Viral social marketing: An examination of ad perception and forwarding behaviour based on physical activity

This post is my presentation from the Sport Management Association of Australia and New Zealand (SMAANZ) 2007 Conference.

The post contains the abstract and slides.

Hodgetts, D., Joyner, K., Mummery, K., Duncan, M., & Dobele, A. (2007). Viral social marketing: An examination of ad perception and forwarding behaviour based on physical activity. Paper presented at the Sports Management Association of  Australia New Zealand Conference, Waiheke Island , Auckland, New Zealand.

The project is the first of its type to explore the reach and effectiveness of an internet viral ‘social’ marketing campaign in disseminating physical activity promotion information using the internet. Viral marketing is an approach that systematically facilitates and encourages people to pass along the selected marketing message using the individual’s own contact network. Viral marketing is a cost-effective method of promoting goods and services in the commercial arena. Phelps and colleagues (2004) advise developers of viral marketing campaigns to ensure messages evoke a strong emotion: humour, fear, sadness or inspiration. Successful viral marketing campaigns have five distinct characteristics: they are fun or intriguing, they are attached to a product that is easy to use, or highly visible, they are well targeted, they are associated with a credible source and combine technologies (Dobele, Toleman & Beverland, 2005). When examining the motives for forwarding viral advertisements, Phelps and colleagues (2004) suggest that the desire to “do good” by email forwarders makes viral marketing for social causes particularly attractive.

Two thousand people were sent an ad with a physical activity message, with a link to a subsequent website with further physical activity information. Web metrics for each message were recorded, as well as click throughs to the related physical activity promotion website. A follow up survey was emailed to participants to determine demographic information, reactions to the ad, forwarding behaviour and physical activity levels.

Initial results show that a viral effect was not established, because the number of views did not exceed 2000. Regardless of this, for a minimum outlay (<$5000), the ads were viewed a total of 1800 times, with 704 people clicking through to access the physical activity website. The cost per customer visiting the website was $7.10. Further analysis is currently being undertaken to determine the reaction of subjects to the ad, and if this is related to their physical activity levels and orwarding behaviour. A full analysis will be presented at the conference.

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Danya Hodgetts

Dr Danya Hodgetts is a Sport Management consultant, educator and researcher with more than 25 years experience in the sport industry. Danya specialises in developing and implementing innovative education, training and professional development programs for national and state sporting bodies, TAFE and University.

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