When Samsung and its agency Starcom approached ESPN about co-developing an original digital series, there was some natural subject matter: the Chelsea football club. Samsung’s partnership with the hugely popular English team includes placing its brand on the jerseys.
The club is so popular globally that some sort of documentary-style programming would seem an easy way to raise the profile of new smartphone and tablet models. Instead, Samsung Mobile and ESPN opted for lower-profile content, which might offer more opportunity to demonstrate the benefits of the products.
And, with a sport like parkour or team handball in the videos, there was the potential to engender a sense of exploration. “It drives conversation about why is this thing so popular,” said Juan Alfonso, an ESPN vice president of program development.
Enter the new Project Teamwork, an international Samsung branded entertainment effort with 12 digital shorts. The videos rolling out focus on five teams on multiple continents from beach volleyball in the Netherlands to street soccer in Brazil.
The content is targeted at visitors to ESPN sites popular outside the U.S. -- including ones focusing on cricket, rugby, grand prix auto racing and, of course, soccer.
The approximately three-minute shorts spin around the importance of teamwork, while offering scenes showing how Samsung's products can help build a winner. Housed on an Samsung-ESPN microsite, other groups to be featured include team handball in Spain; Jamaican track stars striving for the Olympics; and an American and Brit parkour-ing together in Morocco.
In the beach volleyball shorts, the two players plan their workouts on a Samsung tablet, while a coach shows how the device can help with training by showing reaplys. In parkour, a jump has one of the leapers with a smartphone in hand.
Shot on multiple continents, the settings provide for stunning video, notably the ancient ruins in Morocco with the parkour. “We chose sports that are visually impactful,” ESPN's Alfonso said.
The sand-filled gym where Dutch beach volleyball players train in the winter is also interesting.
The Project Teamwork site is promoted on various ESPN global sites such as ESPNScrum.com and ESPNF1.com.
Alfonso said his group works with various models when developing Web video. Some content is produced and advertisers are approached later. In other cases, ESPN may have concepts in mind and advertisers are pitched to help back production.
The third path involves creating content specifically for a client, which yielded Samsung's Project Teamwork. Still, in those instances, information and storytelling must trump brand showcasing. “We consider it mostly content,” he said. “Is it advertorial? I suppose to a degree because it’s funded by the client, but we’re confident it can stand alone.”
For now, it will take some effort for U.S. audiences to find the Teamwork videos, but Alfonso said there’s a chance a U.S.-focused effort could follow.