Branding Service Offers up Athletes and Celebrities for Online Ads

“A Slam Dunk for Your Legal Needs,” reads the online ad for LegalZoom.com that features an image of Basketball Hall of Fame member Walt Frazier dribbling a basketball. Another ad for the online legal document service shows off the fast footwork of Chicago Bears wide receiver Devin Hester reads, “My Best Offense.”

These ads are an example of a new platform launched by Brand Affinity Technologies (BAT) that allows advertisers to choose canned athlete and celebrity images and videos that can be used to create targeted online endorsement ads.

In development for a year, BAT is supposed to bring advertisers an efficient and cost-effective way to benefit from endorsement ads by popular sports figures and celebrities, said Allie Savarino, the company’s vice-president of marketing. “It is a way to help fix what we feel is a too-exclusive and too-challenging marketplace for most advertisers to enjoy,” Kline said. “Endorsement marketing online for celebrities and athletes had typically been limited to an elite group of advertisers and an elite group of athletes and celebrities.”

Under the BAT system, athletes and celebrities agree to review solicitations by advertisers that want to use their images in Web campaigns. The platform provides advertisers with categorized lists of participating stars. The interface reveals an exhaustive degree of up-to-the-minute information about the person, including his or her historical and current popularity based on the system’s automatic review of more than 30,000 “affinity influencers” gleaned from online sources such as chat and Web site discussions.

Currently the BAT platform features 1,400 people, primarily athletes. Advertisers can drill down to see each star’s affinity rating on national, regional, and local levels. When an advertiser chooses a personality, an offer is sent to the star or the star’s agent. “The platform gives them 96 hours to accept or decline the offer,” said Savarino. “If he accepts, we make available (to the advertiser) high-definition still and video assets that are all shot on green screen so the advertiser can download and incorporate them into their campaign.”

The talent is available on a CPM basis, with their pricing based on tiers ranging from $1 to $2.50 CPM.

The athletes and other celebrities have the right to review finished ads and reject them. Conversely, the advertisers have the right to cancel the ads should the star get caught up in an image-damaging situation, Savarino said. “In the traditional setting, if I had A-Rod [N.Y. Yankee Alex Rodriguez] on my roster of endorsers (and he then revealed steroid use) I am likely stuck with him at a very high ticket price…It’s going to be very hard for me to recoup that investment. In our platform, you can swap someone out in an hour.”

The company has facilitated endorsement ads for, among others, LegalZoom.com. LegalZoom’s ads were circulated in Chicago, Philadelphia, San Diego, and Baltimore; BAT’s system allowed LegalZoomto decide which athlete’s video is shown online in each city.

As for the effectiveness of using the pre-packaged endorsements, Savarino said tests on consumers showed the system to be powerful. “What we found is that even with as few as a single exposure to a BAT-enabled, ad an online display ad that includes BAT-endorsed talent, we saw lifts across-the-board in every single brand metric and every single direct-response metric,” she said.

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