SBD/July 14, 2011/Marketing and Sponsorship

ESPN Uses Fake Candy Bar Spot To Test Effectiveness Of Advertising In NFL Content

ESPN hired marketing agency B.R. Zoom "to create a TV, digital and print campaign in support of the fictitious candy bar" High 5 as part of an effort to "assess how advertising performs in ESPN's NFL content," according to Anthony Crupi of ADWEEK. High 5 was "thought to serve as a perfect control in a study of commercial effectiveness, given that viewers would carry no preconceived notions about a wholly imaginary brand." The lengths to which ESPN and B.R. Zoom "went in order to convince the test subjects of the brand's veracity were almost absurdly baroque." Everything "had to be built from the ground up, from the packaging ... to the 30-second commercial designed to introduce the phantom product," and the process "took nearly three months." Crupi noted the spot is "set in a sports memorabilia shop after hours" and it "features a group of animated trading cards enthusing over a High 5 bar." ESPN "essentially had the High 5 ad compete with three ads for authentic and recognized national candy bar brands." When "introduced within the context of ESPN's NFL coverage, favorable ratings for High 5 increased 40 percent versus when the same ad was shown during non-NFL programming." Additionally, NFL fans reported that they "would pay a 10 percent premium for a High 5 bar after viewing the spot during ESPN's pigskin coverage." Crupi wrote, "If nothing else, the High 5 experiment demonstrates the lengths to which ESPN will go to help advertisers find the most receptive audience for their brands" (, 7/13).
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