For this back-to-school season, Charter Communications is putting its high-speed data service on center stage.
The "Charter Center Stage" campaign, orbiting on an online battle of the bands that will net the winner a slot opening for Panic! At the Disco at an outdoor concert and an attendant consumer sweepstakes for voters, is showcasing the MSO's digital capabilities as it looks to build its high-speed data subscriber base during Charter.com's key selling season. The campaign's offer: Charter Internet starting at $19.99 per month, plus a cloud drive free for three months.
Beginning in July, Charter extended multimedia invitations to bands online through social media and campuses around the nation in Charter's service areas to upload videos to Charter.com/Concert or Facebook.com/Chartercom.
Those efforts yielded 316 entries through the Aug. 24 deadline in Charter's 11 service areas. Through different rounds of online fan voting, the bands are vying for a chance to open for Panic! At the Disco, along with Fitz & The Tantrums and the Plain White Ts, at an Oct. 15 event at Alliant Energy Center on Willow Island in Madison, Wisc. and a prize package valued at some $25,000.
Charter vice president of national sales Robert Ladd said the campaign, which emanated from the digital unit, is the MSO's largest online campaign to date, with marketing and in-kind value reaching into the seven figures.
"We wanted to do something that demonstrated our high-speed services during the back-to-school period, which represents the biggest uptick for us seasonally with this service. This campaign is the perfect way to showcase [Charter Internet] to students," explained Ladd, noting that there are over 200 universities and colleges within the MSO's footprint. "They share music and video and are actively engaged in social networking. This is the mobile world these young consumers live in."
It's also how information about the Charter Center Stage campaign and buzz about the outdoor concert is being disseminated.
"This is viral in nature. Groups have and will encourage their fans to vote," said Ladd. "We've seen our [friends] at Facebook.com/Chartercom grow 20% since we launched Charter Center Stage in mid-July. There have been plenty of responses like, ‘Check out this cool contest Charter has. We need you to go to this address.' "
Voting is now in play with 11 finalists -- one from each Charter territory -- being selected. Final voting will take place between Sept.18-25, with the winner announced the following day. The 10 other finalists will receive a $2,500 gift card.
Charter will also reward some of the fans who voted for their favorite band. Every voter with a Charter serviceable address is entered into the sweepstakes for a chance to win prizes that include a trip to the concert, tablet computers, HDTVs and game consoles. Voters are also eligible to win a free year of Charter services, including Charter Internet, as well as TV and phone service. Music enthusiasts can register to vote to select finalists at Charter.com/Concert until Sept. 3. Voters with an address in a Charter service area are automatically entered into the sweepstakes.
Although rooted in its online arena, Ladd said the campaign, which is being supported by banner ads and videos on Charter.com, as well as print and out-of-home tactics, has become cross-functional for the MSO as Charter marketing, media and business disciplines are also participating in the event. Some key clients will be extended VIP packages and the operator will have a major presence at the concert, for which it is serving as promoter.
Charter marketing director Angie Thomas said planning for the campaign began seven months ago, with the MSO retaining an event marketing group to serve as a liaison between the agents and managers of the bands. Charter also assigned team members to handle the various questions articulated by the band submitting their videos, with those staffers conversing with and emailing the musicians regularly.
With Willow Island indeed an island, Charter is running various services to the venue. Charter will house three tents with kiosks where concert-goers can experience Charter Internet and its speed, first-hand. Details for signage around the event and on-stage are still being finalized, according to Thomas.
A heated VIP tent will accommodate 150 people, including the sweepstakes winners and others. Those guests can meet the artists, participate in contests and chow down on some of the foods -- cheese and brats, among them -- Wisconsin is noted for.
The concert starts at 3:30 p.m., rain or shine, following the Wisconsin Badgers (Charter is the video provider on campus, with the university offering its own Internet and phone) hosting the Indiana Hoosiers in a Big 10 football game at nearby Camp Randall Stadium, where Charter supplies triple-play services. Thomas said students biking to the show, will have a valet area to park their rides, with Charter providing shuttle buses throughout the concert.
As Ladd said: "Our goal was to make this much larger than just being an online, virtual battle of the bands. We wanted Charter Center Stage to be experiential. This is a great showcase for our high-speed product and it's going to be a great concert."
Tickets for the free concert will be distributed through the ticket agency next week, according to Ladd.
The following is a breakdown of the prizing for the Charter Center Stage sweepstakes:
Grand Prize (one awarded)
• VIP access to Charter Center Stage Concert with backstage passes;
• One year of the Charter bundle, comprising Charter TV in digital with one HD box, Charter Internet Express up to 12Mbps, and Charter Phone Unlimited;
• Travel for 2, including:
* two round-trip, first class flights to Madison, Wisc.;
* double occupancy hotel for two nights
* ground transportation between airport, hotel and concert;
• One $500 gift card;
• gaming console; and
• tablet computer
First Prize (five)
• One year of the Charter bundle, comprising Charter TV in digital and Charter Internet Express up to 12Mbps;
• gaming console; and
• tablet computer.
Second Prize (20)
• One year of Charter Internet Express up to 12Mbps; and
• tablet computer.