On a recent Monday morning, I made the questionable decision to buy myself some followers on Twitter.
Egged on by a colleague and a feeling of intrigue, I plugged in my details and purchased 1,000 followers for the princely sum of £8; the speed and ease of the exchange was astonishing and within 24 hours my numbers had broken the 1,300 barrier. However, as I watched my follower count rise, the novelty of the original idea began to wear off. “I sort of did it for a joke” was proving an inadequate answer to those enquiring after my suspicious follower count, and the mounting social pressure of carrying over a thousand false friends inevitably resulted in a torturous Sunday morning spent blocking my 1,100 new disciples.
The whole charade was not completely futile, however, as the brief foray introduced me to the business of purchasing followers, likes, friends and even YouTube views; a practice becoming increasingly commonplace for celebrities, brands and even regular folk like myself. I was totally unaware of the exercise, and was stunned at the number of ‘fakes’ flying around social media, and Twitter in particular. Allegedly, only 28% of people following the 20 most popular Twitter accounts are real, and it has been reported that only 15 million of Justin Bieber’s 38 million followers are authentic. This is likely to be through no fault of his own, as the Twitter-bots and inactive accounts who sell themselves for money attach themselves to real accounts as a way of avoiding detection by Twitter’s supposedly effective spam filter.
Indeed, a quick flick through my new followers unearthed a few dubious characters (Jarvis Wenger, Jason van Smith) and a few incomprehensible names that seemed to be a random combination of numbers, letters and punctuation (I’m looking at you, SL:17-cv7).
However, not all big-name characters with large social media influences are completely innocent when it comes to artificially inflating their social media profile. Mitt Romney fell under suspicion for impossibly immediate rises in followers during the run-up to the 2012 Presidential election, whilst 50 Cent and Diddy are alleged to have shown that even the coolest cats are not averse to social media ego-massaging.
The pertinent question that arises from this is why people would bother with this practice in the first place. The answer for the most part is credibility. Nick Ashton, the creator of fake online guru Santiago Swallow, argues that on social media it is easy to confuse popularity with credibility. Much like a long line outside a restaurant, having a weighty Twitter following can be an easy way of enhancing reputation in the eyes of others. Even at my lowly level, this was exhibited by a friend receiving a text from a colleague asking ‘”Who is Rob Guppy and should I be following him?” Despite the predictable “definitely not” response, it is easy to see that a larger number of followers can make you stand out from the crowd.
However, beyond this initial mirage of credibility, is there any benefit to artificially augmenting follower counts? In other words, is there a correlation between number of followers and one’s social media influence? My personal score on Klout, a site that analyses social media behaviour, certainly suggested that this was (infuriatingly) not the case and, given that there was zero interaction between myself and my new mates, this was hardly surprising. The whole operation seemingly only served to improve the external aesthetic of my Twitter profile page.
This leads us to a more significant area of discussion for people and brands that chase social media love and focus purely on numbers of likes, views and followers they accrue. As recently expressed on the Synergy blog, pure figures are no longer sufficient and ‘participation’ is now crucial in any interaction between brand and consumer. The difference between an inactive follower and an interactive one is immeasurable. If connecting with the right people, this level of ‘participation’ can be incredibly valuable in introducing consumers to brands and influencing their behaviour.
The reasoning continues that it would be more valuable for a company to have 100 highly engaged consumers than tens of thousands of seemingly passive onlookers. Indeed, sponsorship is one way of sparking this conversation and increasing the engagement between brand and consumer.
In short, I believe my short-lived experience can be seen as a microcosm of a brand chasing Twitter followers: admittedly, my social media profile was slightly raised by my follower count increasing five-fold, but beyond that I gained nothing (not even a single re-tweet). The 200-odd followers I had previously earned legitimately tend to direct me towards content, interact with me and, to a degree, educate me, but the one-way process of me tweeting at the 1,000 Twitter-bots and inactive bods brought me nothing. The whole process underlined that whether real or not, purely chasing followers or likes for the sake of it is an out-dated concept. Level of participation will be the new measure of a brand’s social media influence, with those parties that successfully engage with consumers and catalyse conversation the ones that will benefit most.
