Snickers is stepping into the squared circle in a significant way yet again by renewing its partnership with the WWE by serving as the presenting partner of WrestleMania 33 in April.
The premiere wrestling promotion and candy brand are collaborating for a television ad, a complete YouTube takeover, retail promotions as well as custom digital and social content—including a Snapchat live story—for Snickers’ slapstick campaign “You’re Not You When You’re Hungry.”
“It’s a natural as we’re both iconic brands. Not only does WWE draw millions of loyal fans from around the world, but their larger-than-life personalities are a natural fit for our campaign, which illustrates the humorous side effects caused by hunger symptoms,” Allison Miazga-Bedrick, senior brand director for Mars, the parent company for Snickers, told [a]listdaily. “WWE also provides several new ways to reach our target audience, including live programming watched by millions, leveraging WWE talent as spokespeople, and a strong, active social following.”
Snickers was a sponsor for WrestleMania 32 earlier this year, the highest-grossing, most-watched and most-social event in WWE history, totaling $17.3 million and reaching 1.8 million homes. Snickers snacked on 1.5 billion impressions for the brand across WWE’s and NBCUniversal’s global platforms, according to the WWE, further proving that the fervent fan base was eating everything that the two titans were dishing out. They even announced their partnership on TV before a match.
“While we don’t share sales data, I can attest to the success of last year’s partnership for generating significant engagement on-site and in social among WWE’s strong and active fan base as well as media coverage,” Miazga-Bedrick said.
As for the week-long celebration in Orlando next April, the digital and social media strategy will consist of pegging several popular WWE stars to post campaign content on their accounts leading up to “the greatest spectacle in sports entertainment.” The partnership includes promotional activity at WrestleMania Axxess—WWE’s four-day, interactive fan festival—as well as custom social content including live Snapchat story leading up to the event.
Miazga-Bedrick said they will work with the WWE to produce two new pieces of custom creative. “We’re excited to leverage WWE’s YouTube channel with a complete brand takeover the day of WrestleMania 33. Additionally, to excite fans attending WWE events about the Snickers partnership, there will be concourse activation and sampling at up to five Raw and SmackDown events. We’re still planning the YouTube takeover, and this year’s partnership will include the production of custom creative featuring WWE Superstars within our ‘You’re Not You When You’re Hungry’ campaign framework.”
As TV viewership continues to decline, it’s critical for big brands to focus their spend on digital channels instead, so Snickers is staying ahead of the curve by serving content on WWE’s YouTube channel, the No. 1 sports channel on the platform.
WWE also has a very loyal and engaged following of over 750 million on social, and even gave fans exclusive content on Facebook for their flagship event of the year.
Snickers has created some fun branded content with the promos wrestlers runduring programming in the past, and they are always willing to take risks for the sake of comedy—as evidenced by a Super Bowl spot of Betty White getting decapitated in a backyard football game.
“It’s important for us to reach our target audience wherever they consume media—whether on digital channels or live events,” Miazga-Bedrick said. “Not only does WWE provide tremendous reach on their owned digital channels, but WrestleMania is one of the most watched live events of the year, delivering the best of both worlds—traditional TV viewership and digital reach.”
Activision used Sony’s third annual PlayStation Experience (PSX) to offer gamers a chance to get hands-on with its new Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy, which ships for PlayStation 4 and PS4 Pro in 2017. Developer Vicarious Visions has been enlisted to upgrade the original ‘90s games (created by Naughty Dog) for today’s hardware, having previously worked with the bandicoot on a pair of Game Boy Advance titles, as well as Crash Nitro Kart on PlayStation 2.
This marks a sort of resurgence for the character. He’s playable right now in Skylanders Imaginators in a new dedicated level, Thumpin’ Wumpa Islands. Crash also appears in two episodes of the new Skylanders Academy television series, streaming now on Netflix. Dan Tanguay, game director at Vicarious Visions, told [a]listdaily that the Crash games have stood the test of time because they were incredibly beautiful at the time on PlayStation 1.
“There wasn’t anything that looked like them,” Tanguay said. “They’re just a visual treat for the eyes. The second thing is the sense of humor that pervades the games. It’s zany, it’s loony, it’s irreverent and you’re always having fun dying or seeing what the characters are going to do next.”
Tanguay said the original level design was great in that they’re challenging, but compel you to want to keep coming back for more. Vicarious Visions is building the new game from the ground up with new lighting, animations, environments and 4K support. “It really allows us to capture that spirit of Crash Bandicoot that Naughty Dog was shooting for 20 years ago,” Tanguay said. “We’re really able to push more with the animation and get more personality across and really create more lush and rich environments and audio escapes.”
Tanguay said that over the course of the trilogy, Naughty Dog learned a lot and made improvements to the games. Vicarious Visions has the luxury of adding those lessons to every game. “We’re trying to put Time Trials into every single level, even though they only appeared in the third game,” Tanguay said. “We hope they’ll give fans a great reason to play the game over and over again.”
He also said the new games will also offer Easter Eggs for fans, having scoured the internet and read all the fan boards and watched the YouTube videos. “We really know what the fans are looking for and we have additional features planned for these games, which we aren’t prepared to talk more about at this point,” Tanguay said.
In addition to having worked with Crash previously, Vicarious Visions has also developed Activision’s Skylanders: Swap Force, Skylanders: Trap Team and Skylanders: SuperChargers in recent years. “Our experience with action platformers such as Skylanders has helped us hone our skills to be able to bring Crash into the present,” said Tanguay.
Activision is also tapping into the retro fad that Sony embraced at PSX, reviving classic games like Parappa the Rapper, Windjammers and Wipeout: Omega Collection. “I love it partly because I’m a bit old,” Tanguay confessed. “The games that are coming back really deserve to have a chance with a new audience. It’s just a way to keep the spirit of things like Crash alive.”
Supercell is a global leader in mobile gaming with its hit titles, Clash of Clans and Clash Royale, but the publisher is celebrating its unique characters and in-game worlds with a brand-new animated show on YouTube, 360-degree experiences and a line of merchandise. As always, the brand doesn’t take itself too seriously—continuing a strategy of humor that audiences have come to enjoy from its various TV commercials, especially the Liam Neeson “Revenge” Super Bowl spot.
Available now on YouTube, Clash-A-Rama! is a series of shorts and full-length episodes featuring characters from both Clash of Clans and Clash Royale. If the animation style and a few of the voices seem familiar, it could be because Clash-A-Rama! was created and written by three writer/producers of The Simpsons and animated by Rough Draft Animation, the same studio that brought Futurama to life. It turns out that all three writers were already fans of Clash of Clans and became fascinated by the idea of what happens behind-the-scenes in that universe. While the characters don’t speak in-game, the animated series gives them both voices and personalities that anyone can enjoy, whether they’ve played the games or not. Supercell’s new show is proving to be a whos-who of vocal talent with the likes of Tress MacNielle (The Simpsons, Futurama) as well as Tom Kenny, the voice of Spongebob Squarepants.
This isn’t the first time Supercell has invited fans to experience the Clash world from a new perspective. Last year, a 360-degree video was released with VR-headset compatibility. Viewed over 10 million times, the experience allows fans to witness a raid from a first-person view. Three weeks ago, the world was treated to another 360/VR experience, this time as a Hog Rider from the game, which has already exceeded 37 million views.
Back in 2014, Supercell created a poll that asked its fans whether or not they wanted Clash of Clansmerchandise. The answer was apparently a resounding “yes,” because that’s what the world is about to get. The Finnish company is rolling out a line of high-quality, detailed figurines sometime in early 2017. “We are not doing this to diversify our revenue base,” CEO and co-founder, Ilkka Paananen toldVentureBeat. “This is our way to give back to our players. Everything we have achieved is thanks to our players.”
Clash Royale is all about competition, and with a thriving community, Supercell has conquered its own little piece of eSports land. The publisher is holding the Clash Royale North American Open—a series of duels between select players that culminates with a final on December 17. Touted as their biggest competition to date, the North American Open features over $100,000 USD in prize money, a free trip to Los Angeles to compete in the Crown Duel and even a trip to Supercell headquarters in Helsinki, Finland.
Despite the figurines, VR experiences and fancy cartoons, Superdata doesn’t want to lose focus on what they love most: making games. “We don’t want to be a media company,” said Paanenen. “We are a games company. And we will always be a games company.”
The event was hosted by Twitch programming manager and streamer, Anna Prosser Robinson, who joined the ESL last year in creating a public service announcement to encourage gamers to get health insurance. She spoke with various members of the White House staff, including Erik Martin, policy advisor at White House office of science and technology policy, who talked about his personal history with health issues and gaming. He also remarked on the importance of engaging with young gamers directly through platforms like Twitch. Other Twitch celebrities sat down with White House staff to demonstrate use of the Marketplace and talk about video games.
The White House Competitive Gaming Event also used Twitch’s newly released AutoMod tool, which employs machine learning and natural language processing to identify and block inappropriate content from the chat—keeping the discussion civil and relevant.
Brain Petrocelli, product marketing manager at Twitch, spoke with [a]listdaily from the event and detailed how the partnership with the White House came together. “We did the DNC and RNC this past summer, and folks didn’t necessarily realize that we were protecting our chat with the AutoMod, which just released. So, we were able to have an amazing social video experience that was conductive to people having a great discussion about a topic. Fast forward, and people in Washington took notice and came together to figure out what we could do. We thought, what better way to host a conversation about healthcare than to talk to the independent business people that use Twitch and use the power of the White House to amplify that message to reach a hard-to-reach audience.”
When discussing how video gaming and healthcare related to each other, Petrocelli said, “most Twitch partners and eSports athletes are independent. Therefore, they have to worry about healthcare themselves. Whether you’re committing yourself to be a successful Twitch partner or committing to becoming an eSports athlete, making sure that you’re healthy and able to work as much as possible is really important. It behooves the community to discuss what healthcare options are available.”
To help promote the Marketplace, streamers spoke about their personal experiences in addition to having guest speakers come onstage to talk about the healthcare program and how to sign up. Some of the games played included a healthcare theme, particularly the board game Operation, and Trials Fusion, which features plenty of stunts and accidents.
“We wanted to reach the widest audience possible, which is why we selected some easy-to-get-into games such as Rocket League andStreet Fighter,” said Petrocelli. “That’s in addition to choosing a group of broadcasters that have diverse communities that can all come together and have a good conversation.”
