Lenovo Finds Social-Network Marketing Sweet Spot

AdWeek profiles several brands that are using Facebook as a platform to amplify more traditional sponsorships, including Lenovo’s work in Facebook to extend and reinforce its official sponsorship of the Summer Olympics.

“Lenovo has created 100 athletes’ blogs in an attempt to align itself with some less mainstream sports, such as field hockey and modern pentathlon. It gave the athletes laptops and video cameras to chronicle their preparation for the games.

“‘We wanted to do something that shows our tech prowess, not something that uses the Web as billboard,’ said David Churbuck, vp of global Web marketing at Lenovo….

“The blogging program is complemented with a Facebook effort that lets users virtually identify themselves with their country’s teams. Federated Media and Citizen Sports created country applications users can add to their profiles. So far, more than 100,000 have been downloaded….”

At one extreme, brands are building Facebook apps about themselves and their products, which deliver deep and relevant customer engagement — but the number of customers engaged might have only 4 digits or fewer. At the other extreme, brands are spraying banners across social networks to reach millions of consumers, though impact — let alone engagement — is suspect. In the middle is a sweet spot: Marketers collaborating with leading apps providers (in this case, Citizen Sports) to bring their brands to customers already engaged in a relevant conversations. Lenovo’s off to a nice start, with 100,000 customers so far primed to enjoy the Olympics through a Lenovo-powered feed in Facebook.

Lenovo’s Medal Race in Facebook

“[The] intangibles [such as positive buzz] were the lure of the Lenovo athlete-blogging program, said Churbuck.

“‘The old model of blunt impressions, the billboard model, is not going to do it for me,’ he said. ‘I’m far more interested in how many comments we drove, the traffic to athletes’ blogs, downloads of the applications. Those are more tangible expressions of engagement with the brand than clicks.’”

It’s worth pointing out that Churbuck isn’t easily swayed by the latest fad in online marketing, either. Back in March, he blogged about a panel of social-media marketing folks, including my boss and FM’s founder, John Battelle. Here’s what he had to say just four months ago:

“Battelle recounted a Dell campaign run in Facebook — seemed semi-interesting, but not earth shattering. Bell called out the move from 101 SMM to 201 and AP level discourse on the finer points. Indeed, moderator Polly LaBarre basically told the crowd of mostly clients that if they haven’t gotten the ‘transparent, authentic, marketing-is-a-conversation memo’ then they were essentially under a rock. Bell is working with me on a very cool Olympic play I’ll disclose next week. I don’t feel compelled to rush into Facebook anytime soon, and as for Federated — we shall see.”

(Congrats to Mike Kerns and his crew at Citizen Sports; the Lenovo team at Ogilvy and Neo; Megan McDonagh and the Intel Inside folks; James Gross, Jason Ratner, Pete Spande and their team here at FM for building a concept compelling enough to win over Mr. Churbuck.)

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