This year, when throngs of concertgoers look up at the main stage at Lollapalooza on Aug. 7 to 9, they won't be seeing the logo for one of the festival's corporate sponsors.
Instead, the banner will tout the "Chicago 2016 Stage," trumpeting the three-day concert's support of the city's bid to host the 2016 Olympics and Paralympic Games.
AT&T, a major corporate underwriter of Lollapalooza since the former traveling alternative-rock tour was reinvented as a "destination festival" in Grant Park in 2005, previously claimed naming rights for the main stage, and it paid to be the biggest corporate presence at the fest. But it is not involved with the concert this year.
Chicago 2016 spokesman Patrick Sandusky said the organization isn't paying anything to have a presence at Lollapalooza. "It's a good-will gesture" on the part of the promoters, Austin, TX-based C3 Presents, Sandusky said.
"[C3] came to us with the opportunity, and we think it's a great way to reach thousands and thousands of people with just a general message about the bid," Sandusky added. "They've certainly been helpful and allowed us to do that. They actually were the executive producers of the dinner when the IOC [International Olympic Committee] was in town, when we had Buddy Guy and Koko Taylor."
Executives with C3 Presents have often expressed a desire to be part of staging the Olympics here if Chicago wins its bid on Oct. 2. "I would love nothing more," C3 co-owner Charlie Jones told the Tribune. "I don't think there is any doubt the city will get the Olympics... [and] when they get it, I would love nothing more than to help the city bring that event to the world."
Sandusky stressed that Chicago 2016 has no commitments with any companies yet to play a role in the Olympics. "They've been helpful to us, and they do very good work, but we haven't considered anything past Oct. 2nd," Sandusky said of C3. "It would be presumptive of us."
C3 has parlayed its success staging Lollapalooza into promoting several other high-profile events, including President Obama's celebration in Grant Park on election night, several inaugural balls and the Easter egg hunt on the White House lawn.
"One of the things we're trying to demonstrate to the IOC is how we're able to stage large-scale events on the lakefront," Sandusky said. "We have hundreds of thousands of people, whether it be election night or Lollapalooza, and we want to showcase to them that hosting the games wouldn't be something that's new to Chicago in terms of managing crowds."
AT&T became a source of controversy as a Lollapalooza sponsor in 2007 when its Webcast censored political comments that Pearl Jam singer and Evanston native Eddie Vedder made about President Bush. But it still was a major presence last year.
AT&T's absence from this year's Lollapalooza still leaves the festival with a long list of corporate sponsors, including Budweiser, Sony PlayStation, Vitamin Water, Citi, BMI, Honda and F.Y.E. Like those advertisers, Olympics 2016 is eager to reach the Lollapalooza audience.
"It's a great opportunity to get the brand out there, to get more people engaged--and people who, frankly, aren't naturally going to come across what we're doing, because they're not at sporting events," Sandusky said. "There certainly is a group of people that would be at Lollapalooza that wouldn't be at some of the other places we've been."