Petrocelli believes that a lot of people from the White House are fans of gaming, but don’t get to play as often as they would like to. However, they recognize the power that gaming has and its reach. “Considering how difficult gamers can be to reach, with their cord-cutting and only consuming content on Twitch, this is a really good opportunity to speak with them.”
Katie Hill, assistant press secretary at the White House, also spoke to [a]listdaily from the event.
“We’re in the middle of open enrollment for the Healthcare Marketplace, Healthcare.gov,” said Hill, discussing the importance of the event. “Ever since the Marketplace opened several years ago, we have made it a point that young people in particular understand that this option is available to them. If they shop around on Healthcare.gov, most can find a plan for $75 a month or less—less than their cell phone bills. [We want to make sure] that they understand that health insurance is affordable and a good thing to have. Not only does it help you stay healthy because you can take advantage of preventive benefits the ACA covers, such as vaccines, screenings, contraception for women—but it also protects you against an unexpected illness or catastrophic accident.
She also talked about the ACA’s goals, particularly in reaching young, uninsured individuals—many of whom are gamers. “Since the ACA has passed, the number of young people who are uninsured has dropped dramatically, but we know we’ve got more work to do,” said Hill. “Of the Americans who today are still uninsured, a disproportionate share of them are young. We also know that the gaming community is disproportionately young, so it aligns nicely with the audience we’re trying to reach.”
Hill described previous efforts to encourage young individuals to purchase healthcare. “Over the years, some of the more prominent examples are the president’s interview on between two ferns, the popular BuzzFeed video the president did a couple of years ago, and we just launched a video on our Facebook page where the president and actor, Bill Murray are playing golf in the Oval Office.”
The White House has also been working with colleges and universities on an initiative called the Healthy Campus Challenge. Nearly 400 institutions are letting students and faculty know about open enrollment. “This is something that we hope will become institutionalized, even after this administration is no longer in office,” said Hill. “Come open enrollment time, colleges and universities will do what they’ve done in the past: educating their students, alumni and faculty about how quality affordable insurance is available at Healthcare.gov.”
The White House is also emphasizing the sense of independence healthcare offers young individuals. “There are a lot of folks in the gaming community who are app developers, writing code and designing games. It may be something that they would like to do full-time, but can’t because they wouldn’t have health insurance. But they can get that insurance on the Marketplace.”
When asked if she thought the White House Competitive Gaming Event could become a regular event, Hill said: “Realizing that we have a short amount of time left here in the office, our hope is that today’s event has been a success and that it could be something our partners across the country—who are doing the hard and important work of signing people up for health insurance—could possibly replicate.”
Among the online celebrities invited to the event was voice actor, composer and gamer, Elspeth Eastman, whose talents have been featured in games such as League of Legends and Crypt of the Necrodancer. She spoke to [a]listdaily about her experience getting healthcare, which turned out to be as short and easy as advertised.
“I needed healthcare—I knew I needed to get covered, and I went on the website,” said Eastman. “It probably took me about ten to fifteen minutes to secure a plan for myself. Once I was done, I was like, ‘That’s it?’ It was very simple. I’m covered, and I’m happy about it.”
Eastman also talked about why it was important for full-time streamers and gamers to think about healthcare. “You don’t know the day-to-day specifics of your job,” said Eastman. “Sometimes it can be tough, and you might not plan for something that comes down the road when you are streaming. You never know. So, it’s always good to look out for yourself first and get covered, even if you’re situated somewhere comfy in your house. You don’t know—you could fall down the stairs or something—and it’s something you need to think about. A lot of people don’t realize how easy it is [to get healthcare]. It’s very easy to get set up.”
However, there is a perception that young gamers generally believe that they’re invincible, and don’t put much care or thought into the topic of healthcare. To them, Eastman says, “Hey, I’ll wake up in pajama pants, and sometimes I’ll eat a bag of Cheetos and won’t feel bad about it. I’ll stay up until four in the morning and eat a plate of pizza rolls before going to bed. You take that for granted when you’re sitting there enjoying video games. But you never know what could happen to your body. You don’t really think about it. So, it’s good to get healthcare now, be protected, and have that piece of mind.”
Angela Parker (ThatChickParker) is a prime example of the kind of young self-employed individuals the White House is reaching out to. She was no longer eligible for coverage under her father’s Navy healthcare plan when she turned 21 and decided to forgo college to pursue full-time streaming on Twitch.
“Gamers definitely live a more sedentary life, but it’s important to realize that anything can happen at any moment,” Parker told [a]listdaily. “One unfortunate incident could put you in debt for the rest of your life. Right now, we think we’re invincible, but we need to think about the long term.”
Professional gamer, Justin Wong, plays on team Evil Geniuses and came to the White House for an epic Street Fighter V showdown against Mike Ross and ended up winning three games in a row. Having to pay for healthcare was part of what drove him to succeed in eSports.
“Growing up, when I was 17 or 18, we went through some rough times. My family couldn’t pay for their hospital bills, so I went around the United States winning tournaments. Every time I won a tournament, I used the money that I won to pay off the debt that we owed to the hospitals.”
Wong also spoke about the importance of healthcare coverage for professional eSports athletes.
“I traveled about 40 times this year alone. The risk of being sick because of posing for pictures, shaking hands, or being around a culture of food that you’re not used to might affect your ability to play in a professional environment. Being under healthcare and having the option to go to the doctor while I’m at home before my next trip is really important.”
