Why is Olympic gold medalist Usain Bolt pretending to be the Virgin Group chairman Richard Branson?
In a new cross-platform campaign, the world's fastest man has been tweaking Branson (and his beard) in a series of spots that popped up on YouTube via a Twitter hashtag #IAmRBranson, which Branson rebutted (after Bolt's avatar took over his Twitter feed) with tweets that he is indeed the real Branson.
It's all, of course, a marketing promotion for a Virgin product launch — Virgin Media's now twice-as-superfast broadband service in the U.K., a launch campaign that the Guardian estimates is costing Virgin millions of pounds.
The Bolt as Branson campaign touchpoints include TV, print, outdoor, social, retail, social and online, and the introduction of a new Virgin Media tagline: "Keep Up."
The integrated campaign, created by DDB London, features viral videos on YouTube (watch below) and a new TV commercial debuting on Saturday, in which Branson catches Bolt red-handed in his office chair. The sprinter then pulls his famous lightning pose and points to a web address, www.virginmedia.com/doublespeed, which leads to the Virgin Media website and the image at top.
Jeff Dodds, executive director of brand and marketing communications at Virgin Media, explained the strategy to The Drum:
“We’ve got a long history of giving our customers more and we wanted to let them know about the exciting boost they’ll soon get from us. Our competitors’ customers might also feel a twinge of envy when they hear about this as what better spokesperson for our superfast broadband than Usain Bolt? He’s the living embodiment of speed! It’s a brilliantly simple idea but the trick was to avoid the obvious sportsman endorsement clichés. This is where DDB UK has done us proud by taking a refreshing, and typically Virgin self-deprecating and cheeky approach to the brief.”
Below, check out the YouTube virals, which reference other Virgin brands (Virgin Music and Virgin Galatic) through props: