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Young mens' publisher Complex Media is starting another website backed by a single brand, this time a basketball site that will carry ads for only Bacardi Flavored Rum for the next nine months.
The site, Triangle Offense, arrives just as the NBA playoffs are starting, but it's really meant to cover pro and college basketball without dwelling on saturated areas such as stats, schedules or, for that matter, triangle offenses. Its focus instead is on the players' high-flying lifestyle -- their clothes, tattoos, cars, watches and so on. "We came to this realization that there was this white space out there in the basketball arena," said Moksha Fitzgibbons, head of sales at Complex Media. "We believe there's an opportunity to do a land grab."
The focus on lifestyle also appealed to Bacardi Flavored Rum, which paid between $1 million and $3 million to sponsor the site for a nine-month period, according to people familiar with the deal.
Privately held Bacardi, which declined to comment on the site or its spending there, spent about $13.2 million on measured media in 2013 promoting its flavored rum, according to Kantar Media. Bacardi spent about $90.6 million promoting all of its liquor brands, including Dewars and Grey Goose.
In addition to its eponymous print magazine and eight owned-and-operated websites, all geared at young men, Complex has published the Green-Label.com site for PepsiCo's Mountain Dew since last year.
Green Label includes posts about shoes, extreme sports, culture and Mountain Dew. Complex editors run the site -- which carries the label "A Mountain Dew Venture" -- with PepsiCo approving the content. The companies split any revenue from other advertisers on the site, which on Thursday included Unilever's Axe.
The question with content sites in general but marketers' content plays in particular is always about traffic: Will enough people come to see the expensive editorial being produced at some advertiser's behest?
Green-Label.com attracted 176,000 unique mobile and desktop visitors in February, according to Nielsen. Complex and a Mountain Dew spokeswoman said the site's traffic is significantly higher than that but declined to provide specific figures.
Bacardi plans to address the audience challenge partly by promoting Triangle Offense through paid media, but Complex will provide promotion on its other sites as well.
Triangle Offense is a similar business to Green Label for Complex in some ways, but may be a bit easier to run because its content doesn't require Bacardi's approval before going up. Bacardi is the site's only advertiser, but Complex Media has full control over editorial, with Elena Bergeron, a former ESPN magazine writer, serving as editor in chief of the site.
"Mountain Dew wants to be a brand as publisher," Mr. Antoniello said. "Bacardi wants to surround the experience it."
Nearly 25% of Complex revenue, which the company declined to disclose in detail, stems from branded content, according to Mr. Antoniello. Another 15% is from video advertising, he said, with the remainder coming from more traditional display ads.
Last week, Complex signed a deal with retailer Champs Sports, part of Foot Locker, to produce content for its website in a plan to "create a halo effect of cool," according to Mr. Fitzgibbons.
Complex plans to hire a content team dedicated to ChampsSports.com. "We're going to produce 1,000 pieces of original content for the site this year," Mr. Fitzgibbons said.
In picking up the Bacardi business, Complex adds to a roster of liquor advertisers that includes Mike's Hard Lemonade and MillerCoors, which has enlisted Complex to develop exclusive content around its Fortune brand beer.