In her opening session of the IEG Conference, Laren Ukman said something which really jumped out at me. She said that the biggest advantage sponsorship has over other forms of marketing is the power to generate ‘gratitude’ amongst an audience.
On the face of it, that argument certainly makes some sense. There is no doubt that consumers have very little reason to thank a brand when they are interrupted by advertising or direct mail. On the other hand, sponsors clearly play a vital role in supporting and financing the things that people care passionately about, which I guess is worthy of some form of gratitude.
Gratitude leads to ‘reciprocity‘, which is proven by social psychology to be a powerful force in influencing behaviour. So earning the audience’s gratitude is probably a good way to get them to change their behaviour towards buying your products and services.
But something about that just doesn’t feel right to me. Is gratitude really the central emotion that sponsors want to stimulate in their audience, no matter how subconsciously?
For me, the power of sponsorship is not about creating an unequal relationship, where the audience is somehow indebted to the sponsor; rather, it should be about creating the most equal of relationships, where the sponsor shows exactly how much they have in common with their audience.
Sponsorship has revealed its true power if the audience thinks about the sponsor: “They get my passion and they love it as much as I do”. That’s not gratitude, that’s having something in common. No other form of marketing can demonstrate that better than sponsorship.
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.
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.
For as long as advertising has existed, leading practitioners have highlighted the importance of brand storytelling. Explaining where a brand has come from and why it exists is fundamental in emotionally connecting with a consumer. But what happens when a brand leaves the mood-rooms and storyboards of advertising and enters the world of sponsorship? A world where individual ambassadors carry the responsibility of a brand on their very human shoulders.
Lance Armstrong made one statement in his interview with Oprah Winfrey that epitomises the problem:
“This story was so perfect for so long. And I mean that, as I try to take myself out of the situation and I look at it. You overcome the disease, you win the Tour de France seven times. You have a happy marriage, you have children. I mean, it’s just this mythic perfect story, and it wasn’t true.”
Nike told this story like an advertiser would and they did it extremely well. The problem is, as we now know, they were selling an advertising concept, and one that a single individual couldn’t hope to live up to. Armstrong is not alone. Time and again athletes are put on pedestals which are, in truth, tight-ropes. Global superstars will always slip if they’re sold as something they’re not.
The alternative is to sell the stories of who people truly are. To continue the Nike example, the emergence of Andre Agassi in the ’90s as a Generation X ambassador was an opportunity for Nike to tell a real story about a real person who stood for the very same things Nike did at the time. Interestingly, when Agassi revealed he had taken shockingly illegal drugs during his playing career, there was a surprisingly repressed response from media and fans. People loved Agassi even more for the mistakes he made throughout his career and the person he became because of it. It’s a genuine story, not a marketing concept, and as a result the truth could never ‘come out’.
It’s easy to take two of the most famous sponsorship cases in the last 25 years and pin them at either ends of a spectrum of right and wrong, but there are lessons to be learnt. At Synergy we talk about the importance of ‘Authenticity’ in sponsorship. It is the first step of our Social Era ABCDE model, and this is a key example of why it is so vital.
Consumers have a desperate thirst to discover the often layered centre of their sporting heroes, not just the shining exterior we see in ghost-written autobiographies. Brands that can root their own story to that of an ambassador have much less to lose than those that become attached to a polished veneer.
All of which brings us to Tiger Woods – another Nike athlete with a perfect story that unravelled spectacularly. The major difference between Lance and Tiger being that whilst doping revelations have utterly compromised Armstrong’s performance credibility, it is sporting prowess alone that has brought about Woods’s redemption.
Perhaps this has helped Nike discover the real truth about sporting ambassadors: maybe, for a performance brand like them, the story doesn’t matter at all.
A relaxing Easter weekend, a sleepy Bank Holiday Monday – the perfect time to catch people off-guard. April Fools’ Day rolled around and, as in previous years, punters had their collective wits tested by brands and news outlets looking to have a bit of fun. This year there were three distinct types of April Fool, making it all the more difficult to gauge what was veritable truth and what was strange enough to be fiction.
