Tag Archives: Sponsorships

Hot Wheels Makes Children Of All Ages Go Loopy With Excitement

While driving through downtown Los Angeles on Tuesday, my eyes lit up by something I had always hoped for as a child – a full-sized version of the Hot Wheels loop-de-loop toys.  Seeing it as an adult shines a different light on it, as I have no thoughts that I could ever stomach driving a care through the loops – like I believed I could have done in my minds-eye as a child. Other than the excitement of seeing the full-sized toy in real life, the realization of what Mattel was doing with their Hot Wheels brand made me even more impressed. Mattel is seizing on the opportunity presented by ESPN’s X-Games to introduce, re-introduce and just plain make their products more relevant in an entertaining and engaging way.

Hot Wheels Double Loop Dare being built-in a downtown parking lot. Courtesy of SpeedCafe.

Taking place tomorrow morning during the X-Games coverage, ESPN will air the feat between two daredevils.  The drivers will face 7-Gs of force as they do the loop and will only hope that they do not crash into each other.

I had read somewhere that this opportunity was a creative one that they arrived at when they realized there was no big blockbuster to sponsor.  They decided to create their own sort.  At a supposed cost of $1 million dollars to pull off, the content and buzz generated by this should more than pay off.

The fact that Mattel has already been engaged in full-scale treatments of their beloved line of toy cars provides even more reason to do such a thing. You can check out more at their site. They already have a good distribution point for video content and this should provide a wealth of content beyond just the initial viewers on ESPN.

Mattel has recently had a knack for doing strong creative partnerships, such as their program with Gallery 1988 in Hollywood – allowing artists to do renditions of the hot wheels they love. All of these help to make Hot Wheels extend beyond the pre-teen years of boys.

With less than 24 hours to go, it will be great to see whether this stunt flies high or takes a crash.  My bet would be on the former – regardless of how the stunt drivers’ Hot Wheels end up.

Courtesy of Chris Tedesco/ESPN

[UPDATE] The stunt was successful – with the only thing shocking me was that they only reached a top speed of 52 MPH. I would have thought you would have needed to go faster than that to go upside down.  Does that mean I can go straight from the end of a CA highway on-ramp into a loop?  Check out the video on ESPN.

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Komen Should Have Kept A Closer Eye On The Core

There was finally an organization or event that was able to generate a buzz that matched the Super Bowl in its big week.  Unfortunately, the buzz was for so many of the wrong reasons and it will be a while before we can understand the true fallout effects.  While there was talk of which team would win, which players would work through injury or which commercials would be the best, the most heated debate was about whether Planned Parenthood would continue to receive funding from the Susan G. Komen Foundation. In a most peculiar set of circumstances, the foundation came out of the social media and PR melee badly bruised and showing a lack of focus on their core remit. That remit is to battle breast cancer and they lost that focus by making a horrible business decision without weighing what was best for their core.

When the Komen Foundation’s decision to end funding to Planned Parenthood came to light at the beginning of last week, social networks and phones went crazy with people conjecturing that the cause was purely a political one against abortion – with the timely addition of an outspoken anti-abortion activist being placed on the non-profit’s executive staff. Some heads were cooler believing the corporate line that it was just an automatic safeguard recently put in place that they would not fund any organization that is under investigation.  Whichever side is believed, people are already beginning to think twice about giving money to the organization and that is a huge issue.

With buzz that long-time walkers and volunteers were going to shift their involvement to other breast cancer organizations, like the Avon Walk, and that corporate sponsors were considering dropping their sponsorships and partnerships with Komen, the ramifications are real.

Even if you believe that the stop in funding was caused by their automatic safeguard, it still poses a number of issues from a business perspective.  Far too often, there is a knee-jerk reaction to quickly make a blanket decision without looking at all of the perspectives.  In this case, if the communications department was not involved in the discussion, that’s a huge snafu.  If they were, they should take a long look at what they are there for.

I’m not so concerned about funding and the long-term health for Planned Parenthood because the publicity and the backlash was a huge win for organizations that are involved in abortion and other women’s issues.  Even New York Mayor Bloomberg donated $250,000 to Planned Parenthood in the wake of the announcement and many more donations flowing in.

I do believe that there was a little bit of politics and a little bit of  off-the-cuff procedural hacking, but this is where being true to your core helps across the board in business.  Had Susan G Komen held fast that their main goal is the treatment of and battle against cancer, they could have stayed above the fray of politics.  They could even protect themselves against fraud had they come out and said they will not continue funding organizations if an audit shows misuse of funds.  But a company cannot stand behind what they do if they blindly or blatantly go cut off options to achieve their goals for anything less than actual proof that illegal actions had taken place.  In the case of Planned Parenthood, the hot-button issue of abortion is legal and they were absolutely helping low and middle-income women in education and detection of Breast Cancer. With that information and Komen’s steadfast commitment to their core remit, nobody could have rightfully contested any naysayers externally or internally.

