January 18, 2007
24/Sprint Deal Provides 24 with Ancillary Content, Sprint with Substantial Product Placement

A new mobile phone deal struck between Sprint and the hit television series 24 will bring episode previews to cell users, according to a deal announced a little over a week ago. After each episode airs on Monday night, clips from the next week's episode are made available for those who use the Sprint video services Sprint Power Vision or Sprint TV.

A variety of other planned cell activities will help promote the link with 24 as well including trivia games in which a prize will be offered--a trip to a Florida "covert ops" training camp.

In return for the deal, Sprint receives product placement, as Sprint products will appear on episodes of 24 throughout the season.

Jon Lafayette with TelevisionWeek writes, "The deal is another example of how networks and advertisers are finding new ways to use programming content as part of marketing and advertising efforts."

Indeed, the deal seems to be significant in terms of providing new ways to market the show but, at this point, provides little in the way of meaningful new content for fans. Some of the hype surrounding the move that mentions giving significant new information for 24 fans is a little exaggerated. Where this move could help, though, is in continued viral marketing from the show, on 24's side. By having previews available on mobile devices, fans can easily share clips of the next episode of 24 with others, which is not a bad move if those fans are enthusiastic to spread the word of a great sixth season.

In return, Sprint will certainly have increased its brand awareness into the future with product placement on a show that will do extremely well on the DVD market. The longer shelf life of product placement has to be taken into account when trying to calculating the ongoing benefits of the deal for Sprint.

Sprint's Web site for 24 emphasizes products seen in the show and provides links for various promotional content for the television series, including a solicitation to sign up to "be the first to know when sneak peeks and other mobile content is available," an e-mail alert option that they call "24 Insider." Or, to see sneak previews, you can even text 24 to JACK (5225).

The crossover also includes Sprint 24 quizzes, a "survival guide" featuring ways out of situations which take place on 24, and a couple of games.

According to the press release, "Sprint products will play pivotal roles in the latest season of 24 by offering seamless wireless phone service, Nextel Walkie-Talkie, streaming live television and GPS turn-by-turn directions. It hs ben the goal of both Sprint and the production crew of the show to ensure that our products merely complement the action on the screen and do not seem forced, but because these products are both reliable and useful in the extremely mobile environment, they get the job done in more ways than one."

Bragging rights aside, I think 24 does offer a lot to Sprint and that the relationship does not compromise the show's content. However, on the other hand, I think the mobile content available to complement 24 on Sprint's side should emphasize the share-ability of these previews. The games and quizzes and survival guide are perhaps neat, but I can't see people being that excited about those type of fairly superficial forms of transmedia content. The previews obviously serve a strong purpose, however, and the relationship may lead to more organic mobile content throughout the coming year.

However, as I've mentioned before when talking about gated content, I think it's important for 24 to not make any extremely meaningful content Sprint-only, in fear of angering avid fans who are members of various other cell phone networks.