Sponsoring a single show or night of programming wasn’t big enough for Ram, which wanted to make a statement with its latest media partnership. So the company struck a deal with History to create a full month of branded content, short-form series, quizzes and traditional ad buys across all of the network’s dayparts and platforms.
The companies are partnering on the “Stories From the Longest Road” campaign, which will feature stories and spotlight people and places along U.S. Route 20, the country’s longest road. It’s a new partnership model for History, which hopes to replicate this approach with other brands as part of A+E Networks’ new upfront messaging that its brands have cultural identities beyond the shows they air.
History, Ram and Universal McCann worked together on the campaign, which grew out of upfront conversations nine months ago, while 45th and Dean, A+E Networks in-house branded content studio, created the custom content elements.
Its centerpiece is The Longest Road, a short-form series about Route 20that will air on Tuesday nights in April. The first of three episodes, which debuted Tuesday night, featured Norman Kehl, who runs Kehl’s Maple Syrup, a family business in New York State.
There are three Longest Road episodes in all, including 30- and 90-second versions, that will run on History and its Facebook, Twitter and YouTube accounts.
History will also air a branded content spot for Ram starring Zachary Fowler, the Season 3 winner from History’s survival show, Alone.
Throughout April, Ram will also be featured on the network in various custom tune-in and bumper segments. The company also purchased ads across History’s dayparts in April as part of the partnership.
The deal includes social “Mile Marker” quizzes with Route 20-themed questions (airing on TV and Facebook) and “Postcards From Route 20” animated vignettes of unique stops along the highway (running on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube). The digital and social elements will run through May, though much of the campaign will be in April.
The truck-maker had been looking for new ways to reinforce its branding as “America’s longest-lasting pickups,” which it introduced a year ago. “We are always challenging our media partners to find creative, innovative, immersive ways to tell the fuller story of our brand,” said Jeff Summers, head of advertising for Ram.
The “longest road” theme came out of Ram’s conversations with its creative agency, The Richards Group, about ways to reinforce the company’s brand values, and then History offered Ram the opportunity to essentially take over for a full month.
“Most of what we’ve done in the past has been bigger partnerships around certain shows or events,” said Peter Olsen, evp of national ad sales for A+E Networks. “This feels different to us because the storytelling is the star of our partnership, and it’s less show-dependent. It feels much less like a sponsorship and much more like a true partnership.”
The partnership dovetails with A&E Networks’ pitch to buyers during its upfront presentation about the importance of content over data. “In this world of data and analytics, if you forget the fact that every person has a story and has emotions, you’re missing part of it,” Olsen said. “Analytics went into this [campaign] in terms of how we’re placing it, but ultimately, the storytelling and emotion we think is going to create the impact.”
While the monthlong commitment was novel for both Ram and History, Summers said, “Whether it’s 30 days or five days, the duration wasn’t as important to us as much as it was about the immersiveness of the content and the depth in which we could tell the story of America’s longest-lasting pickups.”
Because the campaign didn’t center around a single show or evening of programming, History had more flexibility to build it out than is usually the case with its brand partnerships. As a result, Olsen said, “I don’t think there’s anything forced about this. It all feels like it really flows and makes sense.”
And, the company hopes, it will be the first of several more elaborate, immersive ways to work with brands. “We hope it sets up a new way for us to partner going forward, and that’s exciting to us,” Olsen said.