As digital threatens to surpass TV spend in the U.S., China offers a glimpse at a society where that transition has already occurred. Younger consumers are gravitating to online video, and while traditional TV sponsorships continue to boost brand awareness, they increasingly fail to generate momentum on social media. But a handful of brands have been able to turn TV content into social engagement– not by paying for sponsorship, but by inserting themselves into the conversation.
Chinese sanitary protection brand Space 7 scored huge mileage on Weibo by inserting itself into the conversation about singing competition See Your Voice. When Internet commenters began comparing a particularly flirtatious contestant to a character from the popular drama Descendants of the Sun, Space 7 inserted itself into the conversation, creating the “Descendants of Space 7” hashtag (#七度空间的后裔#) and asking the show’s fans to share stories of men who showed that they cared about them using the hashtag. The well-timed Weibo post received nearly 11 times more engagement than average posts by the brand, eclipsing the show’s own account, according to L2’s TV Sponsorships report.
Space 7’s post also generated more engagement than skincare brand Carslan, which was actually paying to sponsor the show. Carslan spent more than $50 million on TV sponsorships this year, including See Your Voice, but these investments failed to pay off. Engagement remained disappointingly low, even though the brand posted frequently on Weibo about See Your Voice and also had the show’s Weibo account share Carslan-related content. In the digital age, pricy TV investments matter less than social savvy.