LAS VEGAS (AP) — In a short film shown at the end of the Super Bowl halftime performer’s press conference, headliner Usher is absent. The singer’s sudden absence causes immediate panic from his friends including Ludacris, Lil Jon and Taraji P. Henson, prompting a search in various parts of Las Vegas.
After all, Usher is found splashing water while dancing in a Caesar’s Palace fountain in the seven-minute “Where’s Usher!?” It’s one of several creative projects from Apple Music, which has made a concerted effort to build anticipation around Sunday’s first half show.
Since Apple Music became the sponsor of the halftime show, the streaming service is trying to make an impactful mark like never before.
“We’re trying to expand the campaign to more than one show on Sunday afternoon,” said Oliver Schusser, vice president of Apple Music and Beats. The streaming service became a sponsor of the show in 2022, replacing Pepsi, which held the position for a decade.
Schusser said Apple Music stepped in as a company that understands the music landscape. He called their partnership a “very powerful one” with the NFL and Jay-Z’s Roc Nation, which has produced the halftime show since 2019.
“We want to make the halftime show press conference the artist’s moment,” Schusser said. “We really wanted to elevate it and make it great. We did this last year. This year, we made it even bigger.”
So far, Apple Music is off to a promising start. Last year, the streaming service built a campaign for Rihanna — keeping the pregnancy under wraps — leading up to her performance, which became the most-watched Super Bowl halftime show in history with more than 121 million viewers. .
As Usher prepares to headline this year’s festivities, Apple Music created a strategic plan before taking the Super Bowl stage. The streaming service has been working with the singer and his team since meeting him during Paris Fashion Week last year.
“It’s been a journey with him and his management ever since,” Schusser said. “We want to make this a bigger, global event. Between Apple Music, Apple Music Radio, talent that has a deep understanding of music and culture, and obviously the Apple Ecosystem, I think we can amplify that.”
Until Sunday, it’s all about Usher. Through the streaming service’s app, listeners can watch the singer’s halftime show trailer, his curated My Road to Halftime playlist of his hits and collaborations. Usher and Jermaine Dupri created a medley of tracks in spatial audio with jams including DJs Tiësto, Gryffin and BLOND:ISH.
Apple Music Radio’s Nadeska Alexis had an interview Thursday with Usher featuring the short film.
It’s a story of Usher in 20 songs, an editorial feature that takes an in-depth look at his 30-year career as a performer. The platform offers a four-night check-in of Usher through their live streaming shows hosted by Lil Wayne and Estelle along with exclusive programming on Apple Music Radio that will chronicle the singer’s evolution; workout music from recent front-runners via Fitness+ and ways to revisit his past projects ahead of the release of his ninth studio album Coming Home, which drops Friday.
“From a marketing standpoint, we approach it as a product launch,” said Tor Myhren, Apple’s vice president of marketing communications. “You have all the unique things about him, then you bring them to life. With Usher, the approach is that Usher is fun. Usher is a party guy. He wants to have a good time. It’s really about capturing the essence of that artist, merging it with the essence of Apple Music.”
Myhren said there is still a focus on Usher’s performance after the Super Bowl. He said it is imperative to capitalize on the singer’s spectacle before turning the company’s attention to next year’s performer.
“We still want people to enjoy the glory of the show,” he said. “Once an artist plays in the first half, the airplay of their music for the next week or two goes through the roof. We want to be in the middle of it. We want to give our customers a much better experience.”
Myhren said the groundwork has been laid.
“It’s about the lead up to the show and how we can keep reinventing that step,” he said. “We want to continue to bring this very cool musical experience to a much more global audience.”
Jonathan Landrum Jr., The Associated Press