AWS Expands Sponsor Select to Web Games

Sponsor Select, a product developed by WeatherBug’s parent company AWS Convergence Technologies, is expanding to reach casual gaming audiences on the Web. Big Fish is the first site in the category to carry the new ad units.

Casual gamers on the Big Fish site now have the option of selecting a sponsor appearing alongside free games. Initial sponsors include Microsoft Live, Match.com, and AWS’ WeatherBug. Additional advertisers which have expressed interest in Sponsor Select are Western Union, Hoover, Senseo coffee maker and Walt Disney World.

“There’s always a rolling number of sponsors in the program,” said Michael Rosen, SVP and GM at AWS/WeatherBug Cosnumer. “The consumer can have a choice over the advertising they want to see. To even go another step, they have the choice not to see this advertising and see run-of-site advertising.”

The full ad offering includes a series of exposures. While the game loads, a site visitor selects a sponsor, then sees a :15 pre-roll video ad, or a 300×250 unit and leaderboard. The leaderboard remains for the duration of the game. In the case of the Windows Live placements, players can enter a search query directly in the ad, and search results appear in a new window. Behind the game window, a separate browser window opens the sponsor’s landing page.

Sponsorship is paid out based on exposure. “The only cost is when a consumer actually picks [a sponsor],” said Rosen. It’s a wonderful way for a brand to be in front of consumers.”

John Messina, once a director of agency relations at AOL, was hired by AWS late last year “to bring the program to market working with the AWS sales staff,” said Rosen. “He’s been instrumental in driving a lot of this.”

The Sponsor Select program was first introduced in 2001, though it has only been available on WeatherBug.com. AWS plans to reach out to other verticals, though its focus is to first build its network in the game space.

Big Fish hosts about 400 titles for a global audience with a reach of 25 million monthly uniques.

Free game site Miniclip, a Big Fish competitor, takes a different approach to advertising and sponsorship on its site. Its July site re-launch marked a move from the 468×60 banner to a leaderboard and 300×250 box. Miniclip sells homepage takeovers, roadblock ads, and site skins.

Still, other marketers opt to go the advergaming route. The gaming site works with advertisers to design a game around a particular product. Games created for the movies Chicken Little and Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest garnered attention. The kid-friendly Chicken Little drove 60 million game plays, and registered 3.5 million clicks to view the movie’s trailer in a three-week period. Miniclip said it plans to release a new movie-based game on Tuesday. Outside of movies, the game site has built advergames for consumer brands like Gillette.

In the case of advergames, “Often these deals are done where they buy not only the advergame, but associated media to drive traffic,” Miniclip CEO Rob Small told ClickZ News. “Normally they will get the branding of the ad on the page for a complete experience,” he said, adding, “We pick the brands quite carefully, and we know what’s going to work for that kind of audience.”

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