NEW YORK: Major brand owners like AT&T, Visa and NBC are undertaking increasingly ambitious projects connecting digital media with television content.

AT&T, the telecoms giant, has formed an alliance with Fox, the broadcaster, on a new drama called "Touch", which will feature product placement for an app, Air Graffiti, that is still only in development.

When finished, this tool will let consumers leave one another location-based messages on a map. AT&T has also created an online-only series of branded content, "Daybreak", that is linked to "Touch" and is to be promoted in breaks for several Fox shows.

"Rather than doing advertising and PR only, we can further help people understand us if we are part of the cultural conversation," Esther Lee, SVP, brand marketing and advertising at AT&T said "Daybreak" will be available on its own site, YouTube and Hulu.

Elsewhere, Visa, the financial services group, is leveraging its sponsorship of the Olympics via a campaign asking web users to upload videos, photos and text-based "cheers" for the 60 athletes it is officially involved with.

This digital scheme forms part of a multimedia effort encompassing TV ads voiced by Morgan Freeman, the actor. The "cheers" uploaded online will also be incorporated into some spots during the Games.

"It started with: How can we facilitate a global conversation and engage with consumers around the world in what is truly one of the most celebrated events?" Kevin Burke, Visa's global CMO for core products, said.

NBC, the media group, is similarly going to run a marketing push surrounding its free online stream of the Olympic Games, in a bid to "educate" consumers about viewing the competition through the web.

"There will be a barrage of information sent out to the American public about how one can access this content," Gary Zenkel, president of NBC Olympics. "We will hold nothing back. Live streaming does not cannibalise the prime-time audience."

Meanwhile, Unilever, the FMCG specialist, has signed a multi-million dollar agreement which will see it become the global sponsor for a Facebook app hosting classic scenes from films made by Paramount, the studios owned by Viacom.

The "Magnum Mini Moments" app lets users of the social network share these clips, with Unilever paying an annual fee for archive rights and adding branding before and after each snippet plays.

Keith Weed, its CMO, said: "In reality it's going back to the early days of TV channels, when the likes of Persil and Omo and others were sponsoring the 30-minute soap opera, but now we are doing it in the digital space."

Simultaneously, Unilever has inked a deal for brands like Simple and Bertolli to sponsor WIGS, a YouTube channel housing new material made by Fox, including content targeted at female visitors. A worldwide agreement has also been secured for Sure, Degree and Rexona to sponsor "Touch".

"Our global Unilever partnership goes far beyond the scope of anything we've ever done," said Jean Rossi, president of Fox One, News Corp's integrated sales and marketing division.

Data sourced from New York Times, Ad Age, Los Angeles Times, Financial Times; additional content by Warc staff