SnapChat marketing case study: McDonalds hires LeBron James for mobile 'story'

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In March 2014, McDonald’s became the latest brand to run a SnapChat marketing campaign, using NBA star LeBron James to generate buzz on the popular self-destructing photo-sharing app. This case study looks at how the fast-food brand generated thousands of new followers within hours of announcing the stunt.

The company spent a few days promoting its new account on Twitter, then sent out a snap of James on Tuesday.

The NBA All-Star is shooting a commercial for McDonald’s, and photos and videos from the company offered a behind-the-scenes look at the filming of the ad.

The fast-food chain published a Snapchat "story" that it added to throughout the day with additional images and video clips that fleshed out the narrative.

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The 36-second story is filmed at a shoot, and a figure that appears to be James appears about eight seconds in, obscured by a bust of a man's head.

James appears toward the end of the story, saying, "Welcome to the club, baby." The scene then shifts to a picture of burgers and fries with the text "New bacon clubhouse!"

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The segment also features Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman and top NFL prospect Johnny Manziel.

"We are excited to use Snapchat as a way to share the fun side of our brand with this highly engaged audience of millennials," said Rick Wion, director of social media for McDonald's.

Some brands have billed these efforts as an experiment in the fast-growing social network, but McDonald's expects to make more of a long-term commitment to the platform.

"With any platform, we always want to dip our toe in the water first and see how it works," Wion said. "In this initial mode, we've gotten several thousand followers in a couple days. We think it's a good sign that this has long term viability."

The Snapchat account will be managed by a small in-house PR team with some help from an agency. The plan is to share images from red carpet events as well as quirky everyday moments.

McDonald’s is one of the largest brands yet to experiment with Snapchat- following fast food rival Taco Bell which regularly sends followers previews of new menu items and other images.

Other brands, like MTV and Univever's Axe have used the platform to promote new products and services, while frozen yogurt chain 16 Handles, has used Snapchat to send customers coupons that have to be saved with a screenshot before they disappear.

While snaps are private messages, stories are the closest thing to a broadcasting option that exists on Snapchat. The potential to tell a longer-form story and the clearer privacy boundaries inherent in stories could give brands more of an incentive to have a presence on the Snapchat network.

For example, HBO introduced a Snapchat account for "Girls" by producing a 200-second story with pictures and videos stitched together featuring the stars from the red-carpet event for the Season 3 premiere.

Snapchat does not yet generate revenue but CEO Evan Spiegel has proposed exploding coupons and in-app purchases as potential paths to profit in the past.

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