Sponsoring The Internet

In the online world, as in the offline world, the value of the Sponsorship is sometimes overlooked. Sponsorships surround the target and ensure relevant reminders that the brand exists. Soft Drinks and Beer advertisers alike have taken full advantage of these models as supplements to their more traditional forms of advertising, but there is one model that has surprisingly not been pursued and that would be the sponsorship of WiFi.

It is no secret that WiFi is taking off. Intel appears to be building their entire marketing efforts on the Centrino wireless service built into many new computers. Starbucks offers HotSpots for T-Mobile subscribers to access wireless networks in their locations. There have even been articles dealing with how to hijack the various wireless networks that are in most urban settings now, providing wireless Internet access for free most of the time.

I have been learning something about this myself as my home network was apparently being hijacked by two of my neighbors until this past week when I learned about WEP protection.



The WiFi market is definitely an upscale, business-centric, affluent target audience, and one that is certainly coveted by many advertisers. Why not sponsor their WiFi access?

When you are in the vicinity of a WiFi network to log into, the names of those networks show up on your computer and they are easily accessed by your laptop, PDA, etc. What if those access points were open to the public, named after a brand advertiser interested in reaching that audience, and access to the network cost only the allowance of 1 advertising message from the marketer?

For example: BMW (one of my favorite brands) could place WiFi hubs through San Francisco (which would be convenient for me since I live here), and offer free Internet access to anyone who was interested (and had a laptop, of course). The network would be titled "The BMW-Net" and the price would simply be an entry-point superstitial ad that ran as a :15 second commercial when I logged on. The target is pre-qualified because they own a laptop, travel around enough to warrant the need to be on WiFi, and knew about it in the first place (supporting other forms of advertising as well). The ads would be able to be delivered since at that point you have access to their browser and can certainly push a message onto their desktops.

Now for the record, BMW is not a client of mine, but this model is one that applies to just about any affluent brand. And as the application of WiFi continues to grow and the affluence factor decreases, why not have this same service offered by other brands (what about Pabst-Net)?

The implications for partnerships are large between advertisers and WiFi providers, with both of them offering to share customer information. There could be tiered elements to the services that could block Spam and/or provide other benefits as well.

This little idea is simply a form of sponsorship, and sponsorships are generally quite effective when you are establishing a brand. The DR implications of this model are not as strong initially, but they could certainly be tailored to drive acquisition. For example, access to the network could be free with purchase of X or for supplying certain information.

What do you think?

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