Genworth Financial's Low-Key Integration in 'Treasure Hunters' Has Big Payoff

Reality Show's Unlikely Sponsor Provides Top Prize and Hits Key Demo

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The deal: When the producers of NBC's "Treasure Hunters" needed a big prize to give away at the end of the series, they turned to an unlikely source.

The result: Genworth Financial, an insurance-services company, provided the show's $3 million mound of gold.


Before its deal with 'Treasure Hunters,' Genworth had previously only sponsored two episodes of 'The Apprentice' in 2004.



It was a quote any advertiser would love: As he stood over a gleaming mound of gold coins, a member of the team that won NBC's reality show "Treasure Hunt" said, "It's like somebody just reached down and said, 'Here's a bunch of your dreams, go live them.'"

In this case, the show's treasure of $3 million wasn't provided by a car company. It wasn't sponsored by Coke or Pepsi. It wasn't even paid for by Ask.com or Motorola, brands that were prominently integrated throughout the show's season.

Genworth Financial ponied up the big prize, whose actual amount had been closely guarded until the series wrapped up with a live finale in Washington Aug. 21. Guarded and hyped: NBC touted the treasure as "one of the largest prizes in television history."

But Genworth Financial?

Not exactly a major entertainment player

The Richmond, Va.-based insurance services company can hardly be considered a major player in the branded-entertainment space, having previously only sponsored two episodes of NBC's "The Apprentice" in 2004.

But executives at the company were looking for a way to promote the brand to consumers and professionals that help sell its services, which include retirement-income, investment and mortgage-insurance needs, to its 15 million customers worldwide.

The company spun off from General Electric Co. (parent of NBC) in 2004, and at the time was looking to start marketing the company. It chose "The Apprentice," because "at that stage of our evolution we were only 6 months old," said Buzz Richmond, senior VP of brand marketing for Genworth. "It built awareness that there's a company called Genworth Financial."

This summer, Genworth executives wanted to move from brand awareness to start familiarizing consumers with the company. "Now we're moving into the task of helping people understand what we do," Mr. Richmond said.

"Treasure Hunters" appealed to Genworth because the show's viewers were considered a professional audience. "It hit the sweet spot of our professional demographic," Mr. Richmond said, namely the group of people who sell the company's products, including stock brokers, financial planners, insurance agents, bank-investment counselors and mortgage lenders, whom the company was trying to target.

Limited on-air placement for a sponsor

In the show, 10 teams of three tried to outwit each other as they traveled around the U.S. and Europe in the pursuit of a treasure. Genworth's logo had only limited on-air placement through signage, compared to other marketers, such as Ask.com, Toyota, Motorola and Orbitz, which provided tools for the contestants to use on the hunt.

However, Genworth's main presence was online, sponsoring the Genworth Financial Treasure Challenge on NBC.com that gave viewers the chance to win $100,000 and compete in their own treasure hunt during the finale. In each episode of the show, clues were given to help viewers compete online.

The company used "Treasure Hunters" in June to launch its "100-plus" ad campaign, featuring centenarians.

"We thought that 'Treasure Hunters' was a great catalyst for our new advertising campaign," Mr. Richmond said. "We were looking for a way to reach our audience through non-conventional methods for an insurance company. We're not trying to be irreverent. As a new brand we need to be nontraditional and innovative to get our message out."

"Treasure Hunters" was hardly a runaway hit for NBC this summer. The 10 episodes and finale of the series, produced by NBC Universal Television Studio, Madison Road Entertainment, Magical Elves and Imagine Television, aired opposite Fox's "Hell's Kitchen 2" throughout the summer. Its finale was up against the season premiere of "Vanished" on Fox, and wound up in fourth place behind "Two and a Half Men" and "Old Christine" on CBS, ABC's "Wife Swap" and "Vanished" in the 9 p.m. to 10 p.m. hour. The finale earned a 3.6 rating/6 share. The show averaged a 1.9 rating among adutls 18-49 during its run.

There were some promising numbers, however.

Better online results

During the series, Genworth received 325 million brand impressions. And its online-treasure-hunt challenge was played by more than 400,000 registered users, who generated more than 20 million page views.

And the show still attracted the affluent audience NBC has long touted as having, namely the "mass affluent," or 35- to 64-year-old college-educated males with incomes of $75,000 and up, executives said. "Those were the people we needed to build confidence with," Mr. Richmond said.

"We really wanted to go after a brand that needed the name recognition and whose impact would be most pronounced," said Madison Road CEO Jak Severson. "Genworth clearly fit the bill there. They were in the middle of defining themselves."

Genworth's executives said they are looking for other TV shows or entertainment properties to tie in with. For now, however, "We'll continue to do TV advertising, but mostly on cable," Mr. Richmond said.

As for the prize money, "it's significant," Mr. Richmond said. "It's an amount of money that will be a life-changing event for the winners."

The winners concurred. On the show, one of the trio of winners talked about how his teammates can open clinics, take care of their families and pay for medical school, including himself.

"We're a financial-services company," Mr. Richmond added. "Who better than us to provide that sort of prize? Part of our business is about creating wealth. This certainly fits in with that segment of the business."
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