March 8, 2010 -- Don't look now, but Reebok really wants your attention.
Rumors are flying that the sneaker company planted two viral videos now circulating on the Internet showing famous athletes exercising naked. Well, almost naked.
They do appear to be wearing (you guessed it) Reebok sneakers.
The first video shows extreme fighter Chuck Lidell, in his birthday suit, doing pull ups while his nude girlfriend Heidi Northcott keeps a steady pace on a step machine.
The second video features a naked Chad Ochocicno, the all-pro receiver for the Cincinnati Bengals football team running -- should we say bouncing? -- naked through the woods and stopping occasionally to stretch his lanky limbs. Ochocinco was recently named as a new contestant on ABC's "Dancing With the Stars."
Companies Pay Big Bucks for 'Faux Virals'
While the videos look as if they were caught by a lucky snoop, the reflective Reebook logos that flash through all the videos leaves no doubt in the minds of many advertising experts that Reebok was behind the spots. Reebok did not return calls seeking comment.
"Faux virals are created to look like a regular person shot it," says Josh Warner, founder and president of Feed Company, which specializes in helping companies seed viral videos. "Even though this video is not heavily branded like a commercial, the intrigue is such that Reebok is what everybody is talking about."
Companies have been making viral videos for years, as a way to reach online audiences who don't pay attention to traditional ads. You Tube has made it easier than ever to distribute these videos, but it has also intensified competition so that companies must dig deeper for tricks into their bag of attention-grabbing tricks.
When videos catch on, they can boost a company's image and sales far more than a traditional advertising campaign would, experts say. And they cost very little do produce and distribute, since posting videos on You Tube is free.
One of the most popular viral marketing campaigns started out with a $50 budget. It shows a lab engineer in geeky glasses and a goofy smile cheerily using a blender to mash up everything from golf balls to iPhones.
Sticking Glow Sticks Into Blenders
The engineer was Tom Dickson, CEO Of Orem, Utah-based Blendtec, which has been making heavy-duty kitchen blenders for 23 years. Since starting the "Will it Blend?" series in 2006 Blendtec has seen sales of the featured blenders jump five-fold.
"Social media gives you a way to communicate directly to the consumer without them filtering things out," says Blendtec marketing director Jeff Robe, estimating that Blendtec's hundreds of videos have been viewed 5 million times around the world. "They have opted into this communication."
Or, as one of Blendtec's YouTube fans put it: "LOL!!"
Here are some other wildly popular viral marketing campaigns:
'Numa Numa Guy' Goes Geico
Remember the pudgy guy dancing along to a Numa Numa song in front of his computer? Well, insurance giant Geico ended up offering him a sponsorship, and how you can see him dancing to "Someone is Watching Me" doing a similar dance. The tell-tale sign that it's viral marketing: the Geico gecko in the background.
Guys Catch Laptops with their Butts.
It's silly, and a just a little gross. Meant as a parody of a similar spot showing guys catching Ray-Bans with their face, this one shows three sporty geeks catching MSI laptops with their bottoms. The idea, of course, is that the laptop is so thin and light you could squeeze it between your....ah, you get the idea.
Long John Silver Shrimp's Road Trip
Created in 2006, this was one of the earliest viral marketing campaigns. It was produced by the ad agency, Creative Alliance, on behalf of the seafood restaurant chain. The spot features an average Joe driving around the country with a giant shrimp. There's a funny part when they sit down in a restaurant and are served a giant platter of... shrimp.
Stride Gum's Dancing Matt
Matt Harding, who calls himself a "32-year-old deadbeat from Connecticut" first posted a video of himself doing a goofy dance while on a trip around Asia. Several years later, the video went viral, and Stride Gum offered to sponsor another trip for him. The final version, dubbed "Where the Hell is Matt" registered more than 27 million views on You Tube.