What does Wong say to young gamers who believe that they’re invincible? “I was like that once and said the same things. But when unforeseen circumstances happen, especially when you have to take care of your family because of sickness, it becomes really hard to live a regular life. Especially when you’re going to school and getting a job—and also if you want to keep trying to game. There will be less time for gaming. For me, I had to grind really hard—playing tournaments and paying the debt off—to make sure that my family could live a comfortable life in the future.
Learn everything you need to know to invest in today’s fastest-growing media channel—Competitive Gaming and eSports on 2.16.17 in Los Angeles. Go to alistsummit.com for more info.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is inching toward theaters and while the franchise already comes with a dedicated fan base spanning multiple generations and continents, Disney’s marketing machine—like The Force—surrounds all of us. From action-packed trailers to movie theater hashtags and virtual reality, the world is ready to return to a galaxy far, far away thanks to some intuitive campaigns.
Just a year after the release of The Force Awakens—and the galaxy-sized marketing that came with it—is the world ready for more? Is it possible to have too much Star Wars? While some die-hard fans would raise their light sabers and exclaim “never!,” Disney didn’t want to take any chances.
“The key is to not talk about Star Wars 365 days a year—we’re sensitive to that being the wrong strategy,” Disney’s UK CMO Anna Hill told Marketing Week. “We’ve been very careful to only really begin major marketing activity eight weeks or so before the launch of Rogue One. A big part of our approach is to let fans spread word-of-mouth buzz.”
It certainly worked, and Twitter named #StarWars as the top trending movie hashtag of 2016 thanks to The Force Awakens‘ late-December 2015 release and building anticipation for Rogue One leading up to the present day.
Twitter itself had a hand in marketing the film through a partnership with Disney and People magazine to livestream a special Star Wars event that included never-before-seen content from the upcoming film along with a Q&A with the director and cast members. Through January 5, theatergoers can experience the marriage of social media and cinema in the lobbies of 57 movie houses across the US. The campaign includes a sponsored Twitter emoji and hashtags such as #RogueOne, #DeathStar, #StarWars and #StarWarsRogueOne that patrons will see on digital displays.
If you’re hailing an Uber to the theater (or anywhere else for that matter), users will be able to unlock special Rogue One features and access exclusive video content including behind-the-scenes footage in the Uber app. The promotion will run through December 18 in hundreds of cities worldwide. In addition, the vehicle will appear on the map as one of many iconic Star Wars vehicles such as a rebel X-wing Starfighter.
When Nissan debuted its Rogue: Star Wars Edition TV campaign last month, traffic to Nissan’s website spiked 300 percent and the company experienced record sales of 24,682 units (up 19 percent month-over-month) and a share record of 10.6 percent to boot. While the SUV and film share a common name, the vehicle manufacturer saw an opportunity to tell a story with a limited edition vehicle. “There is a strong correlation between the both of us with epic adventures,” Jeremy Meadows, senior manager of marketing and creative strategy at Nissan, told [a]listdaily.
Jeremy Tucker, vice president of marketing communications and media, added that the Rogue model is their number one best-selling model and is up 10 percent year-over-year. “We want to make this model go to the very next level,” he said. “So bringing these iconic brands together, this is our moment, and we’re going full force.”
The car is limited to 5,400 models available in black or white in the US and Canadian market—each with Rebel Alliance or Empire decals and an exclusive Death Trooper replica helmet.
Nissan also introduced a virtual and augmented reality experience to consumers as well that highlights the Rogue SUV’s Intelligent Safety Shield technologies. Nissan dealerships nationwide have teamed with “Star Wars: Force for Change” to host a toy drive benefiting the Toys for Tots organization on December 17 and 18.
Nissan is one of five global brands—Duracell, General Mills, Gillette and Verizon are the others—to join forces with Lucasfilm and launch an extensive global promotional campaign in support of the movie. Duracell partnered with Disney and Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals to tell the story of a group of child “rebels” who use their imaginations to deliver an R2-D2 toy to a girl in the burn ward. General Mills, meanwhile, partnered to give away movie tickets through specially-marked boxes of cereal.
Gillette’s “Every Story Has A Face” campaign features a Star Wars-themed commercial that focuses on the many people working together on a mission—from a smiling rebel finishing his shave to the stern look of a fellow, bearded soldier and the focused gaze of a female fighter pilot.
Verizon unveiled its very own, Rogue One360 Experience on its Facebook page that places users in the cockpit of a rebel fighter who finds more than he bargained for on a routine space mission. The branded adventure has been viewed over three million times.
With Rogue One starring the second female lead character in a row, Disney is making extra efforts to include women in its marketing efforts.
Target’s “There’s A Rebel in All of Us” ad features three females and one man, each relating how Star Wars makes them feel like they can accomplish anything. Unlike Rey from The Force Awakens, who was mysteriously absent from a number of toy lines, Jyn Erso is a prominent figure—action or otherwise—among merchandise this time around.
In fact, you’ll notice a lot of female figures in Star Wars campaigns this year, including this heart-warming ad by Globe that promotes donations to the Phillippine General Hospital Medical Foundation.
“We want to continue to build on the female audience but the multi-generational piece is also a focus,” said Anna Hill. “If we can get more families to watch the film together then that’s great.”
