22 million acres. A volcanic hotspot. More than 300 animal species. 40 million visitors every summer. This is Yellowstone, the world’s first National Park.
National Geographic and Microsoft partnered in a storytelling first, to bring all of the action, splendor and drama of Yellowstone National Park to viewers LIVE on National Geographic.
Over the course of four days in the summer of 2018, National Geographic broadcast live from various positions throughout Yellowstone, including a wild studio, right in the heart of the the park. The live broadcast utilized cutting-edge technology, mobile crews and remote cameras to expertly showcase the breadth and depth of this massive swath of land.
A majority of Yellowstone visitors stay at the park fewer than 48 hours, never venturing beyond the major overlooks, so as part of the four-night special event, National Geographic and Microsoft aimed to expose audiences around the country to all of the magic they’ve been missing. Bringing viewers an unprecedented look inside one of Earth’s largest ecosystems (read: an expanse of 34,000 square miles), National Geographic captured the sights and sounds of Yellowstone with 25 live cameras across 35 locations and implementing never-before-used storytelling technology.
The launch of Microsoft’s Surface Go tablet aligned perfectly with the timing of Yellowstone Live. With extensive in-show integration, impactful custom content and a sponsorship that spanned linear, social and digital platforms, the program was able to simultaneously offer full immersion in a robust content environment and tap into the power and reach of National Geographic’s multiple media touchpoints to connect with their global audience.
-Showcase the portability of the new Microsoft Surface Go by leveraging the live nature of National Geographic’s groundbreaking event across the breadth of the Yellowstone National Park ecosystem
-Create a powerful storytelling experience that seamlessly extends Microsoft’s brand message from the show into the commercial environment
-Drive awareness of the new product launch through a multi-faceted media program across linear, social and digital platforms
STRATEGY & IMPLEMENTATION:
Yellowstone Live premiered on Sunday, August 5 with additional live broadcasts each night through Wednesday, August 8, reaching National Geographic’s linear audience of 13 million viewers. By providing audiences the chance to get up close and personal to the majesty of Yellowstone in a way that was raw, gritty and authentic, the live content not only allowed for a deeper connection to the park, National Geographic, and Microsoft, but cultivated a desire among consumers everywhere to protect the more than 3,500 square miles of most-spectacular American wilderness. Here’s how we did it:
LIVE IN-SHOW INTEGRATION
Live in-show product integration was prominent throughout all four nights of the broadcast event, with the new Microsoft Surface Go receiving placement as the official tablet of Yellowstone Live. Field correspondent Jenna Wolfe and wildlife expert and host Chris Packham showcased the portability and durability of the device across all four nights of the show in multiple segments – from the air above the Grand Canyon to the ground just inches away from a mountain Grizzly Bear.
CUSTOM STORY STRETCH
National Geographic extended the Microsoft Surface Go message from in show to commercial time via a custom story stretch. The storytelling vignette showcased Yellowstone Live wildlife cinematographer, Sue Gibson, using the Surface Go on her journey to capturing Pikas for the live broadcast. The story stretch was crafted as a :60 vignette, with :30, :15 and :10 cutdowns for use across linear during commercial times – just before the Microsoft Surface Go commercial aired – as well as on social and digital platforms.
Microsoft enacted a robust linear sponsorship via custom on-air elements across all broadcasts of Yellowstone live. These included 12 tagged vertical tune-ins that drove to Yellowstone Live broadcasts and America’s National Parks lead-in programming, six custom billboards and 10 bumpers during the program. Additionally, Microsoft’s logo branding was promoted on the custom Countdown Clock prior to premiere night.
SOCIAL & DIGITAL SPONSORSHIP
Microsoft Surface Go partnered on multiple executions across National Geographic’s social channels to drive engagement and excitement throughout the four-day broadcast. This social sponsorship included 16 total posts on nine of National Geographic’s social accounts across four platforms (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube), and included multiple live videos with product integration, a custom Instagram Story extension of the Story Stretch, and several posts driving to editorial content on Yellowstone National Park, amplifying the partnership through National Geographic’s iconic storytelling. Microsoft was also visible as the Yellowstone Live presenting sponsor via a strong digital sponsorship of Yellowstone content across NG.com and NGTV.com.
Live TV partnerships offer multiple benefits for sponsoring brands, including a higher opportunity for appointment viewing, better brand recall for live commercials, and live cross-platform tools that drive an even more engaged audience. With the Yellowstone Live partnership specifically, National Geographic and Microsoft pushed boundaries to enhance their innovative live programming and showcase the best of the Yellowstone ecosystem in real time – all in all, the partnership generated an unprecedented level of engagement, garnering 59M+ total impressions across linear in-show, linear promotion, social and digital channels.
Impressions across linear in-show and promotional reached 12.8M+ and on digital, produced more than 14.5M+ impressions and an above average click-through rate. On social, the partnership massively over delivered (+65%). Social content generated 32.1M+ impressions, 31.2K engagements and 612K video views, with live video posts resulting in engagement levels above both editorial and sponsored content benchmarks and overwhelming positive sentiment (80%).
On top of unprecedented engagement metrics, Microsoft was able to reach the right audience with impactful in-show integration in the Yellowstone Live environment. The organic program placement drove triple- and double-digit lifts across all performance metrics for Microsoft’s integration, when compared to integration elsewhere on cable networks as well as the overall documentary genre.
According to a social brand lift study on the Microsoft Surface Go, which captured data from August 5 - September 30, engagers are 5x more likely to say they will definitely or probably buy a Surface Go.