Inevitably, the international headlines about Brazil tend to focus on our remarkable social and economic development over the last twenty years, but there are many other things that one needs to understand about the country. Yes, Brazil is a great country, and it’s getting better, but there are a lot of unsolved problems, especially in social development.
This explains in part why the Brazilian sports industry has been able to create great campaigns using football, our main passion, as a way to make people aware of important causes.
This year WWF wanted to alert Brazilians to the fact that every four minutes an area equivalent to the size of a football pitch is deforested in the country. During the broadcast of a Brazilian women’s national team match, the green grass started to turn brown. It took 4 minutes to transform the whole pitch in a ‘deforested area’ through special effects. In the end, a caption on screen explained everything to the audience, and WWF websites visits increased by 73%.
Another campaign we love is from our neighbours Paraguay. They too, have a lot of social issues. In particular, around 25% of Paraguayan children aged 4 or under are not registered – in other words, they don’t have an official identity, which is a huge problem. So, during a 2014 FIFA World Cup Qualifying match against Uruguay, in an agreement with UNICEF, the main local TV channels and radio stations broadcast the initial minutes without saying names. Each player was just a number. After some time the commentators explained what it was about. This campaign occurred during the presidential elections, and resulted in the two main candidates promising to address the matter.
Brazil and Latin America have a huge potential to address social issues through sport. Clubs, athletes, governing bodies, sponsors, media, and NGOs should work together and create more campaigns like these. Of course, sport won’t solve everything, but it can be a great kick-off to drive awareness and create a pathway to action.
Bruno and Guilherme are partners at Ativa Esporte, the Brazilian sports marketing consultancy which is Synergy’s partner in Brazil.
For many of Britain’s sport enthusiasts, the May Day bank holiday signals a weekend spent glued to the TV watching the World Snooker Championship final. For the players, a Crucible final is the pinnacle of their career – not only for the event’s history and tradition, the privilege of playing in the famous auditorium and the ranking points on offer, but also the financial reward (£250,000 to be exact) that now comes with lifting the trophy. Thanks to the leadership and entrepreneurial nous of World Snooker chairman and Matchroom Sport chief executive Barry Hearn, the financial boundaries in the sport have been stretched significantly over the past few years and the best players in the world are finally being suitably rewarded for their skill, professionalism and hard work.
Behind the scenes, the Synergy team were hard at work delivering the PR activity to amplify Betfair’s sponsorship of the World Championship. As Barry Hearn continues to raise the financial stakes, Synergy tapped into the snooker psyche to develop the ‘Betfair Golden Cue’. Inspired by the players’ James Bond-style attire, Betfair gave snooker’s biggest stars the chance to become the first ‘Man with the Golden Cue’. This unique prize and a £10,000 cheque were on offer for the highest individual break during the tournament.
Given that a golden cue is not something you’d be able to find down your local Argos, we were indebted to John Parris, founder of Parris Cues, for undertaking the painstaking process of coating the cue in 23 carat gold leaf and producing such a high-quality cue. Designed to add some extra sparkle (or as Ronnie would say, “pizzazz”) to snooker’s flagship event, the Betfair Golden Cue took pride of place on set and became part of the conversation throughout the tournament, with BBC’s Hazel Irvine making regular references to it. In the first week, there were two early contenders for the prize with Ricky Walden’s impressive break of 140 quickly followed by a 142 break from the flamboyant Judd Trump.
As the high breaks continued, Twitter came to life with speculation from fans and snooker bloggers alike on who would win the Betfair Golden Cue. The cue itself became an object of mystery throughout the tournament, with speculation over its origin and manufacture maintaining the social media conversation. Consequently, Synergy placed another order with Parris Cues for a cue to give away on Betfair’s social channels, giving the lucky winner the chance to get their own gold-leafed memento from the tournament. At the time of writing, the social media giveaway has proved to be Betfair’s most successful yet, across all sports.
