Last year, Chicago 2016, the non-profit organization vying to bring the Olympics here, had an informational booth at Lollapalooza near the entrance of the concert in the center of Grant Park, close to other public-service groups trumpeting voter registration and saving the environment.
Meanwhile, AT&T's corporate logo seemed to be everywhere concertgoers turned.
This year, Chicago's initiative to land the Olympics and Paralympic games will replace AT&T as the name atop the main stage at the southern end of Hutchinson Field when the festival takes place from Aug. 7 to 9. But unlike the old "presenting sponsor," Chicago 2016 won't be paying for the privilege.
Dallas, TX-based telecommunications giant AT&T had partnered with neighboring Austin, TX-based concert promoters C3 Presents at Lollapalooza since the concert's reinvention as a Chicago-based destination festival in 2005.
"Lollapalooza has a long-standing reputation among young adults and music fans worldwide for delivering a one-of-a-kind experience, and this sponsorship is a unique way to showcase how AT&T delivers great communications and entertainment solutions to our customers," Scott Helbing, chief marketing officer for the company, said in a 2006 press release.
But after last year, AT&T dropped the fest like a troublesome cell phone call.
"AT&T is proud to have delivered exclusive webcasts of the Lollapalooza Music Festival from 2005-2008," AT&T spokeswoman Meghan Roskopf said Tuesday. "Our contract with the festival ended last year and we decided not to renew based on a variety of business goals and objectives."
Asked where the company might pursue those goals and objectives if it isn't doing so at iPhone-packed Lollapalooza, Roskopf said, "We can't really discuss future strategies for competitive reasons."
"You'd have to ask AT&T" why it is no longer a sponsor, said Shelby Meade, spokeswoman for Lollapalooza and C3 Presents. "We enjoyed our association with them." But the relationship wasn't always a smooth one.
In 2007, AT&T's "Blue Room" Webcasts from the concert caused a controversy in the music world after Pearl Jam complained that singer and Evanston native Eddie Vedder had been censored via an audio drop-out when he made non-profane comments criticizing President Bush. It was later revealed that several other artists at Lollapalooza and Bonnaroo, including the Flaming Lips, the Nightwatchman, the Jon Butler Trio and Lupe Fiasco, also had been silenced by AT&T when making similar political comments.
Whatever the reason, AT&T is out and Chicago 2016 is in.
Was C3 unable to find another paying sponsor to replace AT&T, or is the company boosting the Olympics because of executives' stated ambitions to play a major role in staging festivities here if Chicago wins the bid on Oct. 2nd? The company's statements could be read as supporting either theory--or both.
"Sponsorship sales have been challenging in 2009 and we felt the best use of the naming rights was to back the bid for the 2016 Olympics," Meade said. She declined to say how much naming rights to the main stage were worth. "We don't discuss dollars."
Asked whether C3, which also organized an elaborate dinner for the International Olympic Committee when it recently visited Chicago, hopes that its support of the games will pay off with the company winning a role in organizing Olympics festivities, Meade said, "This is a goodwill gesture, we had the opportunity to do this in 2009, we may not be able to provide the same support in the years to come."