News

Versus Bullish on New Ad Campaign

10/24/2008 8:00 PM Eastern

It features young adults running and screaming, and copy such as “They are not supernatural,” “They are not extraterrestrial,” and “They are here.” A voiceover sounds, “Such power. Such rage.” A large, bloodshot eye appears on the cellphone of one of the chased and peers through a bathroom stall, where a young woman cowers.

A trailer for a slasher flick appearing on FearNet? Not quite, but it is in the Comcast family.

With the Professional Bull Riders Finals starting on Halloween weekend, Comcast-owned Versus wanted to play off the spooky holiday. Hence, “The Unleashed” campaign was unleashed in early October. The “horror” snippets, sans bulls and any Versus branding, first appeared on Unleashed2008.com, which now links back to the network’s Web site.

“We wanted to take a different, aggressive approach; this is an aggressive sport,” said Versus senior vice president of marketing Bill Bergofin. “The idea was to reach out to a younger audience, while also having appeal for PBR core viewers.”

That came Oct. 18, when Break.com exclusively broke the reveal, tying together the two-minute trailer.

“There were 100,000 video views on Break.com on the first day after the full trailer was revealed,” said Bergofin. “There’s been a lot of reaction in the blogoshpere. We’re very happy with the response.”

The concept and execution was done internally, led by Versus vice president and creative director Michael Magnotta, who came up with the idea. Magnotta’s team received an assist from horror notable Tom Savini, (Dawn of the Dead, Friday the 13th, Grindhouse), who lent a directing hand during a shoot in Oakland at the end of September.

Savini also appears in the trailer, as the guy saying: “How do you beat ’em? You gotta ride ’em,” before footage of some of the PBR’s toughest and most painful rides is screened.

In addition to the online presence, various takedown commercials from the trailer began running on Fox’s PBR event coverage on Oct. 4, as well as on Versus, Comcast

SportsNet services and an outlet known for showing a sport that’s a little less frenetic: Comcast’s Golf Channel.

All are building up to Versus’ coverage of the PBR Finals on Oct. 31 through Nov. 2 and Nov. 6 to 9.

“Like the rest of our programming, [PBR’s] attracting younger viewers,” said Bergofin. “Our median age is down to 42, 43, from over 50 when it was known as Outdoor Life Network.” The network rebranded to Versus in September 2006.

Versus has been riding PBR momentum of late. From July 28 through Oct. 19, live weekend coverage has drawn 254,568 viewers on average, up 24% from the comparable span in 2007. Delivery of men 18 to 49 more than doubled, growing 116% to 60,383 from 27,998.

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