As title sponsors, Betfair offered a market on the Golden Cue winner, giving punters the chance to place early bets on pre-tournament high-break favourites with O’Sullivan available at 8/1, Judd Trump at 9/1 and Mark Williams at 12/1. Despite the strong early showings from Ricky Walden and Judd Trump, neither could prevent the explosive Australian, Neil Robertson, from stealing the prize. Indeed, despite quality cue play on show throughout the tournament (in total 55 century breaks were recorded), no one could surpass Robertson’s break of 143.
Although the tournament did not see a magical 147 break, snooker fans were still treated to a masterclass from O’Sullivan, who performed at his mercurial best to claim a fifth World Championship title. Indeed, the Betfair Golden Cue may have gone to Robertson but there’s no doubt that the Betfair World Champion, the ‘Rocket’ Ronnie O’Sullivan, remains snooker’s ‘golden boy’.
Unless you have been hiding under a rock, you will no doubt have seen the photos of Boris Johnson mounting a horse to launch the London leg of the Global Champions Tour. The photo appeared in the Evening Standard, Daily Telegraph and The Times, plus an array of onlines with Metro, Guardian, Daily Express, MSN and BBC Online to name a few. The launch also featured on BBC London TV (twice) and LBC.
Global Champions Tour (GCT), a new Synergy client, is coming to the capital for the first time thanks to Peter Phillips. Taking place adjacent to the Olympic Park in early June, the horse-jumping event aims to bring back the atmosphere and festive spirit we saw at Greenwich last summer.
Synergy’s role was to launch the event. We had the event venue confirmed at the Olympic Park (but not yet built) and support from the Mayor’s office, which meant around 10 minutes with Boris.
Ah ha, you may say, but surely getting Boris is guaranteed coverage? Not on a day when he already had two photo calls and around ten the previous week – he’s no stranger to the publicity trail. However, the GCT team at Synergy had a firm strategy in place to ensure that the launch event would guarantee coverage.
1. It’s all in the timing
You can never guarantee a news-free day, or always ensure your event isn’t clashing with another big launch, but you can be smart with the timing. We chose a Tuesday post Bank Holiday, with PR offices shut down over the weekend, events and launches would be few and far between. Being a month out from our event and conversation turning towards the Olympic Park re-opening in the summer also gave us a fighting chance.
2. Location, location, location
Let me tell you, dear reader, getting access to what is essentially a building site is not easy. But we knew that being on the site where the event will take place and having the Olympic Stadium as the backdrop was key to putting our story and London into context. So, after some serious Health & Safety documentation, we secured our ideal location for the shoot.
3. Having a Plan B
Never put all your eggs in one basket. Probably the best PR advice out there. Alongside Boris (and, of course, the horse), we ensured we had a variety of spokespeople at hand to support the launch and provide sound bites, including Peter Phillips himself and Team GB Olympic Gold medal winner Nick Skelton. Pre-arranged interviews ensured guaranteed coverage was lined-up before the event itself.
4. Doing what PR’s do best – jumping on an opportunity (or a horse)
Finally, a PR’s best tools are common sense, fearlessness and the power of persuasion, all of which came to play at our photo call. With a firm plan in place, we knew we’d have a successful launch: however, not ones to rest on our laurels, the team jumped on every opportunity on the day. Boris didn’t end up on the horse by accident: the team worked hard to orchestrate the moment we knew would be photo gold. Being bold and spotting the right opportunity for our request (the cycle helmet acted as our prop of choice), we managed to get Boris on the horse less than a minute before he was whisked away by ‘his people’.
Disclaimer: No horses were harmed in the making of this photo. Same can’t be said for Boris.
The air above the hot barbeque wavers and wobbles, the smoke drifts across the garden and gradually dissipates. Satisfied, you and your friends lounge on the warm grass and revel in the sensation that winter has passed and summertime is around the corner. A light breeze ruffles the grass and you feel the blades brush subtly against your calf. You look down…
… and there they are. Two bright white sticks protruding awkwardly from a pair of shorts. The knees knobbly. The skin almost translucent. It is that time of the year again – May Bank Holiday – time to crack out the legs. For months they have been comfortably lying dormant hidden under thick trouser material, but now, at the first sight of a patch of blue sky, they stand obstinately naked to the world. Surely there is no sight more symbolic of a sunny day in Britain than an assortment of pasty men’s legs, so white that the intense light reflecting off them creates an almost angelic glow.