The first of these were the brand-led April Fools that, if executed well, generate great exposure for the brands involved. Virgin Atlantic’s story, featured in the Daily Mirror, proclaimed that pioneering bosses at the airline were introducing jets with glass floors to create a ‘walking on air’ experience, enabling passengers to see the world below them. The Fool even went so far as to suggest that permission had been secured to divert the planes’ flight path north over Loch Ness.
Hotels.com plumped for a royally Foolish prank, claiming that the Belgian Suite at Buckingham Palace was now available for hire at the princely sum of £10,000 a night. The Fool overplayed itself somewhat by offering the chance to ‘breakfast with the Royals’, but secured Hotels.com a good spread in the Daily Express. The award for the oddest brand-led Fool however should certainly go to Asda, who announced the launch of their Fifty Shades of Grey toilet paper. This bizarre claim featured in the Daily Mail and detailed that each shade of the new range had been named after one of the eponymous hero Christian Grey’s traits.
And BMW, pioneers of the April Fool ad, unveiled the P.R.A.M. (Postnatal Royal Auto Mobile), a new model to appeal to all those yummy mummies out there, with an email address for enquiries to one Joe King.
To much acclaim, however, the winner has to be Google, which announced their ‘Google Nose’ innovation. The alleged new function invited viewers to smell what they saw on screen, creating the first ‘emanation experience’. Some even petitioned Google to make this dream a reality after realising they’d been had.
The second variety of April Fools dared to dream a little less but focused more on creating a Fool that was genuinely believable: the journalist-concocted ‘fake’ news story. The team at the Daily Telegraph exemplified this, putting forward a Coalition plan to introduce door-to-door teams to monitor light usage and ensure Britain switches off to save energy in these times of austerity. The Fool even featured the creation of a new role of ‘Light Tsar’ to enforce the project on a national level.
More light-hearted still was The Guardian’s suggestion that they would be distributing ‘Guardian goggles’ that give people a more liberal outlook when reading – proving that even the most morally upstanding of newspapers can still laugh at themselves. Channel 4 News got in on the action too, announcing that Boris Johnson had mixed up his dates and would be entering the by-election triggered by David Miliband’s resignation as an MP. Twitter added their idea to the pile, claiming that they were to begin charging Tweeters for using vowels.
The third style of Fool were those that were in fact not April Fools’ Day stunts at all, but instead weird and wacky stories designed to throw the reader off track – a dummy pass if you will.
The most convincing of these featured in The Times. This stated that NASA was hatching a plan to put $2.6bn into a robotic system that would harness an asteroid and drag it to the moon for scientific research. This was in fact TRUE. Indeed, many thought that reports that Prime Minister David Cameron had clambered into a brook to rescue a trapped sheep were too ridiculous to be valid but this story was also confirmed to be FACT.
Our own sponsorship sector saw fewer Fools than usual this year with the Synergy offering of Extendable Goal Posts for Extra Time in the Capital One Cup 2013/14 leading the way. Featuring on the back page and a full page inside The Sun on Monday, the prank alleged that due to the demands of American executives at sponsors Capital One, a rule change would see bigger goals used in Cup games next season after 90 minutes to avoid stalemates and make the periods more exciting. Talksport also put together a football themed Fool. This one centred on the managerial farce at Chelsea this season and alleged that Roman Abramovich would be taking charge of his Chelsea team as Head Coach from next season.
After so much mischief in the press in one day, readers will have returned to work casting a critical eye over stories making the headlines. But one thing is for sure…that cynical edge will have worn off by this time next year.
This is shaping up to be a bumper year for England Cricket (whether you agree with the scheduling or not). Our boys are set to face the Aussies home and away with two back-to-back Ashes series and 10 Test matches within four months.
The question is: what can we expect from sponsors during this cricketing feast?
There have been some great sponsorship campaigns in the UK over the years including Betfair, Adidas, Marstons and Buxtons, and in our view, the conditions are in place to take it to another level again to create something really ground-breaking.
Secondly, it will attract a big audience. This year’s Ashes are already looking to be a record-breaking sell-out across all five venues staging Tests, with a rush for tickets as soon as they went on sale. And across TV, radio, print and the web the crown jewel of cricket will as always pull in enormous audiences in England, Australia and beyond.