Measuring digital content engagement across 600,000 digital outlets, marketing tech company, Amobee found that LEGO was the brand most associated with Rogue One between September 13 and December 13. Out the top 10, the brands most associated with Rogue One between September 13 and December 13 are Uber, Hasbro, Nerf, Verizon, Gillette, SoftBank, Hot Topic and O2.
[a]list summit is heading to Los Angeles on February 16 at the InterContinental Los Angeles with a one-day event for marketers to understand and engage the massive audience around competitive gaming and eSports. It was announced today.
With millions of eSports enthusiasts around the world, the games industry is again in the limelight attracting brand investments ranging from food and beverage to insurance. On pace to become a $1.1 billion dollar market by 2019, eSports entertains 131 million fans around the world according to Newzoo. In fact, millennials watch more eSports than baseball and ice hockey combined.
But the audience surrounding competitive gaming is even larger than that—there are about 1.8 billion people in the world who play games—against friends, family and strangers each and every day. This presents a massive opportunity for brands to get in front of people by engaging in one of the world’s most popular forms of entertainment.
“Since we’ve started reporting on competitive gaming, there’s been a surge in interest in it as non-endemic brands have started to enter the fray. This year has been especially busy on that front,” said Lauren Arevalo-Downes, editorial director of [a]listdaily. “But it’s not like traditional sports—this is a digital-centric audience that is more mercurial in their needs and interests, especially when it comes to how brands engage with them.”
“We felt there was a need to walk marketers through the world of competitive gaming and to help them understand the opportunity. Marketers need to know how to insert brands into this growing and engaging world, who the major players are, how to get started and where things are heading. Brands certainly have the opportunity to quickly create a digital presence with online entertainment,” said Eric Ayzenberg, chief strategist and creative officer of Ayzenberg Group and publisher of [a]listdaily.
With keynotes and speakers set to be announced in the coming weeks, the one-day event will provide marketers with the knowledge and the contacts they need to activate the audience of competitive gaming and eSports.
‘Tis the season for Santa, and some virtual reality, for Six Flags.
The world’s largest regional theme park company is capping off the year with a national marketing partnership with Hallmark Channel billed as “Countdown to Christmas” to spread some extra cheer during the holidays. And for those interested in screams instead, the two brands are bringing a wild VR experience with “Santa’s Wild Sleigh Ride.”
Hallmark Channel is leveraging its holiday programming with original promotional content, custom signage and behind-the-scenes video playing throughout Six Flags’ eight domestic theme parks, and on Six Flags’ online channels. In return, the TV network is promoting “Holiday in the Park” online and integrating on-air with the daily lifestyle show Home & Family.
Six Flags is also continuing its push toward immersive, heart-pumping experiences with yet another VR ride where guests can launch snowballs at flying targets as they follow a mischievous elf trying to spoil Santa’s mission to deliver toys on Christmas Eve.
In March, Six Flags and Samsung pushed the boundaries for consumers and partnered to launch the first VR roller coasters in North America locations across the United States. The broad marketing partnership has been a hit with guests who like to take their thrills to entirely new levels with VR rides like “Shock Wave,” “Goliath,” “The New Revolution,” and “Superman.”
[a]listdaily was joined by James Geiser, corporate vice president of marketing and sales for Six Flags, and Stephanie Borges, vice president of North America strategic marketing and partnerships for Six Flags, to discuss the theme parks holiday marketing strategy.
“Holiday in the Park” will be open daily beginning December 17 and running until January 1, 2017. It was operating only weekends until last Sunday.
Why was it imperative for Six Flags to partner with Hallmark Channel for “Countdown to Christmas” through a content partnership?
Stephanie: When it comes to working with partners, we are always looking for an endemic fit. We have an incredible holiday platform and with the Hallmark Channel being the marquee network for holiday programming, it aligned perfectly.
What are you trying to accomplish with this national marketing deal?
Stephanie: We are always exploring new opportunities to entertain our guests in unique and relevant ways and providing experiences they cannot get elsewhere. Through this strategic partnership, we are able to bring the joy of the holiday season to guests through the Hallmark Channel platform. In addition to Hallmark Channel being featured through our holiday-themed virtual reality coaster at Six Flags Magic Mountain, Hallmark Channel’s ‘Countdown to Christmas’ content is also showcased in-parks on Six Flags TV. Finally, the partnership includes promotion of Six Flags’ tentpole event, ‘Holiday in the Park,’ via Hallmark Channel’s on-air and online media elements that take place across eight Six Flags parks across the country this season.
How have your original branded content activations been received in the past?
Stephanie: Original branded content has been very well received by our guests. There’s a natural synergy between our brand and the entertainment properties as our target audiences are very well aligned. The environment lends itself well to engaging guests who are looking to be entertained, and the content resonates with fans.
What is the social and digital marketing strategy for “Holiday in the Park” that you plan on executing this year? Do you plan on testing any new platforms?
James: Our strategy for social and digital marketing during ‘Holiday in the Park’ is to be where our guests are—to engage with them within the platforms they are using, and to convey to them what a wonderful family experience it is to visit us during the holiday season. We look to our advertising agency to help us identify the best places for us to be in order to connect with our audience, and yes—we are constantly exploring and testing new platforms because we need to be where guests are, when they are searching for and sharing their experiences.
