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How It’s Built Will Determine Whether Video Content Is a House of Cards for Brand Partners

By Jim Andrews Jul 2, 2014

How It’s Built Will Determine Whether Video Content Is a House of Cards for Brand Partners

The digital video revolution is well underway. While there is a long way to go before the final business model shakes out for the ecosystem of content creators, platforms, advertisers and viewers—the future is already here.

Coming out of last week’s VidCon—the fifth annual gathering of online video creators, distributors, partners and fans that brought 18,000 attendees to San Diego—it’s even clearer that this is the future of media. With individual content creators attracting millions of subscribers—and amassing billions of views on YouTube and other platforms—brands cannot afford to ignore this new world any longer. (And some, including Taco Bell, are doing just the opposite as you can see here.)

Those marketers that remain on the sidelines are doing so for a number of reasons, ranging from simple unfamiliarity with the viewing habits and content of today’s younger generations—the personal online video tastes of those who control brand spending runs more to Netflix’ House of Cards and OITNB than YouTube’s Bethany Mota, Freddiew, Nigahiga or Awesomeness TV—to concerns over quality, measurement and other fundamental issues likely to be quickly resolved as the medium matures.

But one element of the current state of digital video that should be raising concern with potential brand partners is the focus on creating “stars” as opposed to programs, to use an old-school TV term. Concentrating more on individuals than the content they create is a dangerous path.

As others have pointed out, this is the model that radio followed, developing personalities such as Howard Stern, Casey Kasem and others who, although delivering millions of listeners, had to content themselves with third-tier brands and obscure (sometimes fly-by-night) categories as partners.

An analogy more appropriate for those of us with backgrounds in sports, entertainment and other types of sponsorship would be building properties solely on the basis of athletes, artists or other talent, and neglecting to strengthen the brands of leagues, teams, promoters and others that will be around far longer than any one individual.

There are far too many examples of human frailties negatively impacting brand partners to believe a star system is a wise move. Golf must be bigger than Tiger Woods, cycling bigger than Lance Armstrong and southern cooking bigger than Paula Deen.

It is not necessarily easy to separate the talent from the creative product in the online video world—nor would you want to completely divorce one from the other. This content needs a face and a personality, as do the brands who partner with it. Yet those brands also will need something other than the association with an individual should anything bad befall that person.

That will depend in large part on how brands choose to leverage these partnerships--whether they see them as mere ad buys and/or endorsement deals, or whether they seize the opportunity to connect with consumers by sharing relevant stories and building communities.

But in the meantime it would be smart for those on the supply side—whether the creators themselves or platforms such as YouTube—to beware the cult of personality and develop strategies to promote the powerful medium they control beyond “establishing household names.”

In this brave new world, marketers would be wise to recall some decidedly old world advice. If they focus too much on individuals and get burned, the fault will lie not in our stars, but in ourselves.

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Jim Andrews

About the Author

A 30-year sponsorship industry veteran, Jim is responsible for developing and sharing thought-leadership content based on ESP Properties’ groundbreaking work in the areas of sponsorship strategy, valuation, measurement, digital content, data-driven marketing and fan engagement.

In addition to identifying key trends and delivering his unique insights into the critical issues facing rightsholders and their commercial partners, Jim is the chairman of the Annual Sponsorship Conference, responsible for the program and speakers, as well as hosting and delivering the event’s opening address. He also is responsible for the company’s annual report and forecast of overall sponsorship spending, as well as its compilation of biggest spending companies and annual industry surveys.

A frequent media commentator and guest, Jim has been a featured speaker at hundreds of sports, entertainment and marketing conferences around the world.

 

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