Right around 8:00 a.m. Friday morning, “The Late Late Show” host and viral sensation James Corden entered the stage at the Bud Walton Arena at the University of Arkansas, to a crowd of more than 14,000 people from around the world gathered for the annual Walmart Shareholders Meeting.
“Walmart is the definition of Americana, isn’t it?” he said, before taking turns playfully roasting the executive team (for chairman Greg Penner, husband of Walmart founder Sam Walton’s granddaughter Carrie Walton Penner: “He worked tirelessly — at marrying Rob Walton’s daughter”). He also extolled Walmart’s successes in between jokes, of course.
To wrap the event a few hours later, Katy Perry came out with a full light show to perform a few of her biggest hits. She was preceded by performances from Nick Jonas, Maxwell, and Jordan Smith.
Under normal circumstances, this lineup would come with a sizable bill, but all of the performances were free, as they always are at the Walmart Shareholders Meeting.
“Celebrating our associates and hosting entertainers at our Friday meeting is a way to say thank you to the associates visiting from around the world,” Walmart spokesperson Deisha Barnett told Business Insider in a statement. “We do not pay performance fees for celebrity guests. However, we do cover some expenses associated with their appearance, such as hotel and travel.”
And for Walmart, the celebration isn’t contained to just Friday. In a series of events for Walmart employees and the media on Wednesday and Thursday, celebrity chef Robert Irvine showed up at Walmart’s Culinary Center, television personality Steve Harvey played a game of Family Feud with Walmart executives and employees, and Daughtry and Three Doors Down performed at a full-blown concert.
In the past three years, celebrity guests and performers included Reese Witherspoon, Mariah Carey, Pharrell Williams, and Tom Cruise.
Walmart is the world’s biggest retailer, bringing in $482 billion in revenue in its latest fiscal year, and has developed longstanding relationships with top entertainment companies.
“Each year we put together a wish list of performers we’d like to see entertain our visiting associates from around the world,” Barnett said. “Because we sell a lot of products, including music and DVDs, the record labels, production companies, and film studios work with us to put together an exciting and entertaining show. We check on availability and interest — if all aligns, they come to Northwest Arkansas!”
During this year’s concert, both Daughtry and Three Doors Down’s frontmen thanked Walmart for selling millions of their albums, and plugged their latest releases. A few of the celebrities had some fun with the unusual circumstances around their appearances.
Harvey told the crowd he wasn’t being paid for his appearance, but as the author of three books sold in Walmarts, he had some advice. “If you want to increase traffic in Walmart, you need to put lots of pictures of me around the stores,” he said.
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