Archive for the ‘Social Media’ category

Personalising Our Passions: The Future of Wearable Tech

Wearable tech – the accessories and clothing items that incorporate computing or advanced technologies – are seen as the next major digital companion.

Over the past few years you’ve probably seen health trackers such as Nike’s Fuelband and the Fitbit Flex, helping consumers digitise and record their daily workouts. Whilst high-tech pedometers have become mainstays in the wearable market over the past couple of years, in 2013 we saw a number of new players enter the market, all with different perspectives on how computerised clothing can enhance our lives.

Google announced early in the year their intention to release ‘Glass’, a wearable computer with an optical mounted head display – or glasses to you and me. Hot on the heels of this, the Pebble smartwatch became the single most-supported project in the history of crowd-funding site, Kickstarter, with $10million ample demonstration of the general public’s interest in wearable tech. Following on from this, Samsung launched their ‘Galaxy Gear’, a smart watch which interacts more deeply with the (certain) Samsung phones and tablets to provide updates directly to the wrist.

For many, wearable tech was just a buzzword for 2013, but at the 2014 Consumer Electronics Show, these pieces of digitally-powered apparel were all the rage.

So, what does 2014 have in store for wearables and what will it mean for consumers and marketers?


By on March 11th, 2014

Tags: community, Content, Creative, Digital marketing, Innovation, London 2012, New Product Development, Olympic sponsorship, Online communities, Social Media, Sponsorship, Sponsorship Activation, Synergy, Television, Twitter

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Sochi 2014: Protest Marketing and its Potential Implications in the UK

On a cosy stage in the Southbank Centre, London, sit singer-songwriters Billy Bragg and Tom Robinson, comedian Phil Jupitus and politicised rapