by Freddy J. Nager, Founder of Atomic Tango LLC + Sports Fan
Raise your hand if you’ve heard of Versus… Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?
Apparently, not too many people know about the small sports network, which I personally appreciate for bringing me football games from the Ivy League. Where else would I be able to catch the Harvard-Cornell game in L.A.?
Obviously, Versus wants more than us middle-aged marketing geeks. So in an effort to generate awareness, Versus is asking for more than a show of hands. They’re literally asking people to “Show Me Your V.”
Of course, they mean the V-sign for victory and, of course, Versus. You understood that immediately, right? And readers are invited to submit those images to Versus on a dedicated “Show Me Your V” page. So far (as of 11 am PST on January 5) they’ve had 12 responses. Which is probably most of their viewing audience. Of course, these are just the pictures they’re allowed to show without becoming a porn site.
Now, I actually like the victory sign symbol for Versus. (Even if it is an obscene gesture in Italy.) Symbolism is integral for building a brand. I also think the bid for user-generated content is fine, albeit a little tired here in 2009. And I understand that the audience for Versus is probably 99.9% male, so they might dig on the “Man Show” caliber double entendre, while the women who are offended by “Show Me Your V” have probably never even heard of the channel. Until now.
How does this campaign measure on the 3B’s (Buzz, Brand, Behavior) framework?
Buzz: It’s working. Some bloggers picked it up first, then it got mentioned on Sports Illustrated’s website. Score one for Versus.
Brand: Yes, “Show Me Your V” gives the little-known sports network a veneer of edginess. Younger guys might also be amused. But I’m wondering how their sponsors and more conservative partners — like, say, the Ivy League — will respond to this. Is that an incipient anti-Versus feminist rally I hear forming in Harvard Yard right now? And that hand gesture the women are making sure doesn’t look like a V…
Behavior: This is unclear. What does Versus want consumers to do here? There’s little value in an online collection of V photos, and so far it’s not generating a massive response — a whopping 12 submissions, 9 comments and 579 views. (Lack of incentive might be an issue, since there’s no prize.) Consumers can check out the rest of the Versus site, but there’s little to entice them to do so other than links. (Note to Versus: It’s OK to run ads for yourself on your own promotional page.)
I normally love any marketing campaign that takes a creative risk and doesn’t shy from controversy — particularly for challenger brands. But this poorly thought-through effort is more deserving of another popular symbol: a thumbs down.
Update 1/14/10: The promotion has ended. Did it even make a sound?
Update 8/1/11: So much for that. It was just announced that Versus is being renamed the NBC Sports Network.