Monday, August 10

Seeing The Future: Cellular South

If you want to see a glimpse of things to come, Cellular South might provide a stellar example. Its new integrated sports programming initiative is hyper-local and mobile.

"Y'all vs. Us" features original programming around five of the South's biggest high school football rivalries. In addition to television broadcasts of the five biggest rivalry games, the initiative includes a 10-episode television reality series following two rival high school football coaching staffs throughout the 2009 season and a five-episode documentary series telling the story behind each featured rivalry game.

Why "Y'all vs. Us" Might Work

• It features original, professional content provided by a sponsor without being about the sponsor.
• It targets specific hyper-local events with very specific audiences who are serious stakeholders.
• It is augmented by user-generated content, contests, and education-related mobile Web engagement.
• It is exceptionally mobile, but also includes multi-channel reach, including broadcast and online programs.
• It expands content to include a mobile version of each school's Web site, and complete calendar of events.

"Some of the biggest grudge matches aren't always played on Saturday or Sunday in college and professional football games," said Dr. Ennis Proctor, executive director of the Mississippi High School Activities Association (MHSAA), which helped identify 10 teams that would be highlighted during the season. "They're played in high school football games and pit the collective community pride of entire towns and cities against one another for regional bragging rights."

While Cellular South sees the initiative as a way to give parents, student-athletes, teachers, and fans new and creative ways to interact with the company, the initiative also celebrates historic high school football rivalries (content people want to see).

Cellular South is tying in its educational outreach program, Cellular South's Gameplan, which is a statewide education initiative designed and funded by the company to inspire, prepare and inform the state's 90,000 high school student-athletes about the possibilities of reaching their dreams through academic excellence.

Young & Rubicam (Y&R) New York is credited as being instrumental in the creation of the concept (making us wonder how Forrester Research missed it before handing out agency awards). It will serve as the executive producer of the program and is responsible for an integrated campaign that will reach beyond the initiative. If the concept is successful, broadcasters, newspapers, and other carriers ought to shake their heads in wonderment and ask "why didn't we think of that?"

Good question. We've been tracking the trend in this direction since AT&T launched U-verse in 2006. Back then, we asked, "how hard do you think it would be for [blank] to add a channel with convenient and/or exclusive content (complete with user engagement) to create another unique selling point?"

Three years later, another company, Cellular South, comes up with the answer. This is one to watch.

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