Singer’s invite-only gig ‘worth more than $32m’ but Govt mute on cost

A controversial invite-only concert by British pop star Sam Smith generated around $32 million in advertising revenue for South Australia, the state government says – but the taxpayer cost is a secret.

May 08, 2023, updated May 08, 2023
Sam Smith performing at the d'Arenberg Cube, in a photo published on their Instagram account.

Sam Smith performing at the d'Arenberg Cube, in a photo published on their Instagram account.

The government this morning released an “evaluation” of the invite-only concert held in January at McLaren Vales’s d’Arenberg Cube for a select crowd of about 300 social media influencers, personalities and radio competition winners.

According to the evaluation, the SA Tourism Commission and Frontier Touring campaign generated an estimated Advertising Value Equivalent (AVE) of more than $32 million.

It found 30 out of the 300 guests were influencers, including 10 from interstate, with those who attended having a combined social media reach of 2.4 million people.

The government said the influencers were not paid to attend the event, but those coming from interstate were covered for flights and accommodation.

It said Sam Smith also promoted South Australia to their 14.7 million Instagram followers, while more than six million people were exposed to the tourism campaign through a national radio partnership and 8.3 million people were reached over television.

“The opportunity to partner with a multi-Grammy award winning artist such as Sam Smith provided the opportunity for South Australia to not only garner global recognition, but also take precedent over other States who often get these kinds of opportunities offered to them first,” Tourism Minister Zoe Bettison said in a statement.

“We delivered – with a global media reach, a multimillion-dollar advertising benefit and millions of people around the world were introduce to South Australia through their screens and on their radios.

“The partnership generated an Advertising Value Equivalent (AVE) of more than $32 million, with traditional television, print and radio coverage adding to the social media coverage, putting our state in front of a global audience, helping drive significant awareness and publicity for South Australia, and helping change perceptions of our state.”

But the agreement was “Commercial in Confidence to protect the future negotiations and business dealings with Frontier Touring”, the release said.

The evaluation was released one hour before tourism bureaucrats gave evidence at a parliamentary committee hearing this morning.

SA Tourism Commission CEO Emma Terry told the committee that the AVE was calculated by analysing the cost of traditional media advertising.

She said a media monitoring service calculated some of the cost.

“We take the cost of if we were to run a more traditional advertising campaign, so one where you’re buying the same equivalent of media space, and looking at what the earned media value is,” she said.

“It’s earned because you’re obviously providing an activation that therefore other people are talking about.”

According to Terry, the campaign cost the state government less than $1 million, but she refused to reveal the actual sum.

“The contractual arrangements that we had with the Frontier partnership to leverage Sam Smith’s promotional tour is commercial in confidence,” she said.

“The reason that it is commercial in confidence is obviously it’s a commercial arrangement and one that we need to keep it in confidence simply is that commerciality.”

Premier Peter Malinauskas has previously said that the state government spent less than $500,000 on the event.

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As part of the contractual arrangement, Smith was required to perform the live concert, tour South Australia for two days, and “post organically” to social media using approved tags and SA Tourism Commission links.

Influencers invited to their concert were chosen based on their “relevance to the campaign reach diversity, engagement, audience demographic and association to South Australia”.

Asked by Greens MLC Tammy Franks if she was “aware of reports of a woman urinating in front of the stage during the event”, Terry responded: “I have heard of that post the event”.

“I’m not aware in terms of what the follow-up was,” she said.

Terry was also asked by the committee’s chair, Liberal MLC Heidi Girolamo, if she was aware of “people indicating how messed up that they got on alcohol and vaping”.

“We don’t condone vaping or messaging around getting messed up on alcohol,” Terry responded.

“I’m not sure whether or not the team have followed up on that.”

Deputy Opposition leader John Gardner said the figures released by the government analysing the benefit of the campaign “strike any reasonable observer as pretty bogus”.

He said the state government got “terrible value for money” through the partnership.

“For the government to claim that this was good value for money for South Australian taxpayers is pretty rank,” he said.

“I think the prime beneficiary of this expenditure was Sam Smith and his touring agency and his album promoters.

“Sam Smith got great value for money out of this. South Australia’s taxpayers did not.”

Terry said the evaluation recommended that the SA Tourism Commission increase transparency around how it selects influencers, change how it measures the outputs from influencer posts, and strengthen contractual arrangements.

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