A CBS Take on the YouTube Madness
WITH March coming in tomorrow, the March Madness days of college basketball are not far away. A division of CBS is hoping to intensify the mania by offering students and other fans a chance to create exuberant, exhortatory video clips and share them with friends, family and strangers — and use them, not incidentally, to taunt anyone who roots for opposing teams.
The CSTV Networks division of the CBS Corporation is starting a campaign today with the theme “Are you fan enough?,” inviting viewers to upload the do-it-yourself video clips to a community section of the CSTV Web site (cstv.com/postup). The campaign will appear on CSTV and cstv.com all during March Madness — officially, the men’s basketball tournament of the National Collegiate Athletic Association, which begins on March 15 — and will end after the championship game is played in Atlanta on April 2.
The campaign represents the largest effort to date by CSTV to take part in a popular trend known as user-generated content, which seeks to capitalize on the eagerness of younger consumers to produce and share video clips on Web sites like MySpace and YouTube.
“This campaign is about the voice of the fans,” said Brian T. Bedol, president and chief executive at CSTV Networks in New York. “It says CSTV is a brand that connects college sports fans to their passion.”
America is experiencing the rise of “a video filmmaker culture,” Mr. Bedol said, now that “video cameras are in the hands of millions of everyday citizens in the form of digital cameras, camcorders and cellphones.”
As a result, “we’ve watched the quality of user-generated content increase pretty dramatically over the last year or so,” he added.
In addition to media companies like CBS and Time Warner, many marketers have begun exploring the realms of user-generated content and video sharing. For example, during the Academy Awards show on Sunday on ABC, Unilever ran a commercial created by a consumer that promoted a new product, Dove Cream Oil Body Wash. The spot can now be seen on a special Web site (dovecreamoil.com).
Also, during Super Bowl XLI, on CBS on Feb. 4, three advertisers ran four spots that were created by consumers or based on consumer ideas. They were the Frito-Lay division of PepsiCo, General Motors and the National Football League.
The growing interest in creating and sharing video clips “is where consumers are going,” said Tom Shipley, director for global industry development at Anheuser-Busch in St. Louis, part of the Anheuser-Busch Companies. “It’s something they expect.”
Anheuser-Busch is teaming up with Blue Lithium, an online marketing company in San Jose, Calif., to introduce a promotional program called Clink as part of its “Here’s to beer” campaign. The program, to be housed on MingleNow, a social networking Web site (minglenow.com), will let members upload and share photographs as well as video clips.
Anheuser-Busch also plans to add a video-sharing feature to bud.tv, the entertainment Web site the company introduced this month.
Sports is considered a fertile field for user-generated content because of the intensity of fan interest. Two professional leagues — the National Basketball Association and the National Hockey League — have made deals to start branded channels on youtube.com.
“What makes YouTube and MySpace successful is the passion of people who are trying to post on those sites,” said Greg Weitekamp, broadcasting director for the N.C.A.A. in Indianapolis. “We’re excited to see what CSTV will be doing.”
To encourage college basketball fans to create and share March Madness video clips, CSTV asked Planet 3, an agency in Santa Monica, Calif., to produce examples of the kinds of material it hopes to receive. Planet 3 created six energetic, humorous commercials featuring actors who portray ardent fans of hoops powerhouses as well as lesser-known teams.
“I’m the Ba-baller,” an actor proclaims in one spot, “here to represent San Diego State.” Another spot replies to that one: a different actor taunts the “Ba-baller” by declaring, “You can’t get past the Running Rebels” of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
Perhaps the best commercial features a pair of actors trying to channel comedy skits like “Wayne’s World” or Bob and Doug McKenzie of “The Great White North” as they support tiny Winona State University, which is the defending champion of Division II.
“Win, Winona,” the two young men chant. “Win, win, Winona.” When one asks, “So why do you think we never lose?,” the other replies deadpan, “Probably because nobody can beat us.”
The sample commercials are scheduled to run on CBS, CSTV, CW, MySpace and YouTube. They can also be watched on the cstv.com/postup section of the network’s Web site.
“We tried to be as close to authentic as we could,” said Dylan Gerber, president at Planet 3, in reflecting “the intense feeling the fans have for their teams and the fierce rivalries between schools.”
Casey Moulton, creative director at Planet 3, likened the desire of fans to become videographers to the loyal way “they go to the games and cheer.”
“The hope is the fans take over and tell the story of the tournament,” he said.
The CSTV campaign is indicative of the growing importance of March Madness to CBS, which paid $6 billion for rights to the tournament from 2003 through 2014. The company covers the games on its CBS broadcast network and began last year to present free, ad-supported Webcasts of games from the first three rounds on sites like cbssportsline.com.
The Webcasts were a big hit, drawing five million visitors. CBS Sports estimated this week that it would sell $9 million to $10 million worth of ads for the Webcasts next month, compared with $4 million to $5 million in ad revenue last year.
If the fan campaign is deemed successful, Mr. Bedol said, it may return later this year, for the college football season.
The basketball video clips will be screened for language and appropriateness before going online, he added, but the goal will be to preserve their reality and spontaneity.
Awaiting the video clips is “like white-water rafting,” Mr. Bedol said, laughing. “I can’t wait to see the direction this goes.”
“Part of it,” he added, “is, ‘Hold on tight.’ ”