The Whistle Network took a major step toward its goal of becoming the ESPN for the YouTube generation in late September when it partnered with LA Laker Jeremy Lin. Although "Linsanity" might not be a dominant force on the court, Lin does have the biggest YouTube following of any athlete in the United States, with 400,000 subscribers. That makes him the perfect partner for a network that is trying to revolutionize the way we consume sports media. In turn, their efforts may revolutionize the way advertisers reach their desired audience.
The Whistle currently has about 150 channel partners, more than 7 million subscribers and more than 1 billion views and counting. They have also forged partnerships with major leagues like the NFL, MLB and the PGA Tour. While those numbers and facts would be enough to get any advertiser’s attention, it’s the way The Whistle is creating new types of revenue streams via innovative ad campaigns that should really be raising eyebrows.
A perfect example is its partnership with YouTube superstars Dude Perfect, which brought a huge following with it when they joined up with The Whistle. Because their videos attract millions of viewers, Dude Perfect has managed to get product placement deals from name brands like Nerf and Nestle. Dude Perfect was even paid by LG to film one of its videos with an LG phone.
Although the partnership with Lin grabbed headlines, it’s probablyYouTube sensations like Dude Perfect who advertisers should be paying particular attention to. As CampaignLive’s Rob Norman recently pointed out, we could be seeing a sea change in the types of stars that move advertisers’ products. The days of Mean Joe Greens appealing to the masses may soon be replaced by a new generation of online stars that truly interact with their fans.
That won’t happen overnight. There is no doubt partnering with Jeremy Lin was a major score for The Whistle, and there is obviously still great value in using traditional celebrities in advertising campaigns. But advertisers need to be aware of a wave of online stars they themselves might not be able to relate to. And it’s not just a matter of knowing who the kids look up to.
In order to compete going forward, advertisers will have to continually think of innovative ways to include their product in the new media. Jeremy Lin is a great lynchpin for a burgeoning company like The Whistle, but it’s likely the Dude Perfects of the world that will make or break them.