Colgate Country Showdown Celebrates Its 25th Year

From: AristoMedia
Published: Wed Jan 10 2007

The most fertile seedbed for emerging musical talent is not American Idol but rather a long-running American icon called the Colgate Country Showdown. Now in its 25th year, the Showdown has been a career-booster for more future country music stars than any other contest in history.

Produced by Special Promotions, Inc. (SPI) of Nashville for the past 25 years, the Showdown was the first national event to spotlight Garth Brooks, Martina McBride, Tim McGraw, Brad Paisley, Sara Evans, Miranda Lambert, Billy Dean, Billy Ray Cyrus and a stage full of other performers who went on to earn major recording contracts.

Of course there’s a good deal more than fame involved. Each act that wins the Showdown’s National Final takes home a cash prize of $100,000. An additional $300,000 in cash prizes is awarded each year at the various other levels.

During the year just ending, the Colgate Country Showdown attracted more than 10,000 acts through vigorous partnerships with 470 radio stations in communities of every size—from such large markets as Chicago and Houston to the tinier enclaves of Shelby, Montana and Demopolis, Alabama. In 2006 alone, the Showdown sponsored more than 550 heavily promoted live shows at which new talent could present itself to enthusiastic consumers.

"We take the star-making opportunity to the artists wherever they live," Unkefer says. "They don’t have to come to us."

Here’s how it all works: Backed by Colgate and its vast retailer network, SPI sets up alliances with radio stations all over the United States. Then, using SPI’s materials and expertise and Colgate’s cooperative advertising program, the participating stations promote local Showdowns, screen contestants and stage the live talent contests.

Continuing under SPI’s direction, local winners compete for state championships, usually at major fairs or similar expositions. The state winners then vie for supremacy at five regional contests. Finally, the five regional winners contend for the national title on a syndicated television special hosted by a major country music act and judged by a panel of distinguished music industry professionals. Great American Country (GAC) then picks up the special airing in primetime in May. The show is also carried internationally on the overseas networks.

In sifting through hundreds of thousands of aspiring performers, the Showdown has found some real gold (and platinum) nuggets. Garth Brooks, Tim McGraw, Toby Keith (as a member of the Easy Money band), Tracy Lawrence, Tracy Byrd, Mark Chesnutt, Brad Paisley, Katrina Elam and Jeff Bates were all local winners.

Martina McBride, Neal McCoy, Chris Young, Erika Jo, Billy Dean, Sara Evans, Billy Ray Cyrus, John Michael Montgomery, John Berry, Bobby Pinson, Miranda Lambert, Chad Brock, Rick Trevino and Shane Minor were state and/or regional champs. Sweethearts of the Rodeo won the national title during the Showdown’s third year of operation.

A bonus for the state, regional and national contestants is that they get to rub shoulders with real stars who are brought in to host and perform at the various events. LeAnn Rimes will emcee the 25th National Final Jan. 25, 2007 at Nashville’s fabled Ryman Auditorium. Previous hosts and entertainers included Montgomery Gentry, Sara Evans, Billy Ray Cyrus, Sawyer Brown, Tanya Tucker, Lorrie Morgan, Crystal Gayle, the Oak Ridge Boys, Kris Kristofferson, Willie Nelson, Barbara Mandrell, Kenny Rogers, Loretta Lynn, Reba McEntire, Tammy Wynette, Charley Pride and George Jones among many other notables.

Unkefer is quick to point out that the Showdown is much more than just a talent contest. "It’s a great on-air promotion that generates strong community interest," he says. "There’s no cash outlay on the stations’ part. We provide a complete sales, promotion and production kit and all the collateral material. This aid also enables the stations to create partnerships with local retailers. Besides all this, the stations have the power of being backed by a national sponsor who supports them with retailer matching funds ad money."

KDKD AM/FM in Clinton, Missouri, has been with Country Showdown virtually from the start. Currently, the stations promote 10 local Showdowns in seven separate communities. "I can’t say enough about those guys [at SPI]," enthuses general manager Bob May. "They really do a great job of keeping us up-to-date with what’s going on. They send us material all the time. I’ve encouraged some of the other radio stations in our company to jump on board with this because it is such a well-run deal. . . . From a radio station standpoint, it really gets us out into those communities and puts a face on our DJs and who we are and what we do."

Cliff McCardle, former promotions coordinator for WKDF, Nashville, is equally high on the Showdown. "It has a great impact. It gives people a chance to show their talent when they normally don’t have that opportunity. . . . We’ve worked with the Showdown for years, and it’s always been a great competition."

Advertising Age agreed that Colgate Country Showdown has a special quality unmatched by its high-profile competitor: "Though ‘Showdown’ can’t top the nation’s highest-rated TV program for viewers, it has ‘American Idol’ beaten handily as a brand-integration vehicle. While Coca-Cola has its cups on the judges’ table of the Fox show, Colgate has its brand name all over every element of ‘Showdown’ . . ."

When Showdown launched in 1982, Wrangler was its national sponsor and continued in that role for four years. Then, as marketing goals and strategies changed, Dodge, True Value, GMC, Coca Cola, Jimmy Dean came aboard. True Value served as sole sponsor or co-sponsor for 14 years. Colgate took the helm in 2000 and continues to build the program with exclusive matching retailer advertising funds, National prink ads and in-store displays with special consumer offers.

For more information on the Colgate Country Showdown, visit or contact AristoMedia at 615-269-7071.
Company: AristoMedia
Contact Name: AristoMedia
Contact Email:
Contact Phone: Unknown Tag: 'Contact_phone'

Visit website »