Friday, April 27, 2012

NBA Embraces Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest during Playoffs

It's nearly impossible to find a group as impassioned and knowledgeable as die-hard sports fans. Not only are these individuals religiously tuning in to catch the game, they're also seeking to engage with the program on a heightened level by unlocking premium content through social media channels.  According to a recent Mashable infographic, 80% of sports fans monitor social media sites while watching the game on TV, and even 60% of fans do so while attending live events. With buzzer-beating baskets and game-changing fouls happening at rapid fire speed, there's a beautiful marriage that exists between sports and social media, an entity known for its immediacy.     

Cognizant of this harmonious relationship and the extensive presence of their fans on each network, the NBA is leveraging the power of Twitter, Tumblr and Pinterest to unite basketball fanatics around the excitement of the NBA playoffs. The NBA will launch its community-rooted "Hoops around the World" program, and encourage fans to tweet photos of their neighborhood courts using the hashtag #hoops. The @nba Twitter account will retweet its favorite shots, and the stunt will culminate in an interactive world map illustration of all submissions before the finals begin.

The NBA will expand to greater audiences with Tumblr and Pinterest, two platforms not typically exploited by the association. The NBA will devote its Tumblr page, launching next Wednesday, to photos from professional basketball history, including shots from classic match-ups and iconic moments from the game's greatest players (pictured above). The NBA's Pinterest page, expected to launch late next week, has a two-tiered strategy. It will drive fans to the NBA's e-commerce site to browse throwback apparel, and feature funny moments in NBA history, quirky characters, and other storylines that reinforce to fans why the NBA is so fun to follow off the court.  

With TV ratings for the impending NBA playoffs expected to shatter those of previous years, the NBA is rightly vamping up its social media outreach. I'm particularly intrigued by the use of Pinterest to interact with fans because of the site's heavily-skewed female audience. It will be interesting to track engagement on each platform throughout the playoffs and see where the league is seeing the greatest success.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

New L.L. Bean Campaign Encourages Outdoor Discovery

Last week, L.L. Bean launched its spring "Discover Something" campaign in celebration of the brand's birthday and 100 years of dedication to helping people discover the great outdoors. The campaign features four long-form thematic videos running both online and in cinema across the country. The spots depict the stories of real L.L. Bean customers and their drastically different yet equally profound experiences with nature.    

Each spot offers an emotional, unpretentious approach to the outdoors that can resonate with consumers of all ages. In one video there's a message of personal discovery, while another illustrates a mother's appreciation for the positive impact that nature has had on her young son. For L.L. Bean customers, it's not as much about the conquest of the hardcore elements as it is about doing anything outside that makes you happy, whether it be collecting leaves in your backyard or climbing your 10th mountain. The spots are not heavily product focused, but instead highlight the value in getting outside and using nature as a playground. 

The campaign represents a departure from L.L. Bean's previous messaging, which is usually quite product-centric. The spots are genuine and beautifully portray the freedom that exists in outdoor discovery. L.L. Bean also invites customers to share stories through social networks about when they too discovered something outside, and for each message the company will donate $1 to their charitable Million Moment Mission. Check out the spots below.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Under Armour Launches Competition for Female Athletes

On April 23, Under Armour will kick off their "What's Beautiful" competition, a quest to redefine and empower the female athlete. Participants will vie to become the new face of Under Amour throughout a grueling nine week journey, during which they'll be required to declare a goal and complete 19 challenges along the way.

The journey will live in an microsite, on which competitors will have their own profile page. Through the microsite, Under Armour will help participating women along with gear giveaways, tips from trainers, and motivational content.

Participants will also be asked to upload videos, photos, and powerful vignettes throughout the duration of the competition that illustrate their drive, competitive spirit and ability to influence their communities. Thus, the competition will be as much about compelling story-telling as it as about athletic pursuit. Winners will be selected based on who can depict the most impressive, impassioned, and monumental journey, so it's a given that we'll see some truly interesting, inspirational content. Competitors can access an on-going activity feed on the microsite to track the progress and content of their adversaries, and fans can follow along with the competition on Facebook and Twitter.

Two winners will be selected by Under Armour and the third will be chosen by the public, which imbues the competition with a broader social element. The winners will earn a year-long sponsorship from Under Armour that will include free training with UA celebrities, nutritionist consultation, access to special events and much more.

The nature of the competition speaks to the burgeoning population of hard-core female athletes, and the growing opportunity for activewear brands to engage with these individuals. No longer is athletic challenge the exclusive domain of a male audience, and sportswear brands need to find ways to speak to women about athletics in a meaningful and relevant way. With the presence of dedicated athletes, healthy competition, and a social community, What's Beautiful undoubtedly achieves this.

Check out the video below for more competition details.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Tumblr Introduces New Tools for Brands

Internet memes rarely amount to more than a fleeting laugh or two, but last week a Tumblr-based meme reached both the press and the highest levels of government. "Texts from Hillary," a Tumblr that began as a joke between two friends at a bar, became a national conversation about Secretary Clinton and even garnered a response from the ex-first lady herself.

And though every Tumblr creator may not gain enough exposure to earn an invitation to the State Department from Hill, there's still plenty of room for optimism. The numbers are staggering. Brands take note: with over 120 million users, 50 million blogs, 20 billion posts and 4.5 billion weekly impressions, Tumblr has reach and relevance. And while CEO David Karp initially cringed at the thought of advertising on Tumblr, numbers like that are hard to ignore.

Karp contends that while Tumblr was designed without brands in mind, they began showing up about a year and a half ago on the blog platform, particularly in the fashion and publishing categories. Since then, he and his team have been digging to find out what exactly these companies find valuable and how Tumblr can become more brand-friendly.

