Citi’s Global Consumer CMO Jennifer Breithaupt has made a name for herself in the music industry with the execution of Citi’s Private Pass program. It is common for frequent concert fans to see pre-sales for Citi cardmembers along with special once-in-a-lifetime events. This year, Breithaupt brought special offers to 12,000 events, but her brainchild didn’t start out on quite that scale.
“We were challenged at the time to differentiate several of our products in the market place. I thought, why not deepen the experience by offering these customers something that creates an added utility for the card,” says Breithaupt, who began with the company in 1999. “It was a little grass roots in its nature because it was my side job, my side hustle here at Citi. I was creating that at night and working on it slowly over time.”
The first Private Pass event spanned two days and featured screenings of the first Harry Potter film when it hit theaters in 2001. They invited guests to take in the first film at a studio in Boston and even had characters from the film show up.
“You can imagine the buzz around Harry Potter,” Breithaupt tells Amplify. “It was one of those experiences I will never forget because I stood in the back room behind the scenes at the theater and made gift bags for two days with the new book that was coming out, a poster, all sorts of popcorn things. I didn’t realize how long it would take to make 5,000 gift bags.”
Breithaupt added, “At the time, we did not have a network of global partners as we do today, and we were constantly bartering to make things happen.”
The program grew from there to include camps where kids could spend time with professional athletes and eventually music.
“There was suddenly a groundswell of people seeing that Citi had a unique value proposition for them given our scale and globality. It was a win-win for both sides. We built this roster of partners that is now quite extensive,” says Breithaupt who culled contacts from her pre-Citi life in marketing and magazine publishing.
“We knew we had something when we started doing music events. It brought a different level to the overall experience. It was something people would seek out,” says Breithaupt who has now worked with artists including Coldplay, Guns N’ Roses, Katy Perry, Lady Gaga, Madonna, John Mayer and Selena Gomez.
“Music (the universal language), is core to our DNA as a brand. For more than a decade, I have had the runway to build Private Pass, from the ground up — an incredible opportunity and privilege, and I’ve watched it grow into the global platform it is today,” she added.
Amplify caught up with Breithaupt to find out about five music experiences that left an impression on her.
Prince at The Orpheum in San Francisco
May 19, 2007
One of the concepts that we have embraced is the private show. Now we call it Citi Sound Vault. We have quite a few of these Sound Vault shows every year which feature the biggest stars in the world in a small venue. The Prince show was part of a series we did called Traveling Through Life where an artist would come play their hits and also tell stories leading up to the current time in their career. Neil Young and Robin Williams were in the audience, not because we gave them tickets. They were actually Citi card customers who bought tickets. At the beginning of the show Prince said “Everybody on their feet. So any hits, so little time. Let’s do this.” He played for over three and a half hours.
U2 at Silver Stadium in Rochester, New York
Oct. 11, 1987
It was one of my first concerts that I went to with a group of friends. I still got dropped off by my dad. It was pouring rain for part of the show and I remember thinking the power of music, for these fans to sit there and have this collective experience. It was the first time I had ever felt that at a concert. I’d always liked U2, but to see a band like that live was probably the biggest band I had seen to date. The set list and setting were perfect.
Dave Grohl at Cannes
We took the Sound Vault idea and put it on steroids in Cannes. We have this beautiful villa overlooking the sunset and the waterfront. We host about 200 guests and we have a stage we build over the pool. At sunset we invite an artist to come and play songs acoustically and tell stories. The first year, we had Dave Grohl and it is a neat experience because the artist comes and hangs out with the guests after. Dave is the real deal. He is super talented, super friendly and open. Sometimes you think he doesn’t even realize how famous he is.
Eddie Vedder at Cannes
Again, this was a private event hosted by Citi for about 200 people. Eddie played an intimate acoustic set during sunset with the stage on the pool. To get into the event is like getting Willa Wonka’s golden ticket because it is such a unique experience. People interact with the show because the artist is just feet away from them. Because he hasn’t done a lot of storytelling, his stories were really neat for the people who were there.
Grateful Dead at Franklin County Airport in Highgate, Vermont
July 13, 1994
This was one of Jerry Garcia’s last shows before his death on August 9th of that year. I went to school in Vermont, so I went with a bunch of friends. It was the concert where I think there was supposed to be something like 150,000 people there, but the fences came down. The crowd knocked all the fences down and it was on an old airport runway. There ended up being close to half a million people there. The next day, I remember the newspaper showed an aerial shot of the crowd and it was massive.