In its biggest youth-marketing move to date, Burger King is following millions of teenagers straight to MySpace.com, one the most popular online communities for the young to meet, chat and socialize.
Starting next week, Burger King will sponsor a branded "Have It Your Way" page—the chain's slogan—on social networking site MySpace.com where users can download free episodes of Fox's 24. Through the page, MySpace.com plans to encourage users to chat about the show, upload their own content and download other shows for $1.99 each.
The promotion launches on Monday coinciding with the finale of the show's fifth season. MySpace.com users can download the first episode of 24's first season and the first episode of the fifth season at no cost. In addition, an episode of Speed channel's Pinks and Fuel TV's FirstHand will also be offered.
The goal of Burger King's sponsorship is to give young Internet users another reason to think about the Burger King brand and to marry that association to popular TV shows and entertainment. The campaign follows Burger King's Subservient Chicken initiative, an online site launched in 2004 that lets consumers type in commands to be followed by a costumed chicken (Xtra, Oct. 20, 2004).
"We are trying to reach [consumers] in unique and innovative ways," said Gillian Smith, senior director of media and interactive for Burger King Corp. "We're just really catching up to what they are doing and where they are spending their time."
The popularity of social networking sites is evident. The number of unique visitors to top sites, including MySpace, soared from 46.8 million in April 2005 to 68.8 million last month, according to marketing research firm Nielsen//NetRatings. MySpace saw traffic increase a whopping 367% in year-over-year growth with 38.4 million unique visitors, Nielsen//NetRatings said.
"In the digital arena, we are trying to have a pull versus a push strategy in terms of who we are reaching," Smith said. "Offering free downloads is pulling people in. We're trying to do something that will get their attention."
Burger King joins other big name brands (think Pepsi, Toyota and Coca-Cola and Circuit City) that have latched on to MySpace.com to reach audiences online. Users frequent the free site to create profiles, meet new people, chat, post pictures and download music. MySpace has more 75 million registered users worldwide.
Playing with the "edgy" site entails some risks, however. MySpace, which Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. bought last year, has been in the hot seat after online predators have been found stalking teens via the site. In response, the company in March reportedly pulled 200,000 "objectionable" profiles from its network and was said to have hired a security officer. But politicians and parental groups are calling for tighter controls, saying social network sites have becoming playgrounds for child predators. Lawmakers are considering a bill that would ban access to MySpace in schools and public libraries.
The controversy, however, didn’t impact Burger King's decision to move ahead with its sponsorship, Smith said.
"MySpace has really stepped up in terms of policing," Smith said. "We are not sponsoring anything connected to…wacky people. We are just trying to provide an environment where people can discuss what they saw on 24 and be able to watch an episode for free."
A TV spot during Monday's 24 finale will drive viewers to MySpace.com. Online materials also support.