Thirdly, the appeal of England versus Australia goes way beyond the traditional Test cricket audiences and into the realms of the Casual Sport Fan. What’s more, The Ashes is a tournament that combines a strong mix of banter, patriotism and humour, which is the perfect platform for creating unique and amusing social content that celebrates one of the most famous of all sporting rivalries.
And finally, social media has reached a critical mass. The way that audiences engage with cricket is expanding beyond the traditional channels. Modern sports fans have embraced technology: it’s a core part of their increasingly fragmented media consumption diet plan. Nothing will replace TMS, but Twitter has made cricket easier than ever to follow and the variety of content is unmatched. Where else can you find out both the latest score and who on the team is having a bad hair day? This gives brands that want to use cricket to reach their audience far more exciting opportunities.
The campaign Synergy created for Betfair in 2009 was one of the earliest socially-centred campaigns in cricket. We used social channels to fuel the banter while Jason Gillespie and Phil Tufnell brought the Anglo-Aussie Ashes rivalry to life. Great content, big promotions and physical rewards (tickets and merchandise) attracted fans and kept them engaged throughout the summer of cricket. And that was in the early days of social media – imagine what is possible now.
We can see more great examples of cricket campaigns from around the world.
Coca-Cola provided a great example of what is possible in cricket when they built the ‘Coca-Cola Beach’ at the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG). Not only did Coca-Cola create a brilliantly orchestrated experiential zone within the venue, they also developed a fully-integrated campaign using Facebook, POS, online, PR and TV. By using Sydney residents Shane Watson, David Warner and captain Michael Clarke, Coke’s campaign encouraged consumers to buy a bottle and win a spot on the beach – the ultimate seat in the SCG.
A cricket tour, which can last for 3 months, gives a brand plenty of time to stage a slower-burn, wide-ranging campaign. In India, Nike capitalised on this by creating ‘Streets to the Stadium’. The campaign focused on a set of young Indian cricketers who were offered a chance to join the roster of the National Cricket Academy by winning the Nike Cup. Along the way, they engaged over 8,000 cricketers and 2.5m Facebook fans via the brilliant content they released on their social media channels.
Mobile is another rich area for cricket sponsors. Vodafone’s Live Cricket app currently offers fans the chance to chat to the commentators and get up-to-the-minute stats and scores – whilst this is all useful, it’s nothing ground-breaking. Brands could go so much further. With its rich tactical nuances, deep statistics and frequent breaks in play (between every ball), cricket is the perfect platform for a brilliant second screen experience.
Apps also have the opportunity enhance the in-stadium experience. Imagine the perfect cricket app that allowed you to order a pie and a pint from your seat, to rewind and watch replays, send messages to the big screen and switch to a front row seat camera view. All possible. The one thing holding all this back is the availability at Test match grounds of free WiFi. But things are starting to change, and Lord’s is leading the way by launching free public WiFi last summer in the media centre, hospitality and public areas, which will be rolled out across all stands in 2013.
There is no doubt that the conditions are right and the ingredients are there for a brand to shake up cricket sponsorship. And the even better news is that there is a property available: principal sponsor of the England Cricket Team.
Brit Insurance, the current sponsor, has already announced that they will not renew their deal at the end of their contract, citing a ‘strategic change in business objectives’. They have also made it clear that they are prepared to terminate their deal early if a new sponsor can be found. In many ways, it’s a surprised that no-one has stepped in already to take advantage of the Ashes double-header. In fact, the new sponsor could be looking at three high-profile series against Australia, a Champions Trophy and a World Cup, all in the next three years.
This type of opportunity is simply too good to miss. Let’s hope the next sponsor, whoever it might be, gets the delivery right and then smashes it out of the ground.
As the New Year dawned, everyone had their opinion on what would be the biggest trends of 2013, and the ‘Internet of Things’ was a common theme. As the name suggests, it’s all about connecting objects rather than people and points to a future when hundreds of billions of everyday objects are connected to the web and ‘talk’ to each other. That day is clearly still some way off, but brands are starting to explore the endless possibilities of connective technology. Nike have produced connected trainers that capture the data in our physical movements, and ‘Smart Homes’ from British Gas enables customers to remotely control their heating via mobile devices. However, Budweiser have used the technology in a way that has particularly caught my attention.
