Both marketers are sponsoring "The Wedding Race," a reality program in which five couples compete for a new house through extreme sports such as swimming with sharks, bungee jumping and hang-gliding.
The one-hour show will run through the end of June on more than 20 regional TV stations, reaching up to 750 million Chinese viewers.
"Sponsor-assisted programming is a rapid growth market in Asia. As television stations tighten their acquisition budgets, it is independent production companies who can lose out," says Jasper Donat, executive director of Branded, a Hong Kong marketing company that coordinated the sponsorship.
Although the contestants are Chinese, the show was filmed in Australia late last year. The couples were separated throughout the game—the men were sent to Cairns, while the women went to the Gold Coast.
The sponsors' products and logos were incorporated into the program. The contestants guzzled Coke after grueling competitions in Australia's searing heat, for example.
%%PULLQUOTE_LEFT%% At night, the couples used multimedia messaging service (MMS) technology to chat and exchange photos with a Siemens Mobile S57 phone and a QuickPic detachable camera. In addition, the sponsors received airtime for TV spots during program breaks.
The program was an "ideal fit for us," says Shanghai-based Sumanta Datta, the brand director for Coke in mainland China.
"Coca-Cola recently launched a campaign here called 'Seize the Coke feeling,' which ties in perfectly with the [show's] idea, because [the product placement] dramatizes the refreshing benefits of Coca-Cola. It also reaches our core target, teens and young adults. Overall, [our investment] has paid for itself very well," says Datta, although he declined to say how much Coke invested in the project.
The producer, Deansee Entertainment, is already creating a second season. Meanwhile, Madonna's production company, Maverick Films, is working with Deansee to create a localized version of the show to run in the U.S.