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Volume 24 No. 116
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AT&T's "Be The Fan" Campaign Courts Social Media Audience With "Modern Family" Star

AT&T’s season-long “Be The Fan” college football campaign featuring “Modern Family” actor Eric Stonestreet seeks to parlay his high social media profile into ongoing fan engagement, and also uses the company’s longstanding association with ESPN’s “College GameDay” to drive social media activity. As the Fan Coach in the campaign’s ads, Stonestreet issues weekly gameday-themed challenges that fans can respond to on Twitter, Vine and Instagram with photos and videos including the hashtag #BeTheFan. The best submissions win a trip to "College GameDay" and tickets to the show’s featured game. The social media-centric campaign was a natural for Stonestreet. AT&T VP/Advertising Vance Overbey said of the actor, "We knew he had a huge social media following already, a huge Twitter following, a big presence on Vine and Instagram." Stonestreet also was aware heading into the campaign that his social media appeal -- he has more than 580,000 Twitter followers and over 95,000 Instagram followers as of presstime -- would be vital. He said, "With commercial campaigns, companies and buyers want to know what your social media reach is. I recognized that early on with Twitter -- this definitely can mean commerce for me at some point, and that’s definitely part of it when you sign these contracts. Social media, tweeting is part of it." But Stonestreet noted using his social media reach to tweet for AT&T is "kind of a catch-22." He said, "One thing I’ve learned in my recent years of being recognizable and on TV is how quickly fans and people will turn on you, and there are some people that are really put off by me advertising to them." But he added, “What people at the end of the day expect from me is to be entertained, and I feel these commercials do that."

GAME CHANGER: Overbey said ESPN’s own digital channels, from its website to social media, were instrumental in the launch of "Be The Fan." He added that AT&T makes the campaign the focus of a nearly two-minute stretch during "College GameDay," including Stonestreet’s minute-long video debuting the weekly challenge, an on-air billboard in which host Chris Fowler references the campaign and an appearance by contest winners holding the Twitter Sign of the Week. Overbey said, "That’s a great way to get people not only initially aware of the program, but continually engaged.” The commercials have asked fans for everything from their favorite football food to showing off their touchdown dances. In the contest's “Game Day Getup” challenge, Stonestreet as the Fan Coach demands a Cal fan elevate his costume commitment until he transforms into an actual bear. Stonestreet said of shooting the ad, "What was really funny about that is AT&T wasn’t comfortable with me being in the room with the bear. I wanted to be in the room with the bear, but AT&T and my agents, they didn’t want me to be in the room with the bear. ... I asked the crew, 'So, how does it make you feel that AT&T doesn’t want me in the room with the bear, but they’re all okay with you being in the room?'"

: Overbey noted social media response to the campaign has been “off the charts.” He said, “We’ve had 80%-plus higher engagement rate than we’ve had in the past on Twitter. We had over a 400% increase in sweepstakes entries over the past year. ... The social buzz is up about 271% over the previous period. So we’ve had almost 200 million consumers engage over the social media landscape in this program." "Be The Fan" wraps up on Dec. 7, with the grand prize contest winner receiving two tickets to the final BCS Championship game on Jan. 6. Despite the campaign’s success, Overbey said that AT&T has not yet decided on its future, given the changes coming to college football in '14 and myriad opportunities for sponsorship. Overbey: "Next year is a big shift with the college football playoff starting, with the SEC Network launching, the College Football Hall of Fame launching here in Atlanta, and we’re a big sponsor of that. It’s a big shift, a big year."