When the computer and video game industry gathers for E3 every year, it can be a real challenge to get access to the show. Because the event is exclusive to professionals who earn their living on games, fans who want to try the latest games or hardware are summarily left out. Sprint decided to take a new spin on things earlier this month at E3 with a multi-partner deal that promoted exclusive content via sponsorship at IGN with a series of native ads on The Huffington Post.
Digitas secured the first native ad distribution partnership for Sprint with The Huffington Post to showcase exclusive behind-the-scenes footage from E3 on the IGN E3 VIP page. A series of ad units with fresh content were created and rotated regularly throughout the event on the right-side column of The Huffington Post's tech and green sections. Gamers who wanted to learn more about the happenings at E3 were encouraged to send questions and requests to IGN editors using the hashtag #E3Unlimited.
"It's basically two media partnerships," Ryan Cavanaugh, VP and director of media at Digitas Chicago, tells ClickZ. "We basically linked the two in order to promote what we felt is good content and a good partnership at IGN. We found another media partner that we felt is good at integrating a native message and a newsworthy message to help promote it."
Sprint was able to "add another credible piece to the IGN platform" by promoting the program in the form of a native ad on The Huffington Post, he says. "We needed something that we could change the image out every day with a new image from E3. Things like that really helped drive the real-time nature of this," he adds.
"The Huffington Post and other advertisers have done native advertising, but it was things that were planned out for six months or that were driving to a sponsored page on The Huffington Post," says Cavanaugh. "Aside from the native aspect and the IGN program, I thought that was a really cool component that was innovative as well. How we were linking two media partners together to make one cohesive, full-circle story."
Sprint began promoting the IGN video series program as soon as the doors opened at E3 and concluded the campaign as soon as the show was over two days later. "Every day on The Huffington Post, as soon as the doors opened, we put that native ad unit on," says Cavanaugh.
The Sprint campaign was made possible through an exclusive distribution partnership that Digitas inked with The Huffington Post last month to expand its BrandLIVE platform, which aims to "combine social and content strategies with the agility of a news organization." The deal gives Digitas exclusive access to The Huffington Post's "Brand as Newsroom" initiative for sponsored stories in the form of native ad formats.
"We have a huge brand live program underway for Sprint. Things like this that are in the spirit of getting very reactive marketing messages up as much as we can is very much a priority for them," says Cavanaugh. "How do we combine the real-time social dialogue and owned content that we're pushing out every day, how do we combine that with scalable paid media like amplification? That's a big focus for us and this is a great example of that."
The primary focus of the campaign was to drive brand sentiment and align Sprint with passion areas in gaming, he adds. "It's not just a shiny object that we wanted to win some points on. It's absolutely in our artillery of sorts that we plan to test again with other types of content."
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Matt Kapko has been writing about mobile since 2006, before it became cool. Based in Long Beach, CA, he has covered mobile entertainment, digital media, marketing, and advertising for several business media outlets. A former editor and reporter for RCR Wireless News, paidContent, and iMedia Connection, Matt is a regular freelance reporter for ClickZ. You can follow Matt on Twitter at @MattKapko or drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
March 19, 2014