Exclusive: Nat Geo Wraps UPS Mega-Deal

On the heels of the launch of its new global advertising campaign, UPS has signed on as a lead sponsor of National Geographic Channel’s upcoming miniseries, Great Migrations. One of just four marketers to be offered time in and around the seven-part series, UPS has carved out an opportunity to exhibit its custom creative in a clutter-free, contextually relevant environment.

Per terms of the deal, UPS will unveil a series of four custom 30-second spots during the premiere run of Nat Geo’s Great Migrations. Designed to create an association between animal migratory behavior and the logistics that allow UPS to unfailingly ship millions of packages around the globe, the four co-branded spots feature footage of scuttling crabs, undulating jellyfish and hundreds of albatross taking wing over a southern sea.

Perhaps the most visually relevant spot is that which features a column of army ants laden with “precious cargo.” As the ants march up the trunk of a tree in the Costa Rican rain forest, the military precision of their nocturnal maneuvers is likened to the intricacies of the UPS global network. “In their world, like ours, successful supply chains depend on logistics,” the voiceover intones, before announcing that “UPS is the proud sponsor of Great Migrations on the National Geographic Channel.”

At the close of each spot, the UPS logo appears above the company’s new tagline, “We love logistics,” and the URL (thenewlogistics.com).

The spots will generally run adjacent to UPS’ recently unveiled brand spots, which riff off the old Dean Martin chestnut, “That’s Amore.” For example, one ad swaps out the moon/sky/big pizza pie romanticism of the original tune with the verse, “When it’s planes in the sky, for a chain of supply, that’s logistics.”

Nat Geo produced the four co-branded UPS ads in collaboration with the client and its agency of record, Ogilvy & Mather. “UPS had moved agencies when we first began talking about Great Migrations, so we were aware that they were taking their campaign in a new direction,” said Rich Goldfarb, svp, media sales, National Geographic Channel. “Their newfound emphasis on logistics proved to be a great contextual fit with what Great Migrations is all about. It was sort of a marriage made in heaven.”

Ogilvy won the $200 million UPS account in October 2009, succeeding The Martin Agency in Richmond, Va. (domestic) and McCann Erickson in London (international). Ogilvy’s sister agency, Maxus, now handles UPS’ media buying.

UPS did not have a presence on Nat Geo prior to the Great Migrations deal. “To my recollection it actually is the first time UPS has sponsored anything on our air,” Goldfarb said. “In this year’s upfront we wrote a lot of deals with folks that had never advertised with us. We did business with at least 30 new advertisers and many of those went from zero commitment to over $1 million.”

The greater “We love logistics”-based campaign marks UPS’ first global branding effort, replacing the eight-year-old incumbent tag, “What can brown do for you?” The new initiative takes the focus away from the brand’s signature color scheme and takes a more systematic approach, underscoring the critical steps that allow the company to get its customers’ packages to their ultimate destination. It also helps remind viewers that UPS has evolved beyond a parcel-delivery service into a full-on supply-chain logistics provider.

“We’ve been fairly consistent in our approach to television, in that we’ve always been very selective in what we buy,” said Betsy Wilson, advertising director at UPS. “Our big targets are live sports and news, the kind of content that reaches that business decision-maker, the person who makes the decisions about shipping.” Nat Geo neatly conforms to that profile; per Scarborough data, 45 percent of its viewers boast annual household income of $75,000 and up. Median income is $69,000, which suggests that NGC reaches one of the wealthiest TV audiences outside of the Golf Channel.

“There’s a nice alignment between the stories National Geographic Channel is telling in the Great Migration series and the particulars behind moving goods around the world every day,” Wilson said. “We take seriously how we associate our brand and this is a quality effort.”

UPS is executing a similar sponsorship on National Geographic Asia.

Along with its linear-TV presence, UPS will also be featured in a two-page spread in the November issue of National Geographic magazine. The left side of the spread features a photo of a black-browed albatross under two paragraphs of copy that describe how the seabird can put in enough air miles to circle the globe 40 times, and yet will always find its mate when it returns home. On the facing page, UPS describes itself as “the world’s largest customs broker,” adding that as owner of one of the largest fleets of airlines, it can “shrink the world for you.” Tune-in information appears at the bottom of the first page.
Also buying time in Great Migrations are Honda, BASF and DirecTV. Per terms of the deal, Honda will roll out a new entry in its “Dream the Impossible” documentary series during the Great Migrations run. Additional on-air elements include 30-second spots, trailers and a series of co-branded interstitials.

Nat Geo calls Great Migrations its most ambitious programming initiative to date. In fact, the effort to collect the footage may well have been the most arduous undertaking in the 122-year history of the National Geographic Society. Three years in the making, the Great Migrations crew traveled 420,000 miles across 20 countries on all seven continents in order to bring the concept to life. It chronicles the epic seasonal journeys undertaken by a veritable menagerie of earth-bound and aquatic species.

The miniseries premieres Sunday, Nov. 7, at 8 p.m. EST.