By Tom Bannister
This weekend, it’s the yearly showcase of interruptive advertising, the Super Bowl. So cue the usual debates about how effective those traditional spots are. Although many spots are part of larger content marketing campaigns on social or kicking off year long marketing initiatives, the Super Bowl is typically not the place for more immersive entertainment marketing experiences. With the exception of the Pepsi sponsored half time show, the best example of immersive brand-funded entertainment might just be the NFL itself.
NFL Films has been pumping out series going back 50 years, earning 133 Emmys in the process, and the NFL is unveiling a new branded entertainment initiative with Nickelodeon this week.
Brand-funded content in professional sports tends to be either star-centric or league sanctioned shorter form companion pieces or social commentary. With less regulation, extreme sports and even eSports are fast catching up. Here are some recent examples of branded content across professional sports:
The Mannings have been particularly active with rap videos for DirecTV and the Gatorade prank series. EA Sports has had success with their John Madden marketing; the Giferator was prominent at the Cannes Lions, along with an NFL partnership for a live streamed show on Twitch. Although NFL’s banning of Beats By Dre last year felt like a clever piece of cause marketing (it wasn’t), Beats have included pro-footballers in many of their series including the “Hear What You Want” long-form commercial series. As far companion series go, the NFL and Gillette teamed together for the Pressure points docu-series on NFL.com and Speedstick produced The Journey series.
With its renewal of its Anheuser-Busch deal, apart from general sponsorship, the NBA must deliver 30 pieces of content per year representing a “more meaningful focus on storytelling.” That aside, much basketball-centric branded content tends to center around the players. Kobe Bryant was prominent at Cannes Lions in the Nike China House Of Mamba live experience. Kyrie Irving continues to play ‘Uncle Drew’ in Pepsi Max’s ongoing series. Foot Locker created a real-time interactive game of Horse with James Harden and LeBron James continues to be highly active with brands ranging from Samsung to Dre, even launching his own digital studio with Verizon.
Soccer (and World Cup)
Soccer has provided us with some of the most cutting edge examples of any sport. 805 Millions Names, with Zlatan Ibrahimović’s as human product placement, was placed high at Cannes. We have seen partnerships with individual teams such as Google+’s front row broadcast with Manchester United and Manchester City’s 360-degree tunnel. Back in 2014, the World Cup provided us with a lot of high budget branded entertainment, with highlights that included Samsung’s Galaxy 11 series, in which soccer stars saved the world from alien invasion, and Nike’s animated film The Last Game. It’s also worth mentioning Lionel Messi himself, who like Le Bron James is a media innovator. His series with Kobe Bryant for Turkish Airlines are more commercials than branded content, but hilarious.
Rugby (and World Cup)
Part branded content, part high tech billboard, Samsung’s Side Liner for Australian Rugby caught attention at Cannes. But, as with soccer, the best examples came from the recent World Cup, with Samsung’s School Of Rugby, Land Rover’s We Deal In Real and Air New Zealand’s All Black content. Rugby branded content tends to be less star-centric, in part because rugby stars are not global brands as in other sports.
Extreme Sports and eSports
GoPro and Red Bull are obviously two of the most prominent brands in extreme sports. Red Bull’s Space Jump still remains one of the most effective pieces of branded content yet produced, but both brands leverage content assets across the spectrum of extreme sports. Mountain Dew is fast catching up, however, with feature films and virtual reality content focusing skateboarding, a surfing series and many other initiatives. But brands from Patagonia to Scottish Tourism have capitalized on extreme sports. And esports is fast catching up, with Red Bull now organizing their own tournaments and long-form series cropping up like Coke Zero’s Challenger Series.
I would not be surprised if extreme sports and eSports started to lead the way in brand funded content.
This post was penned by VideoInk publishing partner Branded.tv, a one-stop shop for branded entertainment. Branded.tv features and catalogs the best branded entertainment campaigns from around the world.