Versus Network campaign

7 January 2009

“Show Me Your V”: It’s about sports. Really. I think.

by Freddy Tran Nager, Founder of Atomic Tango + Sports Fan…

Raise your hand if you’ve heard of Versus… Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

Few know about the small sports network, which I appreciate for bringing me Ivy League football. Where else could I catch the Harvard-Cornell game in L.A.?

Since Versus wants more than us middle-aged marketing geeks, they’re trying to generate awareness by asking for more than a show of hands. They’re literally asking people to “Show Me Your V.”

Really.

Of course, they mean the V-sign for victory and Versus. You understood that immediately, right? And readers can 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 — probably most of their viewing audience. Of course, these are just the pictures they can show without becoming a porn site.

Now, I like the victory sign for Versus. Symbolism is integral for a brand. I also accept vying for user-generated content, 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 would be 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 dig it (“Hey, Beavis, they said V. Heh-heh, heh-heh.”). But I wonder how their sponsors and more conservative partners — like, say, the Ivy League — will respond. Is that an incipient anti-Versus feminist rally I hear forming in Harvard Yard? Hmmm, that hand gesture the protestors are making sure doesn’t look like a V…

Behavior: Unclear. What does Versus want consumers to do? There’s zero value in an online collection of V photos, and it’s not generating a massive response — a whoppin’ 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 they’re not encouraged to do so. Note to Versus: It’s OK to run ads for yourself on your own promotional page.

I normally endorse marketing campaigns that take creative risks, particularly for challenger brands. But this poorly conceived effort deserves another popular hand 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. Versus is becoming the NBC Sports Network.

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Freddy is the Founder & Creative Strategist of Atomic Tango. He also teaches graduate-level marketing communication courses at the University of Southern California (go Trojans!), shoots pool somewhat adequately, and herds cats. Freddy received his BA from Harvard and his MBA from USC.

2 Responses

  1. Wow…that is seriously one of the most lame campaigns I’ve ever seen.

  2. 7 days later.. 2 more pictures uploaded.

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