Unattractive as they might be perceived, I see our lacklustre limbs as a massive untapped resource for brands wishing to sponsor something more real and universal than an event or asset that may only be experienced by a certain demographic. What could be more human than a pair of legs – we all have them and millions of us, whether we like it or not, sport ones of a rather pale complexion. Thus, I propose that a brand steps forward to become the first official sponsor of Britain’s pathetically pale legs.
A brand sponsoring the human body is not unheard of. In the media recently there have been stories about people who have sold advertising space on their bodies, with the result that they are branded for life with a company’s logo – which is sometimes a move they come to regret as in the case of Billy Gibby – aka “Hostgator Dotcom” who transformed his face into breathing billboard for various companies including online adult sites. Other companies have been known to market their brand on physical attributes; for example L’Oréal employ Cheryl Cole and her much celebrated locks to promote their hair products. Famously Subway told the story of Jared Fogle, an American who lost 107kg through exercise and a strict diet of subs, in a number of PR stunts and advertisements. Closer to home in London, anyone familiar to Oxford Street will have come across the especially tall man who hands out leaflets for the chain.
Like Jared Fogle our leggy campaign would need a front man and with some fear of appearing self obsessed I wish to put myself forward. Being a 6ft 2’’ ginger haired chap my long, spindly legs are exemplary. Sure, they are not insured for £90 million like Ronaldo’s but my pasty credentials are strong; for instance, if I stand against a white background it appears as though my shorts are merely hovering above a pair of shoes. Being the pins of such a campaign would be a tall order, but it is a challenge I am willing to accept.
It is my belief that sponsorship of the nation’s legs is an opportunity for three distinct types of brand:
1) Fake tan / tanning moisturiser brand
We all know that exposing our skin to too much sun can be dangerous and awareness of the risks has increased in recent years. This has consequently led to an increase in the sales of fake tan and tanning moisturisers that provide a golden glow/ orange hew (depending on taste) without the potential cancerous after effects. I propose that a brand could sponsor the upkeep of my legs, transforming them into the sun kissed legs of a Grecian god. I’d be willing to let them leave the shape of their logo untanned, on my calf perhaps, to serve as a visual advertisement of before and after. I am not quite sure how the tanning of a lanky young man will help target the majority female demographic, but these are only initial ideas. We will leave the finer details for the moment.
2) Sun cream
Way back in the olden days, a pale complexion used to be all the rage. Queen Elizabeth I loved nothing more than pasting her face with ghostly lead-based make-up and till the 19th century a tan was seen as an unattractive quality associated the poorer classes who had to work outdoors. There are signs that this historic admiration of pale skin is having a resurgence; take, for instance, Dainty Doll – the makeup range created by Nicola Roberts for those of a lighter complexion (or the vampiresque cast of the Twilight films). I believe we should look after our skin and celebrate our milky complexion. Whether the damage is salmon pink or lobster red, sunburn is never a good look – I should know having written a large part of this blog post outside and protected only one side of my face, leaving me looking like a red and white version of Braveheart. Thus, why doesn’t someone sponsor our pallid legs to encourage us to take care of our skin and thereby celebrate our natural form? This is currently in vogue; Dove for the last few years has celebrated natural beauty. The art of protecting this untarnished beauty could find a champion in my two unequivocally natural limbs.
3) A British summertime brand
As mentioned, the re-emergence of men’s legs from their winter hibernation truly marks the start of British summer. An eccentric time; meetings are held outdoors, ice creams are handed out around the office, people skip excitedly to supermarkets to purchase sausages, obligatory salad and inexplicably small bottles of beer. Like the emergence of Pimm’s, 99 Flakes and disposable BBQs, pale legs are symbolic of the British summer. Thus, I propose that my legs are sponsored by one of these famous British brands that we associate with the start of the season. Top of the list would be Pimm’s – the ultimate summery drink that is arguably a necessary component at any good BBQ.
