

An audit of 1999/2000 press clips confirmed D’Angelo’s hot image and relevance to teens.  Time magazine said “D’Angelo makes music that makes you feel cool just listening to it,” Billboard referred to D’Angelo’s sophomore album as “one of the most awaited sets in recent years,” and SPIN said “this preacher’s son is a man who earns the right to have only one name…”

Objective #2:  Drive teens’ intent-to-purchase Levi’s
Results:According to the SRI survey, Levi’s sponsorship of the D’Angelo tour had a positive impact on purchase intent (concert attendees indicated they were more than twice as likely to buy Levi’s (28%) than those who did not attend the concert, 12%)…This increase in purchase intent can be attributed to the integrated marketing mix of public relations, advertising and the promotional campaign employed by Levi’s surrounding the tour.

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