Amp'd, which launched its entertainment-rich cellphone service about six months ago, is trying to outshine powerful cellphone rivals with a series of branded entertainment deals that involve TV channels and edgy sporting events.
There's the Amp'd deal to be the official wireless carrier of Professional Bull Riders, whose events turn up on OLN and NBC. There was another deal with the mixed-martial-arts organization Ultimate Fighting Championship on Spike TV's "Ultimate Fight Night Live" event during April. That's when Sam "The Alaskan Assassin" Hogar showed up.
Then there are the branded "Amp'd Mobile SuperCross" motorcycle races on Speed Channel. According to Amp'd officials, all three involved in-event branding, video content on cellphones and media buys on the networks.
"We decided we didn't want to advertise in regular sports," says Seth Cummings, senior VP-wireless content and Internet services at Amp'd. "We wanted up-and-comer sports that attract 18-24 men."
Amp'd is far from alone in turning to branded entertainment as a way to attract the male half of the population. "Men aren't being disproportionately targeted," says Alan Blum, president of branding operation Re:Vision. "That said, among those programs targeting men, I see an increasingly strong use of integration."
Newcomers to the TV integration pool include Harley-Davidson Motor Co. It's been kicking the tires on some propositions over the last few years. Then along came "Blade," a series debuting on Spike this June that's spun off from a trio of films featuring a half vampire/half man. One of the stars of the TV series is Harley's Night Rod.
a creative fit
"It requires a rather significant media position, and we're not a large buyer of broadcast and cable," says Tom Watson, director-motorcycle marketing at Harley-Davidson, in speaking of the "Blade" deal. The key to the Spike deal, for Harley, was the show's creative need for a bike.
Guy Sousa, exec VP-ad sales at Fox Sports, measures the sheer growth in integrated product placement not only with the deals that show up on air, but "a multifold increase in requests for proposals" from advertisers.
That's resulted in several deals both at Fox Sports as well as its corporate sibling, Speed. Fox Sports' "Best Damned Sports Show Period" "has created unbelievable real estate for different partners," says Adam Holzer, senior VP for Fox Cable Sports, noting a basement set with branding for Coors Brewing Co.'s Keystone Light beer and a single-sponsor football guide for Coca-Cola Co.'s energy drink Full Throttle.
In addition to the Amp'd deal, Speed has "Tools of the Trade" vignettes featuring Craftsman tools and its "Castrol Engine Block" package of shows on the weekends.
Executives say that a big part of the integration appeal is the young male presence online. Not surprisingly, most of the TV integration propositions include online components.
"I think what makes male integration unique is that it's really difficult to do," says David Lawenda, senior VP-ad sales for Spike TV. "Men, especially in the 18-34 demo, are an incredibly elusive group of consumers. They are really savvy and can be put off by gratuitous integration."
That said, when the deals work, they can go gangbusters. Among the clear winners is Schick-Wilkinson Sword, which has an integrated placement deal for its Schick Quattro razors on Spike series "King of Vegas."
According to John Wergeles, group brand director for men's systems at Schick, the intent to purchase Quattro razors has increased 38% and ad awareness has tripled. Not surprisingly, in the future, he adds, "we'll be looking for any and all opportunities."