I woke up this morning to see something that made the social marketing geek in me giddy with excitement.The sports news arm of The Onion, everyone’s favorite mock news site, used their Twitter account, @OnionSports, to sponsor the trending topic #BCS on the day of the BCS National Championship Game. This coincides with the launch of their new show, Onion SportsDome, premiering tomorrow on Comedy Central.
I love Onion Sports Network for inserting themselves into the existing conversation around the biggest event in college football with creative, fun, talkable tweets that promote and enhance their brand. They’re not just trying to drive direct traffic to their website or a contest via the promoted tweets — they are producing great, relevant content that supports the identity of their new show in a non-intrusive, marketing-y way. Seriously – take a look at their tweets today. They’re fantastic.
Let’s face it: most advertising is intrusive, irrelevant and unwanted. When Twitter introduced “Promoted Trends” last year, Mashable’s Pete Cashmore called it “ingenious” because they would be fully integrated into the existing user experience and “unlikely to irk Twitter addicts.” But it has to be more than just there. A brand needs to make their media buy part of a conversation big enough that people will already be talking about it, or integrate within other forms of social media that are unique enough to get people talking about it. Most trend searches have been purchased to coincide with specific events that pertain to something the sponsoring brand has created. The first trend purchased was by Disney Pixar for the release of Toy Story 3. McDonalds purchased the trend “McRib is back” for the re-release of the McRib, which brought both positive and negative exposure. Progressive bought #DressLikeFlo for Halloween and linked to a “costume checklist.” You get the idea. As Twitter has established itself as a platform for conversation and information-sharing among like-minded people, brands have had to forgo their traditional methods of push-marketing of carefully crafted promotional messages and interact on a personal, conversational level in order to be successful on Twitter. Few truly do it well. But when an opportunity arises where a brand knows people will already be talking about their product, or something related to their product, and they want to amplify the conversation, Twitter is a perfect medium.
Which brings me to a simple question – where is Tostitos? Tostitos is the official sponsor of two of this year’s BCS bowl games – the Fiesta Bowl, which was played on January 1 between the Oklahoma Sooners and the Connecticut Huskies – and the BCS National Championship game to be played tonight between the Oregon Ducks and the Auburn Tigers. They are in a unique position because their brand, unlike nearly every other college bowl sponsor, actually complements the experience of watching the game. I almost always have Tostitos and salsa or dip when watching the Fiesta Bowl and, in fact, did buy Scoops for tonight’s title game.
During last week’s Fiesta Bowl figured that Tostitos must be actively talking about the games with followers on Twitter, but when I searched Twitter for an official Tostitos account, I found nothing. There is a @tostitos account, created September 5, 2008, though inactive (zero tweets posted) and not even branded as owned by the company. It’s most likely owned by a Twitter squatter, hoping Tostitos will pay them for it once they decide to start using Twitter and claim it. They do have a Facebook page with over 48,000 fans, but a quick look reveals that they are mostly just sharing videos from YouTube , often not even with contextual headline comments. Their marketing of the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl on January 1 consisted solely of a promotional update: “Don’t forget to watch the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl tonight at 8:30pm EST on ESPN!” and a few videos about the “Tostitos Connect to Home Bowl” for troops abroad. Granted, I’m a social media/marketing/advertising geek who perhaps pays too much attention to how brands are effectively using Facebook and Twitter. But with a huge brand like Tostitos I’m just left dumbfounded at how much opportunity for connection with sports fans they left on the table. Isn’t there ANYBODY who works for Tostitos, is a sports fan and is active on Twitter who can engage with fans leading up to and during the game? Their partnership with troops abroad is admirable, but it’s really just been executed as traditional push marketing: they haven’t integrated it into any existing conversations, and consequently, despite their large number of Facebook fans, it’s received little response in the form of likes and comments. In my opinion, as a major snack brand, produced by Frito Lay, which is a Pepsi Co. division, I just can’t fathom why they don’t have a Twitter account. Is this what it’s come to? Without an active, engaged Twitter account a major brand is already in the hole? I can already think of numerous ways Tostitos could have enhanced the conversation around their brand during these games through Twitter and other forms of social media, but as this post is getting long enough, perhaps I’ll save that for another post.
So I turn it to you. Would you like to see Tostitos participate more with fans in the BCS conversation, or would you rather them stay out of the conversation and leave it to real sports fans? What do you think Tostitos could have done around the BCS games that would have enhanced their sponsorship?