Social media is redefining what it means to be a fan. Now fan armies can talk directly to their favorite musicians, actors and celebrities, bringing fans closer than ever before. A recent Adweek webinar called “Fandom in the Social Age” touched on this very topic with Viacom Velocity’s Senior Director Erin Liabo. She explained how Velocity harnessed the power of fandom to develop a viral social media marketing campaign in partnership with Coca-Cola, Tumblr and Spredfast centered around MTV’s 2015 Fandom Awards.
Viacom celebrates how our fans bring new dimensions to our brands as they make our content their own. I sat down with Liabo to talk about the explosion of fandom culture and how Velocity crafted a breakout activation around it.
“We live in a time where fan communities have their own unique identities, passions and behaviors, ultimately shaping new cultural norms along the way, ” explained Liabo. “We create cool experiences for fans and the things they love – MTV really harnesses this in a major way and pioneers new ways to reach fans. It’s not to say that fandoms haven’t always been around, we’re just activating them differently and innovating how we engage and connect with them.”
The idea for this campaign originated from Coca-Cola’s “Share-A-Coke” campaign that launched last summer. Liabo and her team sought to find an authentic place to anchor Coca-Cola while remaining true to the campaign’s overall vision of sharing and community. Through their research across the fandom landscape, they found an opportunity to build a campaign around the highly popular social behavior of ‘shipping’ – a term used to describe when fans pair characters together into romantic or platonic relationships based on their undeniable chemistry, and fans’ passion and desire to see them come together.
“’Shipping’ was a big trend that we saw in our research and it is one of the most popular insights and behaviors that takes place among fandom communities,” said Liabo. “Shipping is all about bringing two people together – this was such an organic parallel to Coke’s campaign, which is rooted in sharing moments, memories, or an emotional connection with a loved one. Or in the literal sense, sharing a Coke with your loved ones.”
‘Shipping’ thrives on Tumblr, so that’s where we inevitably activated the fan voting experience. “This is where we asked fans to share GIF content to mark their vote for the best Ships,” said Liabo. “The names of fans’ favorite ‘ships’ were then printed on custom Coke bottles for fans to showcase and share across their own personal feeds.”
Fans cast over 28 million votes on Tumblr for their favorite couples including MTV’s “Teen Wolf” (“Team Sciles) and “Faking It” (Team Karmy). Viacom Velocity’s Echo Social Graph, which measures the effectiveness and virality of marketing campaigns, tracked significant lift in fan engagement over the course of the campaign. This viral effect generated millions of impressions.
“[Fans] are loud, they’re vocal, they’re influential,” said Liabo. “Fandom is universal and these communities will advocate behind things that really mean something to them.”
It’s clear that fans are a force to be reckoned with. This campaign epitomizes how a successful partnership (in this case with Coca-Cola, Tumblr and Spredfast) and the power of authenticity can result in groundbreaking outcomes.
“It all boils down to the authenticity,” said Liabo. “It sounds like that’s just a nice thing to say but it really was a strategy that needed to stay intact or else it would have never worked.”