As Canadians huddled around their televisions on Super Bowl Sunday, they were introduced to Budweiser Red Lights in the product’s debut TV spot, and within an hour, they were sold out online. So what exactly are they? Budweiser have picked out one of the icons of ice hockey, the red flashing light synonymous with rinks throughout Canada, and offered fans a unique chance to have them installed in their living rooms. The lights work by connecting to WiFi and syncing to an app to discover the team you support, and react when they score. So when your team’s goals fly in, the light illuminates in all its flashing glory.
Since the initial ad, the story has evolved as Budweiser have introduced Ron Kovacs, the brand’s official spokesperson and installer, who is travelling around the country delivering the lights. He has his own twitter account, but with a mere 635 followers perhaps consumers have not bought into the character as much as the product.
Strategically it is clear to see that Budweiser, who recently lost a legal battle to sponsor the NHL, were keen to find another way in which to associate themselves with the sport and resonate with the fans. They have certainly achieved this, as the Budweiser Red Light is the ultimate home accessory for the avid goal-loving hockey fan. Budweiser have explained that ‘as a brand who loves ice hockey, they wanted to create an innovative experience to elevate those key moments during the game when celebration is at its peak’.
While the concept is enough to get any hockey fan interested, what impresses me most is the technology and how Budweiser have utilised the ‘Internet of Things’. The ways in which brands continue to connect devices and collect data will shape the future of how we all interact with the world. According to one estimate there will be 40 billion things online by 2020, whilst another suggests it will be closer a trillion. In truth, nobody really knows but as the ’Internet of Things’ continues to develop it will certainly be one to keep an eye on. However, for the time being it seems that Budweiser are leading the way, connecting the technology with a seriously fun innovation.
If you watched the BRITs last week, there would have been certain moments that would have grabbed your attention. It could have been Taylor’s Swift’s raunchy new look or perhaps James Cordon and Nick Grimshaw’s intimate moment, but what I was more interested in was witnessing the climax of MasterCard’s Priceless Remakes campaign, in which competition winners featured with artists in the sponsor’s TV idents.
MasterCard’s Priceless Remakes campaign was launched by Rita Ora, Conor Maynard and Delilah earlier this year. To celebrate its fifteenth year as BRIT Award Sponsors, MasterCard gave fans the chance to remake their ambassadors’ videos and experience how it feels like to be a star through professional make up, wardrobe, film crews and direction from Emil Nava.
The premise was simple: fans were invited to film themselves re-creating a video by Rita, Delilah or Conor and then upload it to a dedicated website: www.somethingforthefans.co.uk. Three winning videos were chosen by the artists and the winners went on to star in the Pricessless Remakes idents screened during the BRITS.
Why we love it
MasterCard have taken a standard but highly valuable sponsorship asset – their idents – and given it to the fans. An ad slot that most people would have probably ignored thus became a piece of engaging content that created a real talking point among viewers, with MasterCard at the heart of it. While the show was being aired there were hundreds of tweets by people discussing the idents, mostly with MasterCard mentions included. And the reach for the idents itself was huge by music standards – 6.5m viewers (peaking at 7.5m) – making it the most watched BRITs ceremony for 10 years.
The campaign has also secured plenty of editorial coverage and, by building a series of phases into it from the start of the year, extended MasterCard’s association with the BRITS beyond the event itself.
What made it all the more impressive was how it was used across a range of platforms – TV, print, outdoor, digital and especially social media – to gain attention and drive engagement. The Facebook page and website provided a larger draw to the campaign, with Twitter and YouTube used to get more people involved. The content created throughout the campaign was exploited and worked into various clips for different purposes including the winning videos, 60-second ads, bumpers, teaser films and ‘making of’ clips.
Lastly, the campaign has managed to take the brand to a younger audience. By utilising brand ambassadors such as Rita Ora, MasterCard have engaged credibly with the next generation. At the heart of the campaign is the ethos of giving back to consumers, and with the current zeitgeist for the younger generation being that of quick fame, the prize will have also bought some love for the brand. By allowing this younger audience to experience ‘Priceless’ in a way they appreciate, MasterCard seem to have struck a chord.
