Heroic Video Sponsorships

With the new fall television season upon us, programmers are doing everything they can to ensure viewers will tune in. That, of course, includes making their presence felt online, where much of the audience relationship will play out over coming months with streamed episodes, blogs from the talent, and fan podcasts.

Competition at this time of the year is stiff. Production studios are eager to distinguish their offerings. Even with the pervasiveness of DVRs, there are only so many eyeballs to go around, and each one translates into valuable Nielsen Ratings and commercial spots.

Marketers behind the popular NBC drama series “Heroes” know the importance of generating viewer interest and excitement online. The Emmy Award-nominated science fiction (SF) show enjoyed an impressive ranking for a new program in the 2006-2007 TV season, with over 14 million American viewers. Part of keeping the momentum going is to promote its first season, which was recently released on DVD, among existing fans and those who have yet to discover the show.

To do so, the show has launched a marketing effort on entertainment channel Break.com, formerly Big-Boys.com. Break is similar to YouTube in that it features both user-generated video and professionally produced program clips, but it skews decidedly male. The video destination is a top indexer for men 18 to 34, according to comScore, and attracts about 1.3 million users daily.

“Heroes” has an integrated sponsorship that starts with a presence on the home page. Instead of driving traffic to the “Heroes”-sponsored page through a standard ad unit, Break created a branded tab on its top menu bar alongside links to videos, categories, and pictures. The tab takes visitors to what amounts to a “Heroes” branded microsite, complete with information on the first season DVD collection, video clips, links to downloadable “Heroes” wallpaper, and “Heroes” Buddy icons for instant messaging.

Because “Heroes” partnered with a video site, the show’s ad placement also benefits from an additional feature: a selection of user-generated video, all based on the theme of aspiring heroes. Clips include footage of an autistic high school basketball player scoring 20 points in a game and a three-year-old boy who creates amazing artwork by finger-painting. When users click to watch one of the user-generated videos on a standard Break.com page, they’re confronted by a “Heroes” ad unit further promoting the DVD collection.

The video site sponsorship is simple: accentuate the show’s theme of various ordinary Americans discovering they have astonishing abilities by highlighting real-life Americans who can do extraordinary things. Considering the type of videos that make their way onto the site and that appeal to its young male consumers — those who are also likely to enjoy SF action and comic-book style of “Heroes” — there’s probably an endless selection of perfectly suited clips for the advertiser and site editors to choose from. The relationship between the two is abundant and memorable, both very propitious factors for an online ad campaign.

Lately, this industry’s focus on video destinations has been on the new banner and video advertising opportunities they now afford. However, if done well, sponsorships can be even more effective, particularly for advertisers needing to make a big splash with a highly prominent ad placement. Look for much more of this sort of thing in the weeks to come as the television industry continues to recognize the value in its online counterpart, video sites.

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