In an era of ever more pervasive media fragmentation and ad blocking, it's increasingly hard for brands to connect with young people through traditional advertising outlets. As such, brands are increasingly finding that the best way to market their products is to create entertainment that consumers actively seek out. This is particularly true when marketing to Millennial and Gen Z males, a consumer group who grew up with the Internet, and who tend to avoid the reach of traditional media. In recent years, this audience - mainly males - have been joining the gaming and e-sports space in droves, with an audience of 226MM in 2015 and an expected audience of 435MM by 2019 (CGA Newzoo Esports Growth 2016). Our challenge was to position AT&T, a 131-year-old company with whom most gamers had limited - if any direct interaction - as a part of this community, driving brand relevancy and, ultimately preference.
Our response to this challenge was to craft a series for the gamer audience and work within the an established ecosystem rather than trying to disrupt it: we created a series that brings in creators that the audience recognizes and introduce the AT&T brand into the content and humor that they crave and respond to. Ultimately, the show would build a fan community that engaged passionately with each other, the series, and the influencer—all with AT&T positioned at the center.
When Geoff Ramsey joined the AT&T Hello Lab family, we looked to his power in the gaming space to bring AT&T into the community that would typically shut it out. Using a division of Rooster Teeth, Achievement Hunter's YouTube channel as our hub, we set out to create a new show that would appeal to the gaming audience that brought them closer to the brand in an organic and authentic way. Enter "Schooled", a show that leaned into reality tv tropes - spun from a bet Geoff made with fellow Achievement Hunter, Gavin Free - that he could train a bunch of kids to beat the rest of Rooster Teeth in a gaming competition. It wouldn't be so bad except…if Geoff's team loses, Geoff has to get a life size tattoo of Gavin's crooked nose on his body!
Coming back to the core mission of AT&T Hello Lab - connecting fans with their favorite creators - is imperative to the groundwork of each show. "Schooled" approached this in three ways: social activations, competitive nature of the program driving comments, and during a call-to-action posted ahead of shooting, asking for video bios of kids (with parent permission) that wanted to join the Rooster Teeth Kids team to take down Achievement Hunter and save Geoff the pain - and embarrassment - of getting the Gavin nose tattoo. Once the reality show-esque casting montage wrapped and the final four kids were chosen, the games began.
With the help of an AT&T Fiber high speed internet powered clubhouse, Geoff, along with his daughter, Millie, kicked off training for the battle against his team with the game, "Ultimate Chicken Horse." The series tracked the team's progression as they trained in both conventional and some not-so-conventional ways - from getting hands on training via video chat from the creator of "Ultimate Chicken Horse" to visiting a real farm to truly become the animals. All the while, "Schooled" continued to not only touch on reality show stereotypes, but also those within Rooster Teeth. The comedic element, though a bit cleaner than typical Rooster Teeth content, poked fun at each of the cast members and their personas that are so well known and loved by the audience.
After training came to a close, it was time for the ultimate showdown of "Ultimate Chicken Horse" between Achievement Hunter and the Rooster Teeth Kids. The stakes were high and the day that fans were waiting for was finally here. To further pump up the audience, we created a custom social activation in the hours leading up to the episode air, where a fan could tweet @atthellolab and they would be sent a custom pump up message from the Rooster Teeth kids. And then after 8 prior episodes, time was up. Both teams fought a good fight, but the Achievement Hunter guys came out on top. Geoff may have left this project with a tattoo of Gavin's nose on his shin, but he still walked away proud of what his team accomplished.
"Schooled" may have left Geoff Ramsey with a smidge less of dignity, but it found a place in the hearts of many gamers. The series racked up over 14MM total views, nearly 91MM impressions, and 546K engagements and also gained press support from Forbes, Tubefilter, notable gaming sites, such as iDigital Times, Entertainment Buddha, Twinfinite, and kid-friendly sites like Kidscreen with interviews that focused on his time with his daughter, Millie, and the show events he loved the most. But the most exciting result, and testament to the success of the series is the fact that we are bringing the kids and the Achievement Hunter guys back for a second semester in "Schooled 2" as part of year 2 of AT&T Hello Lab.
In looking ahead to our next season of the series, we have looked beyond the social analytics and press support to identify some key insights that will help us drive "Schooled 2":
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