Komen’s mis-steps sadly have a larger impact than on just the health of a company, but on the much more important search for the cure for Cancer.  Some would say it was a triumph for social media that their decision was reversed by social media, but it was really a boneheaded, not-well-thought-out move that mirrors the recent Netflix fiasco that just points to bad businesses decisions.

No matter how much of a push for a swift decision, a reliance on your company’s core is the key to succesful business and its communications thereof.

Hulu and Partners Score with AdZone

As we’ve seen in this year’s exciting NFL postseason, its extremely challenging to get to the big game – the Super Bowl. It could be as simple as a young player filling in for the injured regular and turning the ball over or a seasoned veteran just flat-out missing a chip-shot field goal that keeps the team out of the championship. Those who have made it are in elite air and the same could be said about the commercials.  There’s only a limited number of slots (thankfully) and the price gets steeper and steeper each year. Hulu’s AdZone returns again this year to showcase how strategic programming can celebrate those who have been there and enable brands to get extremely close at a fraction of the cost.

Hulu just launched Hulu AdZone 2012 as a platform to provide access to over 250 Super Bowl ads from years past and even preview some ads that will run in this year’s Bowl on the 5th of February.  On the night of the game, fans will be able to view ads in an embeddable widget, rate them and share them across all social media channels – with a live leaderboard tracking results in real-time.

Volkswagen's Dark Side spot (Dogs Barking to Vader's Theme)

But here’s where things get interesting… Through sponsorships and partnerships, Hulu is able to generate even more cachet – and money – where they might not have been able to without a program built for this event.  They also provide opportunities for a brand to effectively be a part of all of the Super Bowl spots.

You can see in the image above how Toyota secured persistent branding across the experience through their “Brought to you by” placement.  So, even though they won’t hit the number of viewers the telecast will have, they will be there for everything from the old Apple “1984” spot through the Volkswagen  Star Wars spots – and all other spots running during this year’s game. There is always a plan by the publishers to latch on to key cultural and sporting events to monetize them and Hulu built a strong product to do just that in an elegant way.

Helping Hulu to up the ante is in partnering with Advertising Age to editorialize groupings of “best ofs” over the years.  Through this partnership, Hulu is able to bring their game to a higher level as a news – or at least curatorial – offering. AdAge also gains a platform to reach entertainment consumers who may not otherwise care about a trade publication – further spreading their brand recognition.

All in, this platform and others – like what YouTube and USA Today offers – provide defacto built-in long-tail benefits of placing ads in the Super Bowl.  Unless, of course, the ad sucks. Those usually only live on for a few days, mired in a heap of negativity.

It is hard to get into the game as a player, advertiser or even a fan.  Many try to get there or be associated in one form or another.  Hulu seems to have found a great solution to check off and score on all of the above.

So Much Easier To Get In The Game

It used to be that game production required an immense amount of money and development time – and then could only be played on consoles.  A number of years ago, gamers and general consumers found that they could have almost as much fun with the online games that popped up everywhere like wildflowers on the side of California’s I-5.  Whether it was branded games or just your run-of-the-mill-completely-turn-you-into-a-zombie-after-hours-of-play game, the availability for online gaming was endless. And now, simplified development of fun play for mobile devices is making it that much easier to get in the game.

The development of games and time to market has continued to get shorter and more refined – effectively creating a grown-up form of a lemonade stand.  Someone can have an idea for a mobile game, build it themselves in a number of weeks and then the only thing holding it back from market is the approval process from Apple or Google.  Once that’s done, your $.99 offering is out there for anyone to find, download and play.  Of course, much like selling lemonade, the corner you are on is key.  Just because you’re out there does not ensure downloads, but with the proper support, you can look to make a dent.

In fact, there’s a game that hasn’t even been released yet that is already setting up their virtual corner –  getting some buzz and already allowing pre-orders on their website.  The content of the game is indicative of how quickly a game can come to market and how it can be a timely reflection of what’s going on in the world.  In the case of Clear The Park, the player is given the role of the 1% in Occupy Wall Street saga.  Players must figure out ways to get the protestors out of the park in front of their building.  Though tongue-in-cheek, the creators say they gameplay will lead to actual protestors getting gift cards to buy sundry items.

The same development company is also promoting another forthcoming app that plays off of the news in real-time.  Is this time-relevant release of games the sign of things to come?  Are the opportunities to satirize current events no longer limited to television, blogs, videos and images?  It seems that mobile games will be a great resource to enter the fray in a more engaging way.  BUT, marketing and promotion of those games will be the key.

