Microsoft in Deal to Support Pro Athlete Endorsements in Web Ads

Product endorsements from athletes are a natural for advertising, but problems of scale tend to restrict such deals to a small number of marketers and big name sports figures. That could change under a preferred portal relationship between Microsoft and Brand Affinity Technologies. The deal aims to make such endorsements more easily available to the national and local advertisers who buy media from Microsoft.

Brand Affinity Technologies’ (BAT) offering, which first launched in March, allows advertisers to select athletes who have agreed to license their still images and other assets for use in ad creative. BAT assigns rates to the celebrities, gets contracts signed, and handles ad serving in order to provide reporting back to the advertiser.

BAT has over 2,000 professional athletes in its catalog. Each client has access to high-resolution still images of these would-be spokespeople, and additional photos from Getty Images are available. Each athlete is also photographed and filmed in front of a high definition green screen so subjects can be inserted into Flash ads, including avatars and video ad units.

Advertisers can create localized campaigns based on state or designated market area (DMA). Advertisers are quoted a price after they bring a media plan to BAT. As a hypothetical example, a media plan priced at a few thousand dollars might include 10 athletes in 10 DMAs for a 60-day flight, said Ryan Steelberg, president and CEO of Brand Affinity Technologies. “It is cost effective to these brands,” he said.

The benefit for marketers is the speed and scale to implement a celebrity endorsement program. In the past advertisers would have to commit to one athlete, pay a large sum for an endorsement, and create a premium ad campaign. Here the cost is contained. “BAT sets pricing. [There’s] no individual athlete pricing,” said Steelberg. “That one element is probably the most critical as it relates to timely activation in the campaign.”

Once an advertiser agrees to use an athlete’s likeness, assets are downloaded and the creative generated. The completed units are then uploaded to the BAT platform and trafficked through Microsoft’s Atlas servers. Ads then go back through the BAT servers to be served to the consumer.

BAT has worked out the automation, and through its partnership with Microsoft integrates with Atlas and the software company’s media and advertising products.

“Brand Affinity Technologies is a strong opportunity that has not been done online yet,” said John Genna, director, display product marketing, Advertiser & Publisher Solutions Group at Microsoft.

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