So how would the sponsorship work? For starters, there would be a marketing campaign that trumpets their designation, “Pimm’s: The Official Sponsor of Britain’s Pasty Pins”. Next I am thinking branded shorts (which would look incredibly fetching modelled by myself in various PR shoots) and flip flops. Clearly there would be leg-shaped jugs (inspired by the boot-shaped beer glasses – Bierstiefeln – found in Germany) and limb-like stirring sticks. Concerning events, what about the national competition to find the most pathetic pegs in Britain – the winner of which could win the ultimate summertime BBQ. We could even indulge in guerrilla marketing at large summertime events – music festivals, sporting fixtures etc. – where branded transfers could be stuck on exposed legs in return for a free drink.
Of course, these are only initial ideas and any good brainstorm would come up with a multitude of better and funnier concepts that would far surpass that of a blogger enjoying yet another refreshing summertime beverage.
To conclude, I am rather proud of our nation’s pale pins and hope that I have gone some way to convincing you that they are a valuable asset for sponsorship – whether it is for a sun cream, tanning or British summertime brand. Personally I believe that the latter is the most viable; especially as I, rather than a gorgeous woman, can be a credible option to front it. It is just a thought – maybe a good one? Then again, I do feel a touch of sun stroke coming on.
Disclaimer: The author is aware that since the time of writing it has in fact turned out that the May Bank Holiday was a false dawn for this year’s summer. Rest assured he is currently shaking his fist at the sky.
Bringing together over 1,200 delegates and a stellar cast of keynote speakers, the annual IEG Conference is the place to go to get a feel for the US sponsorship industry and the latest trends emerging from that side of the pond.
Having experienced three full days of presentations and roundtables covering every topic under the sponsorship sun, we have enough thoughts, insights and observations to fill a whole series of blogs (which we’ll be publishing over the next few weeks). But in advance of that, it makes sense to start with a high-level view of the key themes to emerge from the conference as a whole, with a particular focus on the keynote speakers.
The New 4 Ps of Sponsorship
In her welcome address, Lesa Ukman (Chief Insights Officer at IEG) introduced “The New 4 Ps”, a simple framework which outlines the critical components of successful sponsorship.
So here it goes: a summary of the core themes from the keynote speakers in the context of “The New 4 Ps”.
Great sponsorship is far more than skin deep. It is about both the brand and the rights holder working together through all available channels to create win/win/win situations, where genuine value is added to the brand, property and audience.
This is not a new idea, and the debate about whether we should move away from the word “sponsorship” has been rumbling for years (decades even). Of course, it doesn’t really matter what we call it as long as brands realise that sponsorship is not a one-way value transfer.
This sense of partnership is at the centre of Pepsi’s new deal with Beyonce. Frank Cooper, Pepsi’s CMO, acknowledged that on the surface it looked like exactly the same sort of deal that Pepsi has been doing since the ‘80s with Michael Jackson (a thought that we have already discussed in the past). However, he assured us that this couldn’t be further from the truth. Evidently, it is a deep collaboration that will redefine how music is created and distributed, deliver innovative episodic content, while also resulting in new Women’s Empowerment projects that come from Beyonce’s personal social conscience. We’ll be watching with great interest.
Miller Light has taken things far deeper than simple product placement in its partnership with The Internship (a new comedy re-uniting Wedding Crashers Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson). The brand is providing large-scale marketing support on-pack and through a high-profile competition to win the ultimate internship with Miller Light. This will, in turn, deliver great content and social currency for Miller, in addition to strong product placement within the movie.
Deborah Dugan, the CEO of (RED), showed another great example of brands working together to create win/win/win scenarios. For those of you not familiar with (RED), it partners with world-leading brands including Nike, Apple, Coca-Cola, Starbucks, Beats by Dr. Dre and Bugaboo to create limited edition (RED) products. A percentage of the profits from these products go to The Global Fund which fights for an AIDS-free generation. This is a great example of a win/win/win scenario: The Global Fund raises much-needed money; brands drive revenue through new products while demonstrating what they stand for; and customers can support the cause simply by buying great, new, limited edition products from the brands they already love.
