Meet the Super Bowl Matchmaker for Brands and Artists
By Katie Richards
Daniel Sena’s favorite Super Bowl was XLVIII. In 2014, Sena worked on a whopping four Big Game spots. He was neither at an agency nor a brand. Rather, Sena was at Interscope Records, pairing its artists (Afrojack, Zedd, Skylar Grey and OneRepublic) with Anheuser-Busch brands (Budweiser, Bud Light and Bud Light Platinum) to create memorable Super Bowl spots with killer soundtracks.
As head of strategic marketing for Interscope Records, Sena continues to spend his days matching artists with brands. For Super Bowl LII, Sena helped program live performances—with Interscope artists including Imagine Dragons, Machine Gun Kelly and Mura Masa—in Minneapolis ahead of the game. The on-the-ground performances by these Interscope artists will be sponsored by EA Sports and DirecTV, thanks to Sena.
“Those partnerships are all shapes and sizes,” Sena explained. “They can be singular events or multiyear partnerships. The objective [is] to run a mutually beneficial campaign that helps drive artist awareness, while also leveraging the artists’ creativity and popularity to drive and help support a brand’s marketing message.”
One such pairing had Sena partner the band X Ambassadors with Jeep, launching its 2015 track “Renegades” in a 60-second spot for Fiat Chrysler’s Jeep Renegade.
Prior to Interscope, in the early aughts, Sena ran marketing for indie label Immortal Records. At the time, CDs were in decline and digital was on the rise. “We were setting up ringtones and selling MP3 and just being super nimble, adapting to the market,” he said. Through the ringtone work, Sena started working with brands like AT&T and MySpace.
His work at Immortal Records eventually scored him a gig at Interscope parent Universal Music Group. Sena knew the music side of the business pretty well, but brands and agencies? Not so much. “I didn’t have any Rolodex of brands or agencies,” he said. “It was new to me. An intern and I just started building a database and just started cold calling, cold emailing, developing these relationships, which takes time.”
Within a few months, he had his first partnership with Lifetime Fitness; anyone who signed up for a gym membership scored 50 free MP3s to build a custom gym mix.
While the music industry has had its bumps in the road, Sena said he’s “excited about the years ahead, because at Interscope, we are always exploring the outer limits of what can be done.”
Head of strategic marketing, Interscope Records
Vp, partnership marketing, Universal Music Group
Vp, marketing, Immortal Records
Sena works at Interscope Records, owned by parent company Universal Music Group, where he heads up strategic marketing for the label. He leads the charge on all of the brand-artist initiatives on behalf of the label.
How He Got the Gig
As the head of marketing for an indie label, Sena was able to work quickly on a lot of new and exciting projects, building up his digital marketing skills. He also went back to school and got an MBA at UCLA.
“The key to working in music is to continue to stay versatile. It’s a business that’s constantly evolving, so if you can stay at the forefront of cultural and consumption trends, you’ll continue to find opportunities. The business is competitive, however, so you’ve also got to be prepared to work harder than your peers,” Sena advised.