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British Airways Takes Off On VH1

'Bands Reunited' deal with integration

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%%STORYIMAGE_RIGHT%% British Airways, trying to woo music-loving business travelers, has made an integrated marketing deal with Viacom's VH1 to sponsor the second season of the buzz-heavy "Bands Reunited." The partnership will include product placement in the series, a party-like-a-rock-star consumer sweepstakes and on-air, off-channel and online promotions.

The deal sprang from a media buy on VH1, where British Airways has done little marketing in the past. It extends to VH1's sister network VH1 Classic, a 33-million-home digital channel.

"There's a fit for us demographically," said Amy O'Kane, British Airways' director-marketing services, "and there's a contextual relevance because there's a lot of European travel in this show."

British Airways recently launched an image campaign on VH1, along with spots that focus on its "club world" business-class amenities. The aim is to draw in young Turks and boomer business travelers among the VH1 viewer base by "speaking to them in innovative ways," O'Kane said.

On-air, online and off-channel promotion for "Bands Reunited" will be co-branded. The series' 10 episodes launch in September, with British Airways' jets and hubs appearing in at least half the shows. Sponsor billboards will air each time. Details of the sweepstakes are still coming together, but it likely would revolve around a winner flying to the U.K. for a "Bands Reunited" concert. Consumers will enter through vh1.com.

The first season of "Bands Reunited" didn't have sponsors. This time around, "we knew we'd be traveling a lot and saw an opportunity to work in an advertiser in the category," said Louise Rexer, VP-sponsorship development and integrated marketing.

%%PULLQUOTE_LEFT%% VH1 Classics, which focuses on iconic and one-hit-wonder bands from the past, will run "Bands Reunited" promo vignettes shot aboard British Airways planes, in some cases with VJs lounging on the marketer's flat beds.

Network executives said the deal reflects a shift in marketer needs, which used to involve only some extra on-air mentions for a significant media buy.

"It's been a progression from added value to product integration [into the content]," said Mark McIntire, senior VP-sponsorship development and integrated marketing. "When you have an upscale audience, they can read the difference, so you have to be careful in how you execute it. It has to be natural."

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