Top Advertisers Sign On for ‘Gold Rush’

AOL today unveiled the first five sponsors of its new online/offline TV-based reality show, “Gold Rush.”

The multi-platform contest, developed by AOL and reality show pioneer Mark Burnett Productions, will require competitors to join an online scavenger hunt across the AOL network, with additional clues to be hidden on CBS prime time TV shows and other offline media. Winners of each round will then participate in real world, reality-TV-style competitions.

Sponsor content will be tightly integrated into the fabric of the game, which centers on a weekly video episode on The first advertisers to participate in “Gold Rush” are Best Buy, Chevrolet, Coca-Cola Zero, T-Mobile and Washington Mutual.

In each round of game play, beginning September 13, players must answer pop culture questions on the Gold Rush Web site, and then find gold bars hidden throughout the AOL network. Twice a week, when a new challenge is laid out on the site, players will be led to different parts of AOL’s network, or to offline media partners. Clues will be hidden on CBS TV shows and in commercials, in Time Inc. magazines such as Entertainment Weekly and People, as well as other magazines including TV Guide and Star. When users find the clue, they’ll return to the Gold Rush site to get another clue to answer the challenge.

The first three online players who correctly complete all the required challenges of a round will be taken to one of several U.S. locations where producers have hidden $100,000 in gold. Players will compete, reality-TV-style, in front of AOL’s online audience. In the final round, set to air the week of November 9, players will compete for $1 million.

Each sponsor will be integrated into online game play, as well as the offline gold discovery segments. Producers have worked closely with each sponsor to integrate their brands in ways that achieve their marketing objectives and infuse their brands into the core entertainment experience, according to an AOL spokesperson.

Examples might include transporting players and gold in Chevy vehicles, protecting the gold in Washington Mutual’s vaults, or connecting players using T-Mobile’s wireless service.

For CBS, participating in the game is a way for them to drive viewers to its new fall lineup. Content of TV shows will not be changed to fit the game; however, when CBS was picked as the first media partner in May, AOL said “Gold Rush” producers will get advanced looks at the shows to determine what to use for clues.

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