What are you doing to have guests wanting to walk into your park, rather than the competitor, during the holiday season? Is Christmas just as great a season as Halloween?
James: Six Flags prides itself on providing our guests with new and innovative offerings year-round. During our signature seasonal events—‘Fright Fest’ and ‘Holiday in the Park’—our parks are transformed to provide a fully immersive experience. During ‘Fright Fest,’ hundreds of scare-actors roam our midways and we feature intricately themed haunted attractions, along with our signature collection of record-breaking roller coasters, rides and attractions. For our ‘Holiday in the Park’ event, our parks become winter wonderlands filled with millions of dazzling lights, holiday-themed entertainment, seasonal culinary offerings and of course, our great rides and attractions. Both of these signature events are extremely popular with our guests.
How does Six Flags welcome experiential marketing in its parks?
Stephanie: Our parks are the perfect venue for a wide variety of experiential marketing programs throughout the season, including mobile tours, character appearances, as well as digital and social media activations. These promotions provide new activities and entertainment for our guests and pass holders, while brands receive one-on-one interactions and undivided attention from their target consumer.
“Santa’s Wild Sleigh Ride” is the park’s latest virtual reality addition. How have your VR coasters been received by consumers in 2016? Is there a growing appetite for such gaming-like experiences?
Stephanie: There is definitely a big market for virtual reality and immersive entertainment. Six Flags was the first in North America to introduce this 360-degree degree ‘virtual world to real world’ experience on a roller coaster and it has been a game-changer. Guests’ response has been extremely favorable.
Are you working with Samsung and other partners for more VR experiences in your parks for 2017?
Stephanie: We are excited about offering our guests more virtual reality experiences in the future.
Based loosely on the popular book series by Sara Shepard, Pretty Little Liars is a teen drama on the Freeform channel that follows the lives of four girls (Spencer Hastings, Aria Montgomery, Hanna Marin, and Emily Fields) in the town of Rosewood, Pennsylvania. Once close friends, their group fell apart when their clique leader, Alison DiLaurentis, was allegedly murdered. However, they are reunited when a mysterious villain named “A” torments them with knowledge of their pasts.
The TV show is in its seventh and final season, but that doesn’t necessarily mean an end to the Liars and their stories. Pocket Gems’ interactive storytelling platform, Episode (famous for its Mean Girls story and Path to Fame: Confidently Me, featuring singer, Demi Lovato) launched the first season of its Pretty Little Liars story today, developed in partnership with Warner Horizon Television and the show’s creative team.
Episode’s head of studio, Michael Dawson, spoke with [a]listdaily recently to talk about bringing Pretty Little Liars to the mobile platform, which currently boasts over 2.25 billion episodes viewed across 37,000 stories, and how the series will continue after the show ends.
Dawson explained that the partnership came together because Pretty Little Liars is one of the most popular shows among Episode’s core audience right now. Episode then talked with Warner Bros., and the showrunners thought that it would be a great way for fans to continue the story after the final season concludes.
“We worked with Marlene King, the creator of the show, and Warner Bros. to think through it (creating the experience),” said Dawson. “What we thought would be most fun for fans was letting them enter the world of Pretty Little Liars at the beginning of the story. They get to be friends with the four Liars, hang out in Rosewood, and make choices that shape the story while experiencing the mystery, fun and intrigue of their world. In order to keep it fresh, new and exciting, there are a whole set of new twists and turns—so the story won’t turn out the same way as it did in the show.”
When asked how Pretty Little Liars is special to Episode, Dawson said: “We have quite a large audience. We’ve had over two billion episodes read [and] millions of weekly active users. So, we can survey them and ask them: ‘if we were to partner with great Hollywood shows, what would they be most excited about?’ Pretty Little Liars has always come up towards the top of that list. Another thing is that it’s a wonderful world that helps us continue to expand what happens on Episode. For example, when we worked with Demi Lovato, we were able to bring music together with romance. With Mean Girls, we brought comedy in. Pretty Little Liars brings in suspense, intrigue and mystery in a way that we haven’t done as much and lets us push what’s possible.”
Dawson also explained the benefits of using the Episode platform in comparison to launching a more standalone Pretty Little Liars app to keep fans engaged. “I think there are a couple of elements,” said Dawson. “[But] one is that it (Episode) allows you to create a character that you can enter the world as, unlike the passive ways to consume Pretty Little Liars as a book or show. This is built around true interactive entertainment, where you step into the world and shape it. For a generation that has grown up entirely with smartphones and social media, where they’re used to being a participant in their stories, we’re letting them do that with Pretty Little Liars, and letting them become friends with these wonderful characters that they’ve grown up with. I think that’s something that would be really different from if it were done as a standalone app experience.”
So how does Pretty Little Liars compare to Mean Girls? “I think what’s similar about them is our approach to make them truly Hollywood-caliber stories and bringing them together with the interactive elements. With Mean Girls, we worked with Kiwi Smith, who co-wrote Legally Blond and Ten Things I Hate About You, to write it. With Pretty Little Liars, we worked with a team of great Hollywood screen writers, writers from the show, and Marlene King to ensure exceptional quality. The difference is in how we make sure the mood feels different. With Mean Girls, the mood is comedy, and here [with PLL] we had to make sure you have those kinds of edge of your-seat suspense moments that people love so much.”
