BMO Harris Bank and the Chicago Bulls have a longstanding partnership and have worked together on a number of marketing initiatives in recent years we've focused on utilizing new channels in creative ways and collaborating on content that consumers and fans have never seen before.
Given the extent of the relationship with the two brands, most Bulls fans are well aware of who BMO Harris Bank is, and the partnership now focuses on driving brand preference. Instead of aiming for mass reach with simple logo placement on unrelated content, we have developed content that aims to create compelling experiences that brings the two brands together in ways that fans wouldn't expect and incorporating BMO marks into content more naturally.
This fan-focused strategy of creativity and risk-taking puts the bank in the conversation with some of the most out-of-the-box and cutting edge ideas in the digital space, which is not an arena you'd normally expect to see a financial institution.
We wanted to build on the successful work we did last season with our Snapchat Stories branded short films by bringing the idea to our Instagram audience during the 2017-18 NBA season.
The basic idea was that many brands use Instagram Stories to show behind-the-scenes clips, highlight employees, and share great customer quotes, etc., but few are creating narratives. We wanted to explore the real story-telling possibilities of Instagram Stories, so in partnership with BMO Harris Bank and The Second City, we started a new content series of short films this year, bringing genuine storytelling to Instagram Stories through our Chicago Bulls entertainers, BMO Harris' mascot, and our friends from The Second City to make it all a little more humorous.
The first-ever Instagram short film was a parody of Home Alone – named "Alone At Home" – which debuted in the middle of the holiday season and featured Benny the Bull (the Chicago Bulls' mascot) being left at home alone and the hijinks that ensued. The entire story was shot with Instagram Stories in mind: Every shot was taken with mobile phones and consisted of 40 individual stories, totalling more than five minutes of total play time. Though it was posted from a Bulls account, we found it important to stay natural to the platform. This was not a highly-produced project shot with expensive equipment and an army of editors; the entire project was shot in the same style the average fan uses Instagram Stories, using just cell phones and imagination, and was created specifically to be watched from your phone.
The format works because it's unlike anything that users have seen on these platforms before. We make it obvious that they are about to see something different by featuring title cards – though in a manner very organic to Instagram Stories.
As with all of our branded content efforts, our focus was on producing content that we know our fan base will enjoy, and then figuring out how to naturally bring our partner's brand into that content. You'll notice BMO Harris branding – and the brand's lion mascot - sprinkled throughout this video.
More than 120,000 people watched the full five-minute video on Instagram Stories, which is a huge amount of attention for a brand to hold on that platform. We also saw the story better retained audience between individual stories than even our typical game-day content does – and that's content that features star athletes at work. It's extremely rare that branded content is more sticky than non-branded content, especially for a sports brand, so we knew we done something right here.
On top of this, we also released the whole video on Facebook a few days after the live production and at the time of writing this entry the video had more than 225,000 video views on that platform (all organic; no paid promotion was put behind the post). The reaction from fans was strong, excited, and appreciative as it was something they hadn't seen before, and BMO Harris Bank was featured right in the middle of that conversation.
The Instagram Story was also picked up by Chicago-based media, with NBC Chicago, WGN & The Chicago Business Journal all giving the initiative some incremental coverage in our local market.
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