Gawker Media, Nike Team for Blog Promotion

In an innovative move, blog publisher Gawker Media has launched a blog for Nike’s “Art of Speed” film project, the first of what it hopes will be many custom publishing assignments.

Gawker Media designed the blog microsite for Nike to promote the running shoe company’s Art of Speed project. Art of Speed is a short film series showing 15 digital artists’ interpretation of the concept of speed, first launched in May on Nike’s own Labs site. The Art of Speed blog will feature in-depth interviews with the artists who created the films. It has no direct advertising for Nike, though it does have a banner ad linking to the film site and the Nike swoosh symbol appears prominently.

Gawker Media is the brainchild of Nick Denton, whose various Gawker blogs get around 10 million page views a month all together, according to Choire Sicha, Gawker’s editorial director. The majority of the Gawker audience is 26 to 35, a younger, highly sought-after audience known to be Internet savvy.

Gawker, Wonkette, Gizmodo and Defamer, all sites in the Gawker blog network, are linking to the Nike microsite as part of the promotion. The microsite will be labeled as a special advertising section to distinguish it from editorial content. The new blog appears as a directory within the publishing company’s Gawker domain, at www.gawker.com/artofspeed.

The Art of Speed project is similar to the groundbreaking BMW Films ads that surfaced in 2001. Both feature a series of short films by up-and-coming artists that subtly promote a product. Because of its artistic orientation, the Art of Speed project lends itself more readily to the blog format than a more immediately commercial product.

Blogs are beginning to surface as part of the marketing landscape. For example, Google launched a business blog in mid-May. The medium is still largely nascent, however.

“This is one of the first cases where you see a company that wants to tap into the blog world. A couple of companies have tried to do it before and haven’t done it well,” said Remy Stern, editor of the Art of Speed blog.

Last year, Dr. Pepper showered teen bloggers with gifts and indoctrinated them on how to blog its new Raging Cow beverage. The plot backfired, with a well-publicized boycott and global media covering the debacle.

“It was mismarketed,” Sicha said of the Raging Cow experiment. “We want to be really straight up. This is contract publishing. It is radically different from viral marketing. Weblogs should say what they are and be straightforward.”

“I like that they’ve decided to work with an existing blog, rather than attempt to launch their own. Those have tended to feel artificial. In this case, it’s like a big media buy,” said Gary Stein, analyst with Jupiter Research, owned by Jupitermedia, parent of this publication.

“This is an interesting and innovative attempt by a marketer to capitalize on the popularity of blogs,” said David Cohen, SVP and interactive media director of Universal McCann Interactive, in an email message. “I will be curious to see if the program works, and if so, what metrics were put in place to evaluate success.”

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