Episode will work to time part of its Pretty Little Liars season with the show when it resumes in 2017. Dawson discussed how the mobile experience will also be promoted on the show’s related websites, and Episode is partnering with Snapchat to put out a range of promotions that will be targeted around schools across the US and Canada. Furthermore, there will be a launch event in New York City. Episode is “pushing out meaningful messages across marketing channels all around mobile, from Facebook to Instagram and YouTube,” said Dawson.
So, what will bring fans to Episode for more Pretty Little Liars? “It’s such a fun world to be a part of,” said Dawson. “The four Liars are like your other best friends, and you can hang out and be with them. They get to experience a heightened, phenomenal world where so many crazy things happen. Then they have to constantly be on guard while wondering what’s going to happen next. That feeling of being on the edge of your seat and not knowing what’s going to happen and being friends with the Liars are the two reasons that felt great for Episode. Here, you get to create a character and step into that world.”
But that raises the question of how suspenseful the Episode story can get, considering how Pretty Little Liars has both a popular book and TV series. Committed fans might already have an idea of what’s coming. “What’s good is, as they go through it, they will see that it’s not what they expect at all,” explained Dawson. “It is a different story, and we made some key and critical changes to make sure that they know it’s a new story—including how they’ll have to keep reading to find out who A is.”
For a new audience, who may not be familiar with the show or books, “they will get a chance to experience an amazing story, based in a high school world,” said Dawson. “It has suspense, it has intrigue, and it will let them meet four of the best friends they’ll ever have.”
The time has come for eggnog, ugly sweaters and of course, shopping frenzies. Social media analytics firm Talkwalker has compiled some of the most talked-about toys and tech of the holiday season from break-out hits to legacy gifts that return year after year. See what’s hot . . . and surprisingly not.
“When it comes to technology gifts, you aren’t in the game unless you are looking at a Microsoft Xbox,” Talkwalker notes. The gaming console has received more than 600,000 social media mentions over the past seven days, making the Xbox and its games the number one technology gift for 2016. PlayStation, meanwhile has sold over 50 million units worldwide but isn’t getting the same social attention. We asked why that might be.
“Some brands are way out front in terms of doing a great job in social media marketing and their partners (like retailers) are also pushing their products in their social media marketing,” Talkwalker CEO Todd Grossman told [a]listdaily. “In the case of Xbox, the launch of a sexy new game like Dead Rising 4 has also impacted the chatter in social, keeping the name trending.”
Talkwalker noted that Dead Rising 4 is probably the hottest trending item in the technology category, increasing more than 235 percent in the past seven days—with just the words, “Dead Rising” jumping 106 percent as well. If you’ve “gotta catch ’em all,” you’re not alone—games like Pokémon Sun and Moon and toys like Winking Pikachu Plush are driving the conversation with more than 925,000 mentions of Pokémon and its toys over the past week.
This year’s must-have toy is the Hatchimal—a toy that emerges from its egg with the help of its owner. The lovable creature is consistently trending high with nearly unique 30,000 mentions over the past week, Talkwalker reports. Which Hatchimal you get is a mystery every time, adding a sense of surprise to the novelty. San Antonio television station KENS posted a Facebook Live stream of a Hatchimal “hatching” and has received 1.4 million views.
Hot Wheels is holding its own with more than 16,000 mentions over the past week, while new “hot” toys like Shopkins (8,300 mentions) and Tsum Tsum (6,900 mentions) join the trending list alongside this classic toy franchise.
Star Wars is always a hot topic, but more so this week as Rogue One: A Star Wars Story debuts in US theaters. Despite the excitement of fans on social media, the conversation doesn’t include much about merchandise, with Star Wars toys getting fewer than 5,000 mentions over the past seven days.
“I think there’s a tendency to talk about new and different things on social, like Hatchimals for example,” Grossman explained. “Star Wars merchandise alongside the release of a new movie is effective but it may not inspire you to share your purchase on social.”
Despite being fake, the Fisher Price Happy Hour Playset is still generating some buzz online with more than 5,000 mentions in the past week. Fake news like this impacts social media tracking, but Grossman says Talkwalker has a solution.
“When you are looking at data around Christmas toys and ‘Trump’ pops up as a trending topic,” he noted, “you know that is probably the result of something other than a Donald Trump life-sized doll being sold at the holidays. With the Talkwalker platform, you can dig deep into any subject and see where it really comes from and even eliminate it from your search results when you know that the subject matter doesn’t relate to the topic.”
Drones are undoubtedly a gift item this holiday season with 218,000 mentions over the past week, while the Fitbit (170,000 mentions) and Apple Watch (100,000 mentions) most likely appearing under the tree, as well.
When it comes to phones, Apple’s iPhone rules social media with nearly 31,000 mentions, Talkwalker reported, while Samsung Galaxy was mentioned 20,000 times and the Google Pixel Phone mentioned 10,000 times. Apple’s iPad appears to be the most popular tablet, as well with 58,000 mentions, while the MS Surface Book received 3,100, Samsung Galaxy Tablet mentioned 327 times and Google Pixel Tablet mentioned 209 times.
Trending topics come and go, but Grossman’s analytics firm has noticed a pattern across social media and how brands are really getting mentioned.
“I think one thing we’ve noticed a lot with brands is that it often isn’t ‘branded’ content that trends,” he said. “It will be a post produced by a customer or influencer about a brand or product. This doesn’t mean brands should give up, but more that they should have a clear plan on how to get people involved and how to track when their brand is being mentioned in this way.”