Advertising spend within the public sector is a contentious issue, particularly in the current economic environment. Prior to 2009, the Central Office of Information (COI) was regularly listed as one of the UK’s largest advertisers – in 2009/10 estimates put that spend at over £530m. Rightly or wrongly, depending on your standpoint, the COI has been scrapped and this figure has been cut significantly as the Government searches for efficiencies. According to Cabinet Office figures, spend for 2013 will stand at £285m – although this is still a notable increase on the £168m spent in 2012.
Experience says that this will be largely spent on traditional channels – TV, print and outdoor, with a sprinkling of digital. Perhaps it is time to challenge this status quo.
In a sponsorship deal largely overlooked, or simply missed by most, New Zealand-based football club Wellington Phoenix agreed a sponsorship deal with the Health Promotion Agency (HPA), whereby the club receives financial contributions to include alcohol moderation messaging on their signage at all home games. The deal is also thought to include image rights and player appearances, which will be used to promote the scheme across the community.
There are also a handful of examples where clubs have taken on partners from the public sector without the exchange of funds. The most recent and high profile of which is ‘Quit Smoking with Barça’, a smoking cessation campaign run by The European Commission in collaboration with Barçelona. In a similar vein, Worcester Warriors have teamed up with the Worcester City Council to launch a hard-hitting anti-smoking campaign aimed at educating children regarding the dangers and the impact on others of passive smoking. Do these examples point the way for public marketing spend in the UK?
UK Government Departments have dipped their toe in the water before. In 2004 the Department for Transport signed up as a sponsor for the British Superbike Championship to promote their Think! road safety campaign with the aim of reducing deaths and serious road injuries. The deal was renewed in 2007, before concluding at the end of 2008. In spite of this few other departments have followed their lead.
Sponsorship has a proven pedigree within the private sector, delivering against a broad range of objectives, and despite the economic downturn, the industry has continued to flourish. If you engage people around their passions, they are generally more likely to be receptive to your message – whether that message relates to a soft drink or teacher recruitment.
In Britain, we are lucky enough to have some of the most celebrated sporting, musical and cultural properties in the world, which could well provide the perfect platforms for Government communications. There are several examples that instantly spring to mind: professional football, and more specifically the FA, has the credibility and the reach to deliver a message of anti-obesity from a grassroots level upwards, while rugby union has clear shared values with the Ministry of Defence to land recruitment messaging. How better to showcase Britain as a destination than with the Royal Shakespeare Company, Glastonbury Festival or the Commonwealth Games?
This is not to say that traditional channels do not still have their place. In fact, there is a strong argument to the contrary. Empirical studies have shown that integrating sponsorship with other elements of the communications mix creates as synergistic effect, where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Indeed, sponsorship has the potential to deliver truly unique content that can be distributed through traditional broadcast and digital channels to engage an audience that previously may have been considered hard to reach. In the private sector, many brands such as Red Bull (below), O2, and BMW have used their sponsorship assets in their ATL communications to great effect, creating truly memorable and engaging campaigns.
A regular supply of quality content will ensure that the audience remains engaged; an essential component for long term behavioural change. There are, of course, also instances where messaging needs to be released urgently, such as public health announcements when only broadcast channels will be effective and sponsorship is of little relevance. For longer term campaigns which have behavioural change as their core objective, I firmly believe that sponsorship has a role to play.
There could be cynicism towards the Government entering into sponsorship, however, it’s important not to forget that the funds from sponsorship have the power to contribute positively at a grassroots and community level. At a time where there are widespread funding cuts across the arts and sports – maybe, just maybe sponsorship could provide the answer.
How much should you pay for a ticket to a football match or gig? In the past, the answer would have been simple: whatever the seller sees fit to charge you. However, the act of a company, brand or team selling access to their assets has developed substantially in recent years. Slapping a one size fits all price on an asset (and hoping for the best) is no longer an appropriate concept in this social era of consumer choice, and various companies, sports teams and bands are recognising this.
But the point isn’t just that ticketing is changing to absorb changes in consumer behaviour – it is fundamentally being driven by business priorities. In recent times, there has been a steady increase in pioneering pricing strategies, honesty payments and social media-influenced purchases, as parties in the sports and entertainment industries look for ways of maximising revenue through innovation. In industries such as live sport or music, with large fixed costs driving a high minimum cost per match or event, these innovative pricing strategies can represent a win-win for consumers and companies alike.
