More proof that online video is opening up new advertising and engagement possibilities beyond traditional TV, as premium travel lifestyle company Tumi - which has never run a TV ad - has opted to exclusively sponsor a new web series called "Bourdain's TV Crew." Tumi's SVP, Brand Management, Alan Krantzler told me last week that its commitment was driven by a desire to increase brand awareness among younger customers and to leverage Bourdain's large Facebook fan base to build its own.
The 8-episode series goes behind the scenes of "Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations," with crew members discussing and illustrating the intense ups and downs of life on the road. The series was put together by Outrigger Media, which in turn brought Zero Point Zero Productions on board to create the series (note ZPZ is also the producer, with a separate crew, of No Reservations itself). In addition to YouTube, distribution of the new series is also through travel sites and Tremor Video's network. The final episode, "The Pack Out" will be available exclusively on Tumi's Facebook page.
Outrigger's CEO Mike Henry explained that the unique fit between the project's partners is what makes it special, and the collaboration capitalized on Outrigger's expertise in bringing together brands and content creators. Both Alan and Mike emphasized that striking the right balance of Tumi's brand presence in the videos was critical. Although there is strong Tumi visibility in the introduction to each episode, subsequently it is much more subtle. Alan said that Bourdain himself (who was not involved in the project) is fond of Tumi products and his adventure-oriented brand aligned well with Tumi's mantra of exploration.
While acknowledging that for now it's hard to put a numeric value on the series, Alan said that a key objective is building Tumi's Facebook fan following. Tumi recognizes that younger people are spending less time with traditional media and that the way to reach them is through digital outlets. The company is also investing in ways to track and measure the conversion of digital initiatives to actual purchases.
Tumi's involvement underscores how niche original online series can be highly appealing to brands that are looking for targeted audiences and deeper engagement than typical 30-second TV ads offer. This is of course a key premise of YouTube's $100 million original content program. As further proof points of success emerge, I think many more brands are going to be enticed to give online video sponsorships a try.