Founded in 2006, Gunnar Optiks manufactures computer and gaming glasses that protect against digital eye strain. They’re helpful to anyone who stares at digital screens all day, but Gunnar has made a particularly strong impression on the video game community. Over the past decade, the company’s partnerships have included such industry giants as Major League Gaming (MLG) and Blizzard Entertainment, spreading a message of eye health and fashion across the world. Chad Wingerd, community and communication manager for Gunnar Optiks joined [a]listdaily to explain how these team-ups came about, how Tony Stark started wearing Gunnars and where those trademark amber lenses might turn up next.
“Each [partnership] so far has been pretty unique,” Wingerd explained. “MLG was gaining huge momentum in those days, so it seemed appropriate to partner with the biggest name in eSports as the biggest brand in computer and gaming eyewear.” Gunnar Optiks and MLG became official partners in the fall of 2009 and since then have offered MLG-branded frames while using the eSports platform to bring awareness to the public about eye strain.
Two months ago, Gunnar announced a partnership with Game Grumps, a comedy duo that streams video games online. The relationship began when Gunnar found out that co-host Arin Hanson was already a loyal user.
“He randomly tweeted about us one day, which received a lot of positive attention, so we reached out to him to see what possibilities were available,” Wingerd related. “After having Arin visit our headquarters and a lot of emails later, the Game Grumps Enigma were born. The launch was absolutely phenomenal and we couldn’t have asked for a bigger success. Only 300 were made and the rush was so great, our website couldn’t keep up with the demand. In the end, we sold out in five and a half hours and I suspect, had we not experienced the latency issues, we would have sold out in three or four. This, in turn, gave us an opportunity to reevaluate our site in terms of optimization, which we’ve since cranked up quite a bit. The next time that many people come to our site, we’ll be ready!”
“Blizzard, meanwhile, was something our company wanted, so we reached out to them before Heroes of the Storm had even launched,” he continued. “We worked with them to design the Siege and Strike models which, to this day, are two of the most modern styles we’ve ever done.” Although Gunnar’s partnership extends only to Heroes of the Storm, Activision Blizzard’s Overwatch League means more gamers will need to protect their eyes during long practice sessions.
“Gamers were the ones who helped Gunnar really get off the ground in its early days, so we remain extremely loyal and supportive,” said Wingerd. “With the Overwatch League, though, something really unique is happening in that anyone can feasibly become an Overwatch pro. The League’s design is brilliant because it is inclusive, and anyone willing to put in the time and effort can potentially make it. As a company, we applaud Blizzard for thinking outside the box and we will remain right here, ready to provide players with the protective eyewear they need.”
Gunnar is no stranger to professional eSports partnerships, however. “We are very fortunate to already have strong ties to the gaming industry, which is where the lion’s share of our fans and followers hail from,” he noted. “This is why we’re always being mindful of their tastes and with what’s popular to them in order to generate greater awareness. The way we see it, you can never have others know too much about your brand. Through our relationships with professionals like Jordan “n0thing” Gilbert and Gonzalo “ZeRo” Barrios, as well as popular streamers and other personalities, we’re hoping to keep this momentum going.”
Although gaming is Gunnar Optiks’ bread and butter, Wingerd says the company is also actively reaching out to the non-gaming world.
“Gamers are readily accessible,” he explained, “typically congregating in public or virtual spaces, so we’re right there with them as much as we can. Non-gamers, though, aren’t as prone to regularly gather with others who share their passions and interests, so we have to come up with savvy ways of reaching them. As a small company, this can be challenging, but we love being creative! That’s why we designed a [special web page] and had two commercials produced. Our hope is that through humor peppered with facts, we can get our message out there in an educational and memorable way.”
The company succeeded in gaining the attention of Tony Stark, aka Iron Man (played by Robert Downey Jr.), so that’s a great start. Gunnar Optiks has been getting the superhero treatment from Marvel, making appearances in two recent films. Stark wore Vayper frames in The Avengers: Age of Ultron, and Kurt (the Russian hacker) wore Vinyl frames in Ant-Man.
“Not long ago, we started working with a friend in the entertainment industry who helps place products in film and television,” said Wingerd. “That person, in turn, provided someone from Marvel Entertainment’s film division with a pair of Gunnars and he loved them so much, he’s been extremely loyal in having our eyewear featured in Marvel films when and where appropriate.”
Gunnar also utilizes influencers called Visionaries to help spread brand awareness across multiple channels.
“When we have major initiatives in development, I’ll reach out to them to keep them informed and seek their assistance in supporting our plans. In turn, we show our appreciation to them by sending new frames, extra pairs to have for their audience-building and charitable efforts, and by providing social media support in order to do our part in helping them grow their channels. I am absolutely honored and pleased with our Visionaries for being so loyal to us.”
So, what’s next for the amber-lens-wearing defenders of eyeballs?
“I can at least say we have a few ideas swirling around inside our heads for the future,” Wingerd concluded. “Nothing set in stone, but we’re always looking for creative ways to help our brand grow. What is really exciting is what’s to come. I know, that’s a horrible teaser to leave people hanging on, but keep an eye on Gunnar in 2017 because we have some really cool things coming down the pipe.”
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