Clearly, what all these examples have in common is that actively working together creates more value for all parties, while also establishing a concrete role for the brand – all of which deliver the authenticity that is critical to being accepted by an audience.
Of all the New 4 Ps, the idea that a brand needs a purpose (beyond making money for the sake of making money), is probably the one that came through most clearly. Consumers don’t just want to know who a brand is, they need to know what it stands for. A really powerful element of sponsorship is that it can provide a highly visible symbol of a brand’s purpose.
Jim Stengler is so committed to the idea that doing good and doing well are two sides of the same coin that he left his role as CMO of P&G to write a book, Grow, showing that companies with a strong purpose outperformed the market. His view is that a company’s culture – what it believes in and how it behaves – is the only truly sustainable source of differentiation.
He showed how the turning point in the Pampers business was this ad – when it stopped telling people about the product and started showing that “Pampers get babies. Pampers loves babies”. Andy England from MillerCoors used a nice turn of phrase to capture this idea: we need to move from brand campaigns to campaigning for our brand.
For Frank Cooper, the CMO of Pepsi, it’s a case of “The King is dead; long live the King”. Specifically, Content isn’t King. Intent is King. Consumers are no longer happy to just know what you do and how you do it, they want to know why you do it. A brand’s intent is now as important as the product itself.
Ironically, Frank Cooper didn’t manage to articulate the specifics of Pepsi’s “intent”, but he did refer to the Pepsi Refresh Project, describing it as “one of the most important experiments” Pepsi (or any other brand, for that matter) had undertaken in the past decade. It was undeniably brave – but the fact that it was ditched after just one year might indicate that it was a brave failure.
Jim Trebilcock from Dr. Pepper Snapple, provided one of my favourite case studies from the event. The Dr. Pepper Tuition Giveaway uses its sponsorship of NCAA Football to run a promotion giving college students the chance to win their tuition fees ($100,000) by uploading a video which described how they would use their college education to create a better future. I like this because it really brings to life Dr. Pepper’s intent to encourage everyone to tread their own path to become one of a kind.
Synergy have covered this trend extensively over the past year as part of our discussions on the Social Era of Sponsorship – so it was nice to see it reinforced in Chicago.
Brands that simply badge content might get awareness but they don’t necessarily get any credit. Anyone can get awareness by slapping a logo on something – but producing content, events and experiences that resonate with the audience and enhance their experiences is the best way to truly connect.
All the keynote speakers emphasised the importance of being Creator Brands and took the opportunity to showcase some of the great content they had developed. From TV spots to earned media and user-generated content, no presentation was complete without a few examples of the engaging content they had created.
A couple of examples deserve special mention. The first is the deep, multi-channel engagement which Coors Light created around its sponsorship of Liga MX (the Mexican Football League) for the US audience. The sponsorship started with standard on-pack and in-store activity, but the brand took it further to create a website called ‘Fanaticos del Frio’, providing exclusive fan content about Liga MX. It then extended it into mobile apps, social media engagement and experiential activity, before finally partnering with Univision (the major Spanish Language TV Channel) to turn Fanaticos del Frio into a prime-time weekly TV programme. Creating and curating this content means that Coors Light owns the Liga MX fan experience in the US.
Pete Blackshaw, Global Head of Nestle’s digital marketing and social media, shared a very clever new interactive film with us called Perrier’s Secret Place. You are in control as you switch characters to navigate your way through the ultimate Secret Party, trying to find clues that will lead you to the Golden Perrier Bottle. Finding the golden bottle gives you a chance to win trips to “the ultimate parties around the world”. The idea that you should be drinking Perrier at parties to make sure you don’t miss any details of the experience is interesting – and the film is great.
Again, there is nothing new about the idea of content being at the centre of the sponsorship experience – we have written about it many times (here and chapter 6 of our 2013 Trends Report, here) – but it is important that the point is reinforced at every possible occasion.
The stories that a brand can tell about itself are dwarfed by the potential stories that others can tell about it. That’s why sponsors should be finding ways to create movements that everyone can participate and share in.
