Any ad campaign that hopes to make it in New York City must succeed in grabbing the attention of an ad saturating population that is bombarded by a new marketing message almost by the minute.
That’s just what Turner Sports and its media partner, MediaVest USA, accomplished last fall during the Major League Baseball playoff season. In a first for New York’s public transit system, Turner worked with MediaVest and transit experts at the CBS Outdoor advertising company to install video screens in the shuttle train between Times Square and Grand Central station. Passengers were treated to streaming video feeds with up-to-the-minute scores and highlights of divisional and championship series playoff games airing on TBS.
Meanwhile, subway cars were wrapped inside and out with ads featuring images of players including Jorge Posada and Mariano Rivera set against the backdrop of Yankee Stadium. The goal: to create an immersive experience for commuters that delivered on MLB’s “Never Miss a Moment” campaign promise. And, of course, to deliver big ratings for the cable network’s prized, post-season baseball coverage.
“We wanted people to step onto a train and immediately feel like they were at the ballpark,” says Christina Miller, senior vice president of strategy, marketing and programming at Turner Sports.
While digital ads have become ubiquitous at out-ofhome venues like bus stations and in elevators, Miller says the idea to apply the technology inside subway cars arose out of early planning meetings with the league and its agency. “The digital component allowed us reach into consumers’ everyday lives in a way that was immediate and meaningful,” she says. “We knew MLB had tremendous assets that we could activate. But we needed to revise the strategy as the narrative of the season evolved.”
A considerable amount of testing went into configuring the screens, adds Norm Chait, vp/director of out-of-home investment and activation at MediaVest. “It was a question of logistics, cost, how to change out the video feeds on a daily basis. The MTA liked the idea, so we said let’s let consumers sample this great volume of content outside their living rooms in a real-time way.” The campaign proved to be an effective use of media dollars. “Out of home typically has some of the lowest CPMs in the industry. There’s more accountability and measurement in this space than ever before,” says Chait.
“In terms of capital expenses and production charges, it was all baked into the campaign and it was not out of the realm of our client wanted to spend.” Miller says ROI for any one component should not be viewed in isolation but that “the digital piece mix,” which included videotaped footage of Kid Rock’s performances of Born Free shown in movie theaters and during the MLB telecasts.
Overall, the campaign scored big with more than 42 million impressions from extensive local media coverage and PR initiatives. From a ratings perspective, “the playoff season delivered outstanding year-over-year growth,” says Miller, noting that game six of the American League Championship series between the Yankees and Texas Rangers generated 11.9 million viewers, making it the second most watched telecast in TBS’s 34-year history, behind Game 7 of the 2008 ALCS between Boston and Tampa Bay.
“We were prepared to be lucky,” says Miller of the fortuitous appearance of the Yankees in the post season. “The games themselves were so compelling. We just made sure we came out with an effective message in the right place at the right time.”