How do you make a service like web hosting appeal to the masses? That question was on the lips of many web hosts this year, and was answered with some success. For example, 1&1 Internet, the largest host in Europe (and arguably the world) continued its aggressive promotions. Its UK arm began offering a package that included a domain name and six free months of hosting with no obligations to small businesses. The promotion lasted for two months, starting in March. By the end of August, 1&1 Internet said it had signed up 35,000 new customers during the promotion.
Of course, if you really want to see a web host going mainstream for its marketing efforts, you need to look no further than GoDaddy. On February 6, the company ran an ad in the Super Bowl, putting its name in front of 150 million viewers. The ad blatantly made fun of Janet Jackson’s “wardrobe malfunction” during the halftime show at the previous year’s Super Bowl. GoDaddy wanted to run a second spot during the Super Bowl, but Fox wouldn’t let them, because of its content. Fox wouldn’t even let them run the first ad in the second spot.
So GoDaddy CEO Bob Parsons became inventive, and ran the second ad online in a blog he launched. Thanks to people checking out what all the fuss was about, GoDaddy gained far more publicity from the controversy surrounding the ad than it might have otherwise. Parsons has since used his blog to sound off on a variety of topics, from industry issues to American politics. GoDaddy is trying to run an ad during the 2006 Super Bowl, but is again having trouble getting it past the censors – this time with ABC. After last year’s ad, some folks might be looking forward to what GoDaddy comes up with more than the game itself.
GoDaddy certainly wasn’t alone in courting sports fans in 2005. C I Host partnered with advertising firm Spinner Networks to display ads on-screen during Dallas Cowboys game broadcasts. Readyhosting sponsored a racing team, Venturini Motorsports. Pipex became the official sponsor and exclusive broadband partner of soccer team the Fullham Football Club. Its logo appears on the team’s jerseys. And EV1Servers support of the Houston Astros gained a boost from the team making it to the World Series.
Whether it involved data centers, mergers, or reaching out to a new audience, expansion was the defining trend for the web hosting industry this year. We will likely see more of this in 2006.