Burger King to Sponsor Live Online Streaming of Awards Show

Deal With Spike Network Also Includes Custom Ads, Branded Video Player

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LOS ANGELES (AdAge.com) -- It seems strange to consider in a year like 2009, when on-demand content and social media merged, that awards shows are still among the last entertainment properties available for live online streaming. Whether it was the Emmys, the Oscars or even MTV's "Video Music Awards," nary a live simulcast of an acceptance speech could be found on YouTube, Hulu or a TV network site, only clips and illegal torrents.

Burger King VGA screenshotEnlarge

So when Burger King signed up to sponsor the webcast of Spike's "Video Game Awards," airing Saturday, it was more than a standard sponsorship. The burger chain wants to make sure that when gamers watch the show, they can "have it their way," to paraphrase the chain's longtime tagline.

Burger King will sponsor all of Spike.com's live coverage of the event, with camera access for viewers to chose from of the stage, the red carpet, the green room and the backstage production. Spike is part of MTV Entertainment Networks.

Dario Spina, Spike's senior VP-integrated marketing, said Burger King's all-inclusive sponsorship will help offset the incremental costs that come with adding increased camera angles and live streaming, as well as limit the number of pre-roll ads the viewers sit through online. A Burger King-branded video player will stream the live content on Spike.com and MTV Entertainment's GameTrailers.com to reinforce the sponsorship with less commercial messaging.

"In our opinion, it's a small price to pay in order to deliver an interactive experience to our consumers," Mr. Spina said of the extensive sponsorship. "The goal is to serve up the content in the best way we can. We're more concerned about elevating the viewing and 360 experience than with regard to delivering the show in a traditional way."

Burger King's interactive sponsorship innovation is not without precedent. The marketer sponsored four different online camera angles for last year's VGAs, which accounted for 71% of the traffic to the VGA site and 40% of the page views, with 251,000 video streams (but the feed wasn't live). Last year's sponsorship also acted as a launch for BK's Flame Body Spray,* a burger-scented cologne, which resulted in a "measurable impact" on viral buzz and product sales, claimed Tia Lang, Burger King's director of media and interactive.

This year's push will promote the chain's $1 double-cheeseburger offering, which Burger King is hoping will see a similar lift as a result of this year's multiplatform sponsorship. "It's always a tough correlation to make, but one of the things we're always interested in is engaging viewers in ways that are relevant to them, so that when we are able to do that we capture a bit of their share of mind as they're making a decision to eat when they're hungry," Ms. Lang said.

Burger King could use some positive results from its entertainment sponsorships, which the company's CEO defended after reporting a 4.6% same-store sales decline in the U.S. and Canada during its first-quarter fiscal-year earnings call. Asked if the company would pursue a less niche-oriented take in its ad strategy to boost sales, CEO John Chidsey said that "things would be even worse" without those efforts. Global CMO Russ Klein departed shortly thereafter in November for personal reasons, following two quarters of nearly 5% sales losses.

Nevertheless, Burger King is sticking by its longtime agency partners -- Crispin, Porter & Bogusky for creative, Mindshare for media and digital -- both of which helped Spike create custom ads for the TV broadcast and online. Although these kinds of integrated deals increasingly cut out the agency partners wherever possible with other brands, "We love to get all the parties together," Ms. Lang said.

Other returning sponsors for this year's "VGA" include Mtn Dew, which will renew its sponsorship of last year's Best Independent Game Award. Game Stop will serve as the show's retail partner, and Verizon Wireless will sponsor custom spots during the telecast.

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CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly referenced a campaign for Burger King's Flame Whopper. The campaign included a commercial for Burger King's Flame Body Spray and did not result in an impact on sandwich sales.

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