Special Report: TV sponsorship & value-added promos: Hasbro reaches youth with YTV deal

Hasbro of Canada is certainly not afraid of the dark, and, in fact, is probably quite fond of it since the fantastic success of a promotion arranged with children's specialty channel ytv last fall.The Longueuil, Que.-based game and toy company was...

Hasbro of Canada is certainly not afraid of the dark, and, in fact, is probably quite fond of it since the fantastic success of a promotion arranged with children’s specialty channel ytv last fall.

The Longueuil, Que.-based game and toy company was pleasantly shocked by the phenomenal results of its sponsorship of a pre-Halloween festival of the popular program Are You Afraid of the Dark?

On Oct. 29, the Saturday before Halloween, ytv ran five back-to-back episodes of the program, which features a group of youngsters, called The Midnight Society, who take turns telling all manner of supernatural stories.

A similar festival, called Dark Night, ran the year before and was sponsored by a chocolate bar manufacturer.

Last year’s Dark Night 2 was sponsored by Hasbro to promote its new boardgame 13 Dead End Drive under Hasbro’s Milton Bradley label.

The show garnered a whopping average minute audience of 605,000 viewers, almost three and a half times the audience of the year before.

The sponsorship involved Hasbro brand identification in 30-second Dark Night 2 promotional spots on ytv and in tv book print ads.

The special was also promoted frequently during ytv’s between-show links, hosted by influential pjs, or program jockeys.

There are two versions of links: The Alley runs during the weekend and is targeted at young children; another, more edgy version called The Edge runs after school.

Also part of the promotion was a trivia contest in which viewers called a 1-800 number for a chance to answer a question based on events in the program.

An astonishing 4.5 million calls were attempted over five hours, about six times the number registered the year before.

Dawn Mustard, sales promotion account executive at ytv, says that even though a ‘free-for-all’ is expected every time a 1-800 number is offered, the scale of the viewer response to this promotion was still overwhelming.

‘I think kids remembered the event from last year, and set their calendars around it,’ Mustard says.

‘We dared our viewers to watch,’ she says of the forced-tuning element of the promotion. ‘And they had to watch the whole show to answer the trivia question at the end.’

Eighty finalists who were able to get through and answer the multiple choice trivia question got an Are You Afraid of the Dark? T-shirt and vhs tape, and a ytv baseball cap.

Four grand prize winners got the 13 Dead End Street game and a limited edition Are You Afraid of the Dark? baseball jacket.

Michel Dupuis, director of marketing for games at Hasbro, credits the promotion for the feverish run on the games that took place after the promotion.

Dupuis says about 40,000 units of the game, Hasbro’s entire stock of the $25 boardgame, were sold within a few weeks, about five or six times the sales expected for that period.

‘As soon as the show aired, the game was a runaway bestseller,’ he says. ‘We could have sold out 70,000 if we had them ready.’

Hasbro was shocked at how quickly the interest in the game took off.

Dupuis says that with normal advertising it takes at least two or three weeks for sales to be affected in any significant way, and maybe even longer in the case of a new product.

‘We quickly realized there was something different about this product, and I think Are You Afraid of the Dark? was the magic thing about it.’

According to Dupuis, Hasbro was approached about the sponsorship by its advertising agency, Toronto-based Griffin Bacal Volny.

The opportunity to use the show to promote the launch of 13 Dead End Drive was immediately recognized.

The show, which targets the ‘tween’ age group of nine to 14, was a ‘perfect match’ for the game aimed mainly at seven- to 12-year-olds.

Dupuis says it is usually hard to pair products as well as this in Canada because media tend to be bought in packages, and not just for a particular tv show.

Hasbro usually limits its game tie-ins and sponsorships to things such as children’s magazines and ytv’s Kid’s Club.

‘They always worked to a certain degree – but there are few that succeed like this one,’ Dupuis says.

Given the phenomenal success of this promotion, Dupuis says there is little doubt Hasbro will sponsor this year’s Dark Night 3.

The only thing he says the company will do differently is buy more commercial time within the show: last year, only one or two commercials ran during the Dark Night festival.