IBM Masters Work: 50 Story-Telling Episodic Docu-Spots

IBM activates its sponsorship of The Masters in the USA by teeing up a staggering 50 different commercials – each of which will run just once.


The first golf major of the year runs 10 to 14 April and its US broadcast coverage is split between ESPN and CBS. IBM has a core set of 45 spots scheduled across the channels and an additional five ads in reserve in case of rain delays and an extra-hole playoff.


Each ad in the ‘Made By IBM’ initiative, essentially a new IBM branding campaign launched at The Masters, aims to tell a different IBM-enabled transformational journey story.


The campaign objective is that collectively the ad series presents the totality of the body of evidence that companies should be investing in IBM technological products and services.


Each individual ad running during The Masters coverage opens with its specific series number and closes with a quick preview of the next spot in the series.


The new campaign saw the sponsor commission three filmmakers to travel to no less than 17 different countries to document IBM technology in action.


These three directors – Jesse DylanJoe Pytka and Doug Pray – began their multi-spot shooting trip on 10 March and returned home two weeks later – thus the edit and production team have been working on a tight schedule to complete the campaign for the start of the competition.


Around half these TVCs, which come in both 60- and 30-second versions, feature client businesses, public agencies and other IBM customers.


Each ad explores and demonstrates real world client benefits of IBM technologies and services.


For example, a Sky Italia employee showcases the satellite television broadcaster’s IBM tools which collect and analyse social media mentions – thus helping the client understand which subscribers favour which programmes.



Another spot sees a Lindt chocolatière trumpet the bottom-line benefits of the Swiss company’s IBM cloud-computing expertise which has boosted its online sales.



While, Music Mastermind’s spot show how it used IBM Softlayer Cloud services to offer real time music creation through its cloud gaming platform – thus transforming the gaming business mode




The other 50 per cent feature IBM researchers, technologists and analysts (IBMers) highlight emerging technological solutions and services


For example, one highlights how the company’s super computer Watson, a cognitive computing system which beat 2011 Jeopardy champions hands down, helps chefs to create brand new recipes.



The campaign, developed with WPP agency Ogilvy & Mather North America, will also appear on an IBM microsite and across mobile platforms with supporting copy and stories about each case study, client and technology.




The company’s web platforms and YouTube channel also host a ‘Making Of’ web film about the ‘Made By IBM’ campaign.



The activation is further supported by print and online executions, while its sponsorship rights also extend to logo presence on The Masters website, plus on-site signage and hospitality.


The partnership, as with most IBM sponsorship deals, also sees the company work with the property on its own data collection and analysis platforms for the golf tournament itself.


This marks a sea change in the sponsor’s commercial strategy at the tournament which is has sponsored for the previous 12 years.


Like most sponsors with broadcast spot packages, last year’s IBM Masters work consisted of a few new commercials which ran in heavy repeat rotation through the Augusta based tournament.


‘The choice we and other sponsors have made for years is that we’re going to create a fairly limited number of spots and we’re going to have you see them many, many times, and the repetition of the story or the message is truly going to be ingrained and embedded,’ recalls  IBM Senior VP Marketing Jon Iwata.


The sponsor’s argument as to why The Masters is a property that lends itself to this kind of tactical approach is that while most other properties offering big block ad buys, such as The Olympics, will see viewers tune in specifically for some events and not for others.


But its research suggests that most Masters viewers watch the tournament in its entirety and that American golf fans typically follow the same roster of PGA golfers on TV throughout the whole tournament.


‘The unique nature of this TV exposure,” according to Iwata, ‘increases the likelihood that the same audience would see all of the ads’.


‘IBM’s goal is really to document a moment of change and the convergence of very powerful technology and business forces coming together and to present that in a semi-continuous way and in a concentrated period of time,’ adds of Ogilvy & Mather North America Chief Creative Officer Steve Simpson.


Neatly rounding off the theme and benefit message of the initiative, Ogilvy Account Director Jeremy Kuhn adds that the campaign relied considerably on  IBM technology – specifically on its Aspera, software which enabled the agency to transfer large video files quickly from around the world.


‘Traditionally when the footage is shot, you wait for the team to come back to load it all in to begin editing, but we had something like 13 different shoots between the three main crews and if we waited until everyone got back to New York, we never would have made the Masters in time,” says Kuhn. ‘We were reliant on Aspera, an IBM technology, to do that, so this very production was kind of a case study.’




Creatively and thematically this campaign has very little to do with the property itself – this campaign is all about engaging The masters’ audience.


Much of IBM’s marketing targets ‘C-suite executives’ and both golf in general and The Masters in particular certainly has a higher percentage of such fans than most other sports events.


Few live televised sports in the USA skew higher than golf for high net work company executives.


Of course, whilst the recent announcement that golf’s stand out super star (albeit a slightly jaded figure now) Tiger Woods was missing this year’s Masters through injury is likely to have a small negative effect on ratings, IBM targets are less likely to follow the tournament for fame and celebrity than other segments.


Reports suggest that IBM is spending around $25m on the ad campaign – a sizeable chunk of the company’s estimated $120m annual spend.


Made BY IBM continues the brand’s ongoing umbrella ‘Smarter Planet’ idea – but moves it on a step from the previous ‘what’ and ‘why’ work to marketing that focuses on ‘how’.


Perhaps one fresh element of this campaign’s approach is that rather than developing the work from a client brief and a creative agency ‘idea’ that is developed by script writers and actors, this activation is a documentary style series of journalistic interviews


IBM’s 2014 approach follows recent Masters sponsorship campaigns (from IBM and fellow tournament backers such as AT&T and Exxon Mobile) which were to some extent overshadowed by the debate over The Augusta National Golf Club’s restrictive, some might say repressive, male-only membership policy.


After all, while the club has granted membership to sponsor IBM’s previous four CEOs, current IBM boss Virginia Rometty has yet to be given such an invitation.


However, the club has since reversed this tenant and has begun accepting/inviting female members.


Opening the way for sponsor activation free from media controversy and debate.


Since 1956 the tournament’s host, Augusta National, has had a series of one-year TV deals with CBS and in 2008 ESPN was added to the broadcast partnership for the first two days.


While Augusta and its broadcasters do not disclose their terms (it is rumoured that there is no physical contract, just a handshake agreement amongst gentlemen), it is believed that after yearly discussions the golf club itself acts as a broker in arranging the tournament’s three sponsors to cover the broadcasters’ costs (and profit) through an ad buy.


Reports suggest that the cost of the sponsorship deals is in the region of $6m to $10m per year.




Made With IBM Website



The Masters Website



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