Online Episodes Rev Up Toyota’s Warehouse Sponsorship

Automaker adds to cross-platform push timed to July 11 season premiere
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New sponsor Toyota can’t get enough of Warehouse 13. Not only is the automaker integrating vehicles into the Syfy series, but it’s also going to have one of its models featured in a series of comic-book themed Webisodes that will help promote the show’s third-season premiere online.

Advertisers like Toyota are looking for ways to get more bang for their marketing bucks, and integrations into programming—making a sponsorship TiVo-proof—and going multiplatform to reinforce your message are two of the more popular ways to extend a sponsorship deal.

“Everybody’s looking for ways to stand out, and if you’re going to invest in a show, you might as well invest across every platform,” said Blake Callaway, Syfy senior VP, brand and strategic marketing. “If they’ve identified Warehouse 13 as a great opportunity to showcase a couple of their brands… a logical place for us to go is to create a whole separate narrative that allows their integration to be featured in an online story that’s related to Warehouse 13 as well.”

“Because the Prius customer enjoys a tech-friendly lifestyle, it was important to create content that allowed these consumers to interact with both the Toyota brand and the show at multiple touchpoints,” said Kim Kyaw, senior media strategist for Toyota.

Syfy usually looks for opportunities to give its fans additional material online. With a willing sponsor like Toyota, the network could afford to produce something special for the Web. In this case, the Webisode series was about a year in the making.

The show’s writers worked with Toyota’s agency to understand what it wanted to accomplish. “The writers went to work and threw out some ideas and kind of workshopped it, and at the end of the day, we’ve got something that tells a nice Warehouse 13 story, but it also features the Toyota Prius,” Kyaw said.

Warehouse 13 is about a government facility where fantastical objects are kept. In the Web series, “Of Monsters and Men,” the object in question is a comic book which transports the show’s main characters— Claudia, Pete and Artie, plus Claudia’s new Prius— into an illustrated world filled with monsters. Over the course of 10 episodes—each is one to three minutes long—they must defeat the monsters and escape from the comic book. The Prius appears in both live action and animated forms.

The daily Webisodes will premiere exclusively on syfy.com beginning July 5. Syfy will run on-air promos telling viewers about the Web series and that Toyota is a sponsor. The Webisodes will later be available on Hulu.com and on cable on-demand systems. Syfy is also trying to get other Websites, which are always looking for fresh content, to feature the Webisodes. The Webisodes are social media-enabled, allowing viewers to “like” them and post them to their Facebook pages. “What we’re hoping is that if you create content that people like, it will get passed around,” Callaway said.

The Webisodes should help promote the series’ third-season premiere on July 11. During the season, Claudia will be seen driving a Toyota Prius and Pete will be behind the wheel of a Toyota Highlander. Syfy will use research from IAG to measure how well the integrations engage the audience.

Callaway couldn’t say how much the sponsorship cost, adding that it’s part of a bigger deal between the network and Toyota. “One thing I can say we’re trying to do is make sure our digital team is making their revenue goals,” he said.

The promotion is also important to Syfy, which is moving Warehouse 13 to Monday nights. The network is launching a new season of Eureka, plus its new high-profile series Alphas, that night. Later in the week, Syfy will debut new seasons of Ghost Hunters International, Haven and the new series Legend Quest.

“It’s a big, full week for Syfy, and hopefully getting off to a big start on Monday with Warehouse 13, Eureka and Alphas will create some momentum,” Callaway said.

E-mail comments to jlafayette@nbmedia.com and follow him on Twitter: @jlafayette

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