SBJ/April 4-10, 2011/Events and Attractions

Coke Zero-sponsored concert a first for MMOD

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"Immortals," a song by concert performers the Kings of Leon, has been used in NCAA tournament broadcasts.
When March Madness on Demand streamed the Kings of Leon concert Saturday, it marked the first time that something other than a basketball game had been broadcast on MMOD.

The concert, sponsored by Coca-Cola Zero as part of the NCAA’s “Big Dance” at Houston’s Discovery Green, was one of two major programming initiatives by the soft drink company over the Final Four weekend.

Coke Zero also sponsored a Saturday afternoon show on CBS called “Most Impressive Moments of March Madness,” which aired at 3 p.m. and served as a college basketball lead-in for the network’s pregame coverage.

Coke’s agency for the Final Four since 2003, Atlanta-based Melt, produced the TV show and the Kings of Leon concert with the help of CBS Sports producer Craig Silver. Crispin Porter & Bogusky, Coke Zero’s ad agency in Boulder, Colo., worked on strategy as well.

“What we want to do is provide the excitement of the Final Four to all of the fans, those in Houston and those who can’t be in Houston,” said William White, group director for Coke Zero and Diet Coke.

Coca-Cola, as an NCAA corporate champion, annually sponsors a Final Four concert and floods CBS with advertising throughout the NCAA tournament.

But White said the company was looking for activation opportunities that could extend beyond the usual presence at the “Big Dance” and “Bracket Town,” the NCAA’s fan fest area.

In conversations with the NCAA’s partners, CBS and Turner, Coke wanted more activity on MMOD. It already advertised heavily on the online channel with 15-second and 30-second spots, but it wanted to bring more elements to life.

“We love the TV, but we wanted more online,” White said. “We really wanted to make sure that we reach the 18-34 guys in the richest way possible. Traditional TV is a great way to talk to your audience, but we know with 18-34, they spend a lot of time in the digital world and the social world. For them, content is king. They’ve grown up in the digital media world and they expect great access and impressive content.

“To make sure we delivered that, we had to go deeper.”

Meanwhile, Turner was seeking to integrate a popular band and song into the opening of the tournament broadcasts. Kings of Leon and their song “Immortals” were identified earlier this year. The band agreed to be part of the Final Four, and Coke gave them the thumbs up to perform in Houston.

“The challenge is to get a band that everybody is going to like, from Turner to CBS to Coke and the NCAA,” said Craig Barry, Turner’s senior vice president of creative and content. “It turned out, when we contacted the band, that they’re all college sports fans and we know they’ve got a huge rock and indie following, so you’re reaching a broad demo as well.”

Coke had streamed last year’s Daughtry concert in Indianapolis onto its Facebook page, and the natural progression was to take Kings of Leon to MMOD this year.

“What we’re seeing is really the evolution of the Final Four as a global property that reaches audiences around the world,” said Vince Thompson, president and CEO of Melt, who worked on his ninth straight Final Four. “I think it’s on par with the Super Bowl as a mega sports and entertainment event, or at least a very close No. 2.”

Coke Zero’s White was influenced by the stats from last year, which showed 11.7 million hours of video was streamed on MMOD. Those numbers have remained strong this year with a 60 percent increase in total visits to MMOD going into the Final Four weekend.

“I like to consider the concert an extension of our event content,” Turner’s Barry said. “The broader we can go to bring experience to the viewer, the better off we’ll be.”

The 30-minute “Most Impressive” show on CBS tied in another online initiative, Coke Zero’s social arena on NCAA.com. The social arena aggregated Twitter posts and other social media information about the NCAA tournament into a centralized website, ncaa.com/cokezerosocialarena.

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