By Kelly Parsons
It’s tough to make it through a single day without witnessing promotional material of some kind, whether it’s a Facebook post reminder that Netflix’s Gilmore Girls revival is live and ready to be binge-watched, or a design gracing the album cover of a popular rock band.
But what many Triangle residents don’t know is that some of those very designs came from a marketing company right in their own backyard.
Creative Allies is a Raleigh-based marketing firm that fuels fan engagement through crowdsourced design contests, creating promotional materials for some of the most recognizable bands and brands in the world. The company, which boasts clients like Dr. Dre, Maroon 5 and Arizona Iced Tea, was started in Asheville in 2009 with a focus on the music industry. It moved to Raleigh in January under the leadership of new CEO Donald Thompson Jr., who said he wanted to be closer to technology partners and have greater access to potential interns.
And though the online community of global designers has reached 125,000 members, Thompson and his employees have recently begun focusing on marketing Creatives Allies itself, not just its clients.
“We’ve certainly focused on promoting our clients and our partnerships with these amazing artists and brands,” director of corporate marketing Jackie Ferguson said, “but we haven’t until recently sat down and said, ‘We have this great marketing firm, but let’s market ourselves.’”
One way for Creative Allies to do just that, though, is to continue working with brands that are already household names.
The company already has a partnership with Cafe Press, a publicly traded company that creates promotional materials for popular shows like the Big Bang Theory, and most recently, Gilmore Girls. Currently, contests are being run on Creative Allies’ website to find designs for Gilmore Girls posters and a logo for the 2017 X Games, each having prizes of $1,000 for the design selected. All designers have to do is create an account online and upload their ideas to enter the contest.
Earlier this year, Creative Allies ran a contest to find a design for Twenty One Pilots’ 15-city tour posters. More than 3,000 submissions were made — many from fans of the band itself — and the group got over 80 million authentic impressions through the contest and its social media promotions, Thompson said.
“They got social engagement, great art, and our artists got recognition and reward and portfolio pieces,” Thompson said. “Basically we act as the connector for world class designers to get noticed and link them with iconic bands and brands, and everybody wins.”
The company has seven employees working on its mutually beneficial design model, and it also works with contractors. One of the employees is Phil Chamberlain, a campaign manager at Creative Allies but also a musician who has benefited first-hand from the company’s unique marketing style.
Chamberlain, who is the drummer for the band To Speak of Wolves, said his band uses Creative Allies for merchandise printing and online sales. And though he still tours with his band monthly, those experiences have proven to be beneficial for his day job, too.
“(My jobs) go hand-in-hand,” said Chamberlain, who’s worked at Creative Allies less than a year. “A lot of times we’ll go play some big festival, and I’ve been on the road so long I run into people I know from various bands. It segues easily to more business for Creative Allies a lot of times.”
Chamberlain said the recent attention to marketing the company itself has already paid off, citing large social media numbers, new partnerships and increasing contest entries as proof that the company is growing.
To Thompson, Creative Allies is the best kept secret in the entertainment industry. Chamberlain, being a part of that industry in more ways than one, tends to agree.
“People get to work with their favorite bands, and they wouldn’t be able to do that otherwise,” he said. “Why I think it’s so neat … you get the job based on your ability. It’s not based on who you know. It’s literally just, are you good enough to capture what the client is looking for?”