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Viral Hall of Fame 2007

Viral Hall of Fame 2007

MarketingSherpa Summary:
It's not every day that guerilla marketing gets replayed on ESPN over and over. Essentially, hired actors to fake the theft of a race car and make it look real, so real that it inadvertently aired as a real news story. Throw in the fact that they were targeting male NASCAR fans (yes, there were women in bikinis in the video, too) and wave the checkered flag, folks, because we have a winner. The effort received thousands of YouTube views and easily topped $1 million in free television advertising for a little-known tax-preparation site.

Agency: Napolitan Productions
Client/company: Petz Enterprises Inc.
Brand campaign was conducted for:
Launch date of campaign: Aug. 15, 2006
Target audience/demographic: Gen Y & NASCAR

Campaign Goal:
The goal was to create off-season brand awareness for our new brand in a market dominated by two industry giants -- Intuit and H&R Block.

Working with Napolitan Productions, we brainstormed for a couple of days and concluded that our NASCAR racecar sponsorship had our branding, so we felt it could be the centerpiece in a viral video. Research indicated that a NASCAR had never been stolen by a racing fan, and since these fans truly are fanatical -- just maybe a NASCAR could be stolen on lazy summer day at a small racetrack in California. Helping us along this path was the release of the movie 'Talledega Nights.' We hired real stuntmen, models and a seasoned reality TV camera crew. We rented the local racetrack to rehearse, clued in racetrack management of our plan, then the following Sunday at a live racing event, the car was "stolen."

Seed Strategy:
First, we posted a press release the day of the race (to confirm that we were at the track but did not say anything about the "theft"). On Monday, we emailed our affiliate channel, friends and families and posted to a humor forum and a couple of NASCAR/auto-racing forums while simultaneously leaking a tape of the theft to an ABC affiliate and posted the same video to YouTube and Google video.

Buzz Generated:
It was huge and went nationwide in less than 24 hours landing on ESPN Sportcenter that night (and repeated all night long) ... our then-16-year-old driver was asked to appear on "Good Morning America" and Cold Pizza (we didn't return the call) ... sports newsrooms around the country (and later the world) tried to reach out to us. The next day, it crossed networks from ABC to all the CBS affiliates and by Thursday it was running on Fox. Even CNN Sports closed the Friday sportsdesk with our clip. AP acknowledged the feat.

Specific (Goal-Related) Campaign Results:
Results were immediate. We stopped buying hit reports after the first week and by then we had amassed well over $1 million worth of free TV publicity in nearly three-fourths of all DMAs. About a month later, NBC did a viral video segment on the "Today Show" and used our clip to close. Other racing teams have even licensed the video to use in their future marketing opportunities. It has become the cornerstone of our affiliate marketing and a centerpiece in building brand awareness for our affiliate program.

Biggest Learning:
We'd probably do a micro-site with a niche domain name with additional branding or messaging, possibly run it during tax season and answer the phone rather than letting it go to voicemail.