Where media coverage reaches its limit, brands will fill the void: Vodafone and real-time reporting

Riding with drivers and broadcasting their health stats in a real-time stream during a race: what news organization would be allowed to do that? Last year’s 24-hour race at the Nürburgring in Germany was the stage for the premiere of a telecommunications brand taking the lead over broadcasters in a news and broadcasting cycle.

Vodafone Live ()

Media coverage does not always meet the level of an audience’s hunger for information, which is often the case with many sporting events taking place throughout the year. What channel would be willing to grant a motor race 24-hours of nonstop air time if time is a bottleneck? But if the demand for such information is there, why not try to satisfy it?

Let’s take a closer look at the aforementioned race in Germany broadcasted by Vodafone, one of Germany’s top telecommunications companies. This was a great example of “sensor” journalism: four race cars were equipped with 5 SIM cards each, and a video image showed the course from the driver’s perspective throughout the entire race. Apart from special cameras, Vodafone also used additional bio-monitoring. The driver’s stress level was measured during the race by checking his pulse. Clearly, this type of broadcasting requires top-notch technology. In this case, a 4G/LTE technology was needed to transmit high quality video and data streams; while additional antennas had to be used to ensure data broadcasting without interruption and to cover even the most distant places along the race track. Also, at this level of broadcasting, the infrastructure should be able to handle 200,000 simultaneous requests. 

In order to reach the highest possible audience during this high-tech event, Vodafone made sure it was promoted on- and offline to multiple target groups: YouTube stars Joyce Ilg, Izzi, Dner, and Rewinside were recruited to sell the event to millennials; Sofia and Colin from Rocket Beans TV talked up the tech broadcast for the nerds; the celebrities Oliver Pocher, Cindy Allemann, Sabine Lisicki, and Smudo were supposed to attract reporting from the yellow press; and Jan Stecker and Matthias Malmedie were hired as well-known motor sport hosts for enthusiasts. In addition, the company heavily promoted the coverage on their own blog, featured. This meant a full week of complete event coverage, editorial amplification on featured, a live stream, and an embedded social wall. Besides the extensive coverage in Featured Magazine, Vodafone also used social media channels such as YouTube and Facebook, as well as traditional media (TV and HBBTV) to raise overall awareness for the event. Additionally, Vodafone Germany, Vodafone UK, as well as Vodafone Netherlands and Italy cooperated in integrating the live stream into their Tweets – part of a first-mover strategy.

Let’s be clear. Vodafone invested heavily to make this form of coverage possible. It only works, if you don’t rely on advertising money to get a return on your investment but on sales of real products or services. Another argument that media organizations might better pursue hybrid business models, creating a solid revenue stream from products or services by diversification.

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