Adam Garone, co-founder of Movember, really brought to life how a simple idea can harness the power of the audience to spread the word and drive the storyline. Every man that grows a moustache sparks hundreds of different conversations during the month of November – with friends, colleagues and even strangers on the Tube. And that, rather than simply raising money, is the whole point.
However, it is worth raising a couple of words of caution at this point. Firstly, don’t expect customers to participate in something which they don’t really care about (and they’ll be the judge of that), or which doesn’t fit into and improve their existing ‘rituals’. Hundreds of activations fall flat because the consumer just thinks: “why bother?”. Secondly, the whole point of ‘Participation’ is to create some form of legacy – a deeper connection with the consumer that lasts longer and means more than simply viewing an ad. With that in mind, it’s worth remembering that not all content is shareable. As Pablo Ganguli, founder of Liberatum, which creates cultural festivals in countries around the world said: “I would prefer 200 highly motivated, energised, intelligent people to experience my content directly rather than 2 billion people watching my YouTube video because they are bored.”
Sponsorship gives brands the ability to show that they have something in common with the audience. Brands that use sponsorship well are seen by fans to be “one of us”, and that makes them willing to tell their story.
So those are the new 4 Ps. If you have read the Synergy blog and our 2013 Trends Report, you will recognise many of the same themes in our ABCDE framework: for Beyond your Brand (B), read Purpose; for Content (C), read Production; and for Dialogue (D), read Participation. The New 4 P framework doesn’t explicitly reference Authenticity (A) and Emotion (E), but there is no doubt that both those elements need to be at the heart of all of the Ps. Conversely, ABCDE doesn’t explicitly mention Partnership – but that’s simply because the whole framework is about partnerships and the vital ingredients required to create great ones.
So when it comes to great sponsorship it doesn’t really matter what side of the Atlantic you might find yourself on: what the IEG Conference really demonstrated – as the ABCDE and the 4Ps frameworks make clear – is that the rules for outstanding sponsorship are universal.
That’s right, I’m now officially one of the moneymen. With a few clicks online, my place was secured as a backer of Wish I Was Here, the Kickstarter-funded movie from Scrubs star, Zach Braff. With a site target of $2 million, this is no small Kickstarter project, but in the scale of Hollywood productions is undeniably at the indie end of the spectrum – more in line with Braff’s debut writer-director-star feature, Garden State, than, say, his last starring role in Oz the Great and Powerful.
And that’s no bad thing. Garden State was a gem of a film: an intimate story framed by some memorable cinematography and a soundtrack that brought a whole new audience to the likes of The Shins, Colin Hay and Frou-Frou.
In a smart move by the team behind the appeal (the script was co-written by Zach and Adam, the brothers Braff), the investor rewards have nodded to their talent for selecting music that really connects with film and fans: for my $20 pledge I’ll receive regular picks from the proposed soundtrack, streamed direct to my computer. Other rewards for those with deeper pockets include tickets to the première (where you can sit next to Braff himself), the chance to name a character or even to have a part in the final movie. It’s a well-constructed page – earnest, honest and funny – but moreover it features a cracker of an appeal video from Zach and pals.
The social buzz around it has made interesting viewing: I pledged my cash in the first $100k group and was amazed to see the gentle rumble of momentum (not to mention *ching* of cash registers) as Braff’s A-list friends, James Franco, Michael J Fox and Courtney Cox, all brought their weight – and, importantly, Twitter followings – to bear.
Before the first day was out, the page had already raised $725,000, and, at time of writing is up to $1.7 million. Not bad in just over 48 hours. There’s bound to be a natural plateauing of investment over the coming week, but with 28 days still to go, it’s likely that the fundraising will exceed all expectations – not uncommon for popular projects on the site.
Empire Magazine tweeted about the appeal, though, for a publication that was a 4-star fan of Braff’s first feature, appeared surprisingly indifferent to the project. Similarly, I was rather surprised by the number of “Why doesn’t he fund it from the $millions he made from Scrubs?” tweetbacks and replies. It was good to see a subsequent interview with Mr Braff on Empire Online by Ali Plumb that gave a little more colour to the story, along with a number of comments defending the film-maker’s right to use this medium to secure funding for his movie.