Karp announced today at the Ad Age Digital Conference that Tumblr will begin rolling out a new package of features for advertisers, starting with a tool for planting branded Tumblr posts into the blog's Radar feature. Radar, which gets 120 million impressions per day, highlights editorially selected posts in Tumblr's dashboard and exists as a space for brands to advertise both on the site and in Tumblr's mobile app.

The Radar ads will augment two already existing brand-friendly features. In February, Tumblr launched "highlighted posts," allowing Tumblr users to pay $1 per post and gain greater visibility for their work. Tumblr has also experimented with promoted directories, which enables users to achieve a top listing in Tumblr's blog directory. Brands like Huggies, J.Crew, Ann Taylor, and GQ are already finding ways to effectively reach consumers on the platform.

The Radar ad units will launch on May 2, but Karp's core goal for Tumblr is still all about empowering creativity for users. He has mentioned repeatedly that he has no interest in running traditional display ads, so brands will need to work on creating engaging content that is still organic to the Tumblr environment.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

The North Face Continues Collaborations with Supreme

Next week, The North Face will release another product collaboration with skate brand Supreme as part of their 2012 spring/summer capsule collection. The launch will include a waterproof jacket, backpack, and duffel bag, priced at $257, $193, and $283, respectively. Each item is available in both tan and black, and will feature all-over print of world map imagery along with both The North Face and Supreme brand logos.

The partnership is certainly not a new venture for the two brands, who teamed up last year on The North Face's Nuptse Down Jacket. The item was sold exclusively at Supreme stores and online last November, received widespread attention for its appearance in rapper Drake's music video for The Motto and sold out in a matter of days.

The collaboration with Supreme is historically hugely successful for The North Face, though it represents an interesting departure from their usual approach to product offering. The brand is known for their positioning as a highly innovative, high-performance gear manufacturer and their appeal to the extreme athlete and serious outdoor enthusiast.

Alternatively, Supreme, founded in NYC in 1994, caters to the skateboarding, underground hip-hop, and punk rock cultures. The brand embodies a young counter culture at large, and partners with groundbreaking photographers, designers and musicians to help define its unique identity.

The presence of Supreme's logo on their products communicates a different message for The North Face, and speaks to the brand's infiltration of a more urban audience and legitimacy within the casual sportswear market. The brand maintains a stronghold on two very different segments, and provides a great example of the success that can result from recognizing potential within the changing environment of the fashion industry.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Patagonia Extends Partnerships to Support Common Threads Initiative

Patagonia announced last week that consumers can now recycle their old jackets by turning them into fuzzy, durable Kindle covers and iPad cases. The company has partnered with ReFleece, who strips pieces of outerwear products, converts the fleece into a felt tablet case and sends it back to the original owner of the jacket. With customizable covers for iPhones, iPads, and other electronics all the rage these days, Patagonia strikes a chord with tech savvy consumers while simultaneously encouraging sustainability. Plus, Patagonia becomes top-of-mind for the customer whenever they reach for a good book or browse the net.

And if jacket owners aren't quite ready to see their products torn apart, they can travel to Patagonia's Ebay storefront, which was launched in conjunction with the Common Threads Initiative in September 2011 in another strategic move. After all, if a company's goal is to encourage reuse and rewear of their products, why not seek the help of Ebay, the world's largest marketplace for used and refurbished goods?

The branded Ebay platform extends the useful life of Patagonia products by providing a simple marketplace for users to buy and sell items. If customers would prefer to donate rather than sell, they can travel to the Common Threads hub on The partnerships are part of a larger effort to create a new standard of sustainability within the retail industry, which is plagued by over-consumption.

The Ebay platform makes it incredibly easy for consumers to take the pledge to reduce America's widening environmental footprint. This is key because today's consumers, particularly outdoor enthusiasts, lead incredibly busy lives. Even the strongest proponent of environment sustainability can be turned off by a complex system, so any effort to simplify the process will contribute to long-term success for these initiatives.

Monday, April 2, 2012

YouTube Introduces New Ad Model

I almost never watch TV. Sure I watch a lot of TV shows, but I rarely manage to catch my favorite programs from the comfort of my couch as they are aired live. So, like many other Millennials, I turn to online formats like Netflix, HBO GO, and Hulu to catch up on what I've missed because I can access these portals from almost anywhere. And since it's so quick and convenient, TV viewership is moving rapidly into the online space.

Cognizant of this shift, Youtube has launched a new ad model to support its collection of video channels by selling channel sponsorships to advertisers. Within the Youtube platform already exists clusters of episodic content organized into channels. For example, some channels have themes such as "Young Hollywood," "Mom's View," and "Automotive."

The new ad model will allow brands access to 96 different YouTube channels via sponsorships. The sponsorship package includes standard display ads, overlay, and pre-roll video and deems the sponsor as the sole advertiser on that particular channel. Youtube will cover the cost of production, and then share revenue equally with the sponsor once the investment is reimbursed.

The model uses keyword targeting instead of demographic stats for sponsorship packages, so it's a great way to interact with different lifestyle communities on a platform they're already loyal to.
Brands such as Uniliver, Toyota, GM, AT&T and Lowes have already signed up for the new advertising format and are paying a hefty price. According to Adweek, the ballpark value for sponsorships is an annual $4 to $6 million, depending on the channel. Channel sponsors in the music, pop culture, and sports categories will likely cut the biggest checks.

As online video entertainment reaches the forefront of the digital space, the arena is sure to become more competitive. Since the new format grants brands exclusive share of voice among key influencers in particular channels of interest, this is an incredible opportunity for brands with engaging, consistently refreshed content to stake their claim.