The Digonex pricing strategy is one approach that is spreading through American sport, and is beginning to be adopted by British sports teams. Described catchily as a ‘fan driven pricing system for event ticketing that scientifically changes prices based upon econometric and behavioural principles’, the system allows for ticket prices to be changed daily depending on market conditions. Similar to booking a flight or ticket to the theatre, the system allows for the flexibility to alter prices for every game dependent on demand.
Following a drop in attendances, brought on by collective belt tightening across their fanbase, Derby County were the first British sports team to test this pricing strategy. Having received special dispensation from the FA (usually clubs can only alter prices for four games per season), it is already proving a success, with attendances noticeably on the up. Tickets for all games are made available at the beginning of the season, meaning sensible Rams fans can book their tickets for big matches in advance to save them purchasing a more expensive ticket closer to the game. In order to appease season ticket holders, Derby have also ensured that ticket prices never drop to a price that would represent better value than a season ticket.
Cardiff have followed in Derby’s footsteps by adopting Digonex and Bristol City are soon to follow. Two Premiership rugby clubs are reported to be close to adoption of the system and the spread is expected to continue to major European sports teams. And why wouldn’t it? When fans can get cheaper tickets, and clubs can benefit from larger attendances and higher revenue on seats that would otherwise have been completely empty, everybody wins.
More recent examples are ‘pay what you want’ schemes for specific matches, dreamt up as a response to tricky economic circumstances and dropping attendances. Mansfield Town saw a doubling of their attendance when adopting the scheme for a game in 2010 and Brentford FC are running a similar promotion for a match against Stevenage in February. Supporters are able to pay whatever they want to for a ticket for the match (over £1) and 50% of any excess over £5 will be passed on to the ‘Sport Relief’ charity. In all these cases, the point is that the tickets would otherwise remain unsold – with no revenue to the club and no bums on seats. With minimal costs to the club involved in hosting an extra fan, this will boost club revenue and help fans out during tricky economic times – while also possibly introducing new fans to the club and generating goodwill through the donation to charity.
These innovative pricing schemes aren’t all just about direct impact on revenue though. Over recent years, there has also been an increase in one-off sales schemes by sports teams and bands as a way of reaching new audiences and/or showing themselves in a positive light. Most famously, Radiohead made a bold move by relying on ‘honesty payments’ for their ‘In Rainbows’ albums in 2007. Denounced and praised in equal measure, opinions differ on whether that move was a financial success. It is clear that money was not the primary driving force behind the idea, and similar moves have become increasingly prevalent around sports.
The evolution of social media is also having an effect on ticketing, with AEG, Malaysia Airlines and KLM examples of brands leading the way with inventive schemes. As an attempt to take on Ticketmaster, AEG have introduced their innovative ‘AXS’ ticketing service. As well as making life difficult for touts by seeking out automated servers purchasing large numbers of tickets, they have introduced a system that allows purchasers to reserve adjacent tickets for friends through Facebook for concerts, shows and other events. Alerted by Facebook, these friends have 48 hours to purchase these tickets knowing that they will be sat next to their mates. Again, it looks like everybody wins. Fans will have a better time sitting next to their mates (and not having to shell out on their friends’ tickets with the inevitable sluggish paying back process) and companies have a happier crowd. This may not directly impact on revenue, but it is likely to have an indirect effect on consumer morale.
Malaysia Airlines and KLM have gone one step further by attempting to socialise the art of booking and taking a flight. When booking a flight, users are reminded of friends who live close to their destination and informed of any friends who may be making a similar journey. Users also have the opportunity to share their itinerary, and through the seat selection process, are able to select seats next to Facebook friends. This clearly comes with a few privacy/stalking implications but the concept feels like a landmark step forward.
Why are these ideas on the increase? In each of these cases, the innovation behind the schemes opens doors to opportunities that benefit each of the stakeholders in the exchange. With Digonex, previously unsold tickets are more likely to be taken up, satisfying fans and helping the club put bums on seats. In a similar manner, the schemes by Malaysia Airlines and KLM give the airlines unique selling points, and the flying experience is enhanced for those making the journey. With the subject of rising ticket prices forcing itself towards the top of the sporting and entertainment agendas, this sort of innovative use of assets can help to maintain and develop healthy relationships between purchaser and seller.
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