Where the Hell is the Sponsor?

If your brand is struggling with social media — wondering how to become involved with a “viral” marketing activation, there is much that can be learned from Stride Gum’s involvement with Matt Harding and his Dancing Matt videos.

The folks at Stride Gum took an interest in the videos that Matt took while travelling. These videos show Matt doing the “only dance” that he knows how to do in a number of places around the world. And while these were initially done for the benefit of his family, they were absorbed into the great viral milieu and spread far and wide. The videos worked because they manifested the P-L-A-Y framework as I discussed yesterday (and in more detail here).

  • P — for power: the videos demonstrate the power of belonging, the desire to connect
  • L — for learning and curiosity: Matt chooses his locations well. He sparks recognition in the locals and curiosity in everyone else.
  • A — for adventure: through this very simple visual storytelling, Matt stimulates our own sense of adventure. Importantly he also demonstrates that despite very different circumstances and locations, that we are connected to others in a primal, joyous way — a connection that has no regard for language or alienation.
  • Y — the yelp of surprise and delight: just watch this and you will know what I mean.

After seeing the videos and their impact, Stride Gum approached Matt, and sponsored him to travel around the world again, this time on their dime. Again, this was a great “viral” achievement. After that success, and after thousands of emails, Matt returned to Stride Gum and suggested he do the trip again — this time inviting the community to participate. Those who had emailed and commented on his blog were invited to perform the dance with Matt … the result is shown below. Fanstastic.

But even better is the approach taken by Stride Gum. While they could have plastered their logo throughout the clips, provided T-shirts to participants etc, they are content with what is effectively a post-roll credit. This allows us, as viewers, to be drawn into the story and into the experience. It allows us the possibility of transference from passive recipient to imaginary participant. It grants some respect to the story, the communities who participated and the viewers. And it really puts a smile on my face.

Special thanks to Ian Lyons for introducing me to Where the Hell is Matt!

22 thoughts on “Where the Hell is the Sponsor?

  1. I’ve been waiting for someone to announce a sponsorship on Evolution of Dance 2, but I guess we’ll have to wait and see on that one!

  2. That’s just brilliant. Hypnotic and emotional. Love it. Now if I could just convince a client to sponsor me while I cycle around the world….

  3. Thank you pal for two straight days of (joyous) tears–I keep watching and crying. I have promoted this over at my blog and pointed people to your great analysis…as I just can’t bring myself to analyze it as I’m so caught up in the emotion of this amazing piece of work.
    It is one of the most brilliant things I’ve ever seen. For real.
    Thank YOU.

  4. Gavin,
    Thank you for documenting the story behind this. I had seen the film but missed the explanation about the gum brand and their exact implication in the “return of Matt”. Definitely carries good vibes inside and outside the film!

  5. Not a big fan of the video- for me it goes on way too long.
    But I am a big fan of your analysis. In the social media space, brands earn points by entertaining us and getting out of the way. By saving the credit until the end, Stride Gum earned far more points with consumers than by sticking a big honking logo all over the place or (worse) sticking in ridiculous copy points.
    Nicely done.

  6. good post. this is a good example of fact that people and ‘communities’ are doing stuff off their own bat. brands looking to get involved in this space need to watch and listen, then go in and support and encourage where stuff is already happening rather than trying to manufacture community.
    cheers E

  7. A dissenting voice here – having seen the original where is Matt stuff some years ago, I was really disappointed to discover that the new stuff was sponsored. Seems to me it totally undermines the whole thing. It’s no longer genuine and spontaneous but is merely contrived.
    If the original had been sponsored, you could argue that it showed some foresight – this is just bandwagon-jumping albeit engineered by the savvy Matt.

  8. Eaon … thanks — I like the fact that there was some sort of value exchange (it certainly worked in Matt’s favour) — and at least partly worked for the community that has grown up around his efforts.
    John … as a new comer to Matt’s efforts, I liked the story. I liked the fact that it evolved over time and that the originator (Matt) was able to get something out of it. I don’t think Stride Gum are demonstrating any foresight here (except in their approach to “sponsorship”) — clearly they saw a good thing and jumped on board.

  9. Gavin – I really appreciated your analysis especially the part about the videos bringing a smile to your face. This sums up the opportunity online video presents – to make an emotional connection with sight and sound AND allow people to easily pass it on. It does not feel to me as a forced relationship between Matt and Stride Gum. The brand’s support allowed this to reach a much wider audience. Magical.

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  11. This is a good example of fact that people and communities are doing stuff off their own bat. I have promoted this over at my blog and pointed people to your great analysis…

  12. good post. I have promoted this over at my blog and pointed people to your great analysis…as I just can’t bring myself to analyze it as I’m so caught up in the emotion of this amazing piece of work.

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