Verizon's Go90 mobile video service has attracted a major marketer to sponsor "The Runner," an ambitious original series from executive producers Ben Affleck and Matt Damon, the company said Monday.
Go90, the free, ad-supported platform, debuted in October to a crescendo of hype. Publicis Groupe signed on to use the service, saying more than 10 of its brands intended to advertiser there. That deal is continuing, an AOL spokesman said. The Ford sponsorship is separate from the Publicis pact.
"The Runner" is poised to become Go90's most prominent and widely-distributed program yet. Starting next month, the show will see one person try to evade the eyes of America, traveling from one end of the country to the other in 30 days without being "captured" to win a big cash prize. Both the titular Runner and teams of "Chasers" will use the 2017 Ford Escape throughout the show. The vehicle will also be integrated into challenges that are part of the series.
Ford will air pre-roll spots before episodes of "The Runner" on Go90 and Verizon's AOL, where the show will also appear, as well as in daily game updates. The show will also distribute branded content involving Ford across social platforms like YouTube, Snapchat, Facebook and Twitter.
"Escape embodies an adventurous, unstoppable spirit that fits with the mindset of 'The Runner,' so it was a natural fit," said Kevin Schad, Escape brand manager.
Go90 will also help Ford reach a younger, more diverse demographic because it targets younger consumers who may not be pay-TV subscribers, Mr. Schad added.
The company will use "The Runner" to highlight Escape's technology with integrations that Mr. Schad said aren't a blatant marketing push.
"The Runner" will debut on July 1, with three episodes daily on both Go90 and AOL.com It will be the first Go90 series to also get distribution on AOL, which was acquired by Verizon in 2015.
AOL, which handled ad sales for Go90, is in discussions with other marketing partners to expand Go90's ad capabilities beyond pre-roll. And as Verizon opens up access to Go90's programming, it will allow for more integration with AOL's ad-tech stack.
Go90 currently has both short-form and long-form TV content from a range of content providers like AwesomenessTV and MTV as well as NBA and NFL games and its own original programming.
An AOL spokesman declined to provide usage data for Go90. In May, Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam said that Go90 "did get a little over-hyped."
According to ComScore, about 600,000 unique visitors used the Go90 mobile app in May, down from a little over 800,000 in February and March. ComScore cannot measure video viewership, only how many people are using the app.
"With Go90 having a strong mix of original short-form content and major live sports and music events streaming all in one place, a number of factors contribute to shifts in viewership," an AOL spokesman said when asked about the ComScore figures.