One way that could help get these games into the market in a big way would be through partnerships with brands and the types of shows that the gameplay is comparable to.  If treated almost like an M&A, the game could be produced and then earn money straight away as a partnership is formed with the well-known brand.  Then, there could be marketing and buzz created through that larger company’s existing outlets.

One has to wonder how long it will be until we see a Eurozone game where the player acts as Angela Merkel needing to slap government members from Greece, Spain and Italy. Hopefully there’s not enough time left in the NBA lockout to have some fun gameplay involving Commissioner David Stern and members of the Player’s Association.  Certainly, there’s too many opportunities to get in the game, just play smartly.

Conference Buzz Sometimes Leads to The Real Deal. Is This It?

Is it true that if you hear about a new type of offering or technology at enough conferences, they will become the de-facto next thing?  We have seen that in relation to HTML 5 and QR codes lately to varying degrees of success.  If it does ring true, then at least ad:tech London and Digital Hollywood would point in the direction of original content augmentation to gameplay being the next thing.

Yesterday, as part of the Digital Hollywood Content Summit, the question was raised regarding the future of technology and entertainment and what we should be looking at as the possible next big thing. The biggest agreement among the panelists surrounded the fusion of original content video augmentation of gaming – specifically for non-console gaming.  They spoke of it as a way to place the user in the shoes of the athlete or character they are portraying in the game and making it feel more real.  Certainly, console games have been tremendous at extending the narrative within gameplay to the point where people can blur the lines between their own personae and the characters.  But, online gaming has not cracked the nut to provide that holistic feel until now.

At ad:tech London, David Rose of We R Interactive spoke about their newest product I AM PLAYR – which just launched fully a couple of weeks ago – as a Facebook App.  There are a couple of compelling items related to this new product.  First is the additional content they created to bring more content and context to the rest of the gameplay.  No longer do players just control avatars in their attempt to score a goal, they also get to virtually experience the highs and lows of being a star on a fictional Football Club. Second, the introduction of, and constant updating of, that original content and customization options provides a plethora of advertising and sponsorship opportunities.

Through my years in media planning and working with the console or PC in-game advertising solutions, it has always been a hope to be able to truly interact with our promoted content – even if it was to shoot the screen playing a trailer and destroying the screen to see breakage or at least snow.  But that hasn’t yet been made possible.  It currently stands that you can place banners and even video in-game, but there is no true interaction.  The closest we got was when we wrote copy for the JUMPER DVD banners that reflected the theme of the games they were placed in via the MASSIVE network.  With the development of more of these types of games, it should be easier and more fluid to enable product integration and interaction.

David Rose of We R Interactive showed off the compelling program they are executing with Alfa Romeo/Fiat and it certainly seemed like a solid opportunity.  Add that opportunity to the simplicity we are seeing in building out those sponsorships and the possibilities are endless.

Now, like any content play, we need to see if the public picks up on this and is as excited as publishers are (and advertisers should be) or we will find ourselves facing another version of the buzz surrounding the QR Code – where nobody programs them correctly and nobody cares.  If this type of game programming becomes the norm, not only will meaningful interactions go through the roof, they will prove to be much more cost effective than on-air spots can presently offer as shooting the content and incorporating becomes increasingly cheaper.

With technology and advances in the understanding of users and compelling or relevant sponsorship placement, this gaming/entertainment development will be about much more than buzz.

The Growing Currency – Feeding the Social Gamers’ Hunger

Besides the fact that Mitchell Reichgut is remotely related to me (his brother married my cousin), he’s a smart guy and as CEO of the Jun Group,  has become a leader in social video.  His company can provide the views that a video might not got if just left to the “viral” powers that be. And it’s not just about the money as most know it – it’s about the currency.  There have been other posts here about original content or video that could be passed along, but the only absolute is that there is never a sure thing when it comes to videos going viral.  In that case, what Jun Group has to offer is a welcome option for those who want to get their video seen in a cost effective (and generally effective) manner.

Mitchell touches upon some of the opportunities yet to come in the incredibly growing space of Social Gaming.  You can check out how the relationship with 290 Million plus people who are engaging with social gaming will only continue to strengthen through ways that really matter to them and social gaming becomes a mainstream advertising medium in his MediaPost entry The Serious Business of Social Games.  Just looking at the opportunities for growth with continuing success with video and the future of rewarding gamers through click-to-site programs, online coupons, e-tailing, promotions, contests, and sponsorships, it is exciting to think of the big future in this space by contextually and relevantly using the currency that social gamers are hungry for.