Guerrilla (Social Media) Marketing: True Story of Pepsi's "Viral" Uncle Drew Basketball Video Starring Kyrie Irving of the Cleveland Cavaliers

Although it may initially appear to be a video about an old man schooling some young players, this 5 minute film is just the latest example of a new trend in marketing. NBA 2012 Rookie of the Year Kyrie Irving (wearing some very convincing old man makeup) plays Uncle Drew - who takes over a playground basketball game in this "viral" video that markets Pepsi Max. The Uncle Drew video was first uploaded to YouTube on May 18th, 2012. Within one week (and without paying a broadcaster one penny for airtime) the Pepsi Max ad starring Uncle Drew had been viewed over 5 million times. Compare that to paying $3.5 million for a 30 second spot during the Super Bowl or the $110,000 average price of a 30 second primetime network TV ad.

As discussed in previous posts to this blog (e.g., a recent post about Music Bunk's vinyl stunts, the amazing campaign for the 20th Century Fox film Chronicle that was released in February 2012, and Toshiba's campaign for their 2011 Protege computer): "viral" is a misnomer.

All these videos hope for a kind of information spread where a few friends tell their friends who tell their friends in an expanding network. Although this kind of spread is often called "viral" it's important to know that this use of social media relies on a conscious decision by viewers to share the videos. Nobody wants a virus. But the video of an old man schooling some young players is being shared because it is fun.

The lesson? If you're creating a film that you want to spread via social media it needs to be something that people in your target audience actually will want to share. That's why the term "viral marketing" is a misnomer.

I prefer to call the spread of these videos "social media marketing."

Whatever you call it, this form of guerrilla marketing (guerrilla because it's cheaper than paid ads) is something indie filmmakers can exploit - but be aware, the big companies are also pouring a lot of resources and thought into this form of marketing too. Make sure your social media marketing is fun (and/or useful) and subtle.

Thanks to my real-life uncle, John, for the link.

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