Let’s be honest, whatever Zach Braff makes through this online appeal is unlikely to be the end of the story; I’ve already described how the Kickstarter model has been used by entrepreneurial souls to demonstrate to the slippery big fish out there that a passionate market exists to support any given product/project/person. It’s highly improbable that there isn’t therefore some form of match-funding scheduled once Zach makes his first $2m – and I can’t believe that this won’t include financial investment from the man himself. The criticism just seems a little unfounded. And it’s not like he’s trying to make Independence Day 2. Although that might be quite fun to watch…
Irrespective of the project, I don’t think that it’s fair to criticise anyone for using Kickstarter to get their dream off the ground – famous or otherwise: in the end any project will live or die on the idea at its very heart. If it’s not compelling or realistic enough to make people part with the requisite cash, then they’ll be part of the 43% of Kickstarters that don’t make it.
Having ‘established’ industry people using the platform may offer would-be investors a greater level of confidence in the quality of the finished article, or even just provide a project talisman to believe in – especially important after 84% of projects funded in 2012 ended up being delivered late. As long as the justification for not using traditional funding mechanisms feels appropriate to you, then what’s the problem?
And if you’re really not comfortable with a millionaire asking for your money then just don’t donate.
Sponsorship was born out of patronage in Ancient Greece more than 2,000 years ago – crowd-funding has simply reduced the reliance on finding that mythical single backer. More importantly, it has demonstrated that this collective power can achieve something greater than the sum of each individual contribution: together we can create synergy.
The merits of a loyal customer base are well explored in consumer marketing. Some suggest that it is 6 to 7 times more expensive to attract a new customer than retain an existing one, whilst the impact of a longer term relationship on the bottom line is clear to see. Brands will fight tooth and nail to ensure that they retain their share of your wallet.
In the sporting world, rights holders are often guilty of assuming loyalty amongst their consumers – the fans. Sports fans are, on the whole, unique; few would defect to a ‘competitor’ if they felt that they were more successful, that ticket prices were lower or that the overall in stadium experience was of a higher quality. And with decreasing reliance on match-day revenues to generate cash due to the size of broadcast and sponsorship deals, there seems to be little incentive for the rights holder to nurture this relationship.
A ticket – or, more specifically, a season ticket – is an expensive and considered purchase which carries with it a significant opportunity cost. The price elasticity may be less sensitive than with other consumer goods, largely due to the tribal and passionate nature of the average sports fan, but it is still very much a key factor in decision making. No rights holder wants an empty stadium – it not only contributes to a decrease in overall revenue but begins to devalue their brand.
Step forward the Seattle Sounders of Major League Soccer. The Sounders put the fans at the heart of everything that they do, and what they have created is one of the most sophisticated and well thought out fan engagement programmes that I have seen in any sport.
Now in its second season, the MatchPass programme is helping to create a closer relationship between the club and its 32,000 season ticket holders. Its primary function as a ticketless swipe card for entry into home games is nothing new. What makes it stand out is the rewards programme that it feeds. The card is swiped at each food, beverage and merchandise transaction to earn points and unlock exclusive rewards such as stadium tours, signed merchandise or a chance meet a player on the field after the match. In addition, members also receive exclusive discounts on the items they buy when using the pass. The card can be preloaded with credit for a completely cashless experience and can be used throughout their CenturyLink Field stadium.
MatchPass is also helping the club to shape positive behaviours, with fans encouraged to arrive 30 minutes or more before kick off for an early-bird points bonus.
The Sounders are not just improving their relationship with their supporters but also making themselves a more attractive proposition for sponsors. Data collected provides valuable customer insights into purchasing habits and match-day behaviour, whilst reward programmes can help to encourage product trial and generate loyalty – extending the relationship outside of the match-day environment.
Rights holders around the world should take note. You can’t assume loyalty. You need to earn it.
Synergy Sponsorship is a trading division of Engine Partners UK LLP, a limited liability partnership. Registered in England & Wales No. OC365821. Registered office 60 Great Portland Street, London W1W 7RT, United Kingdom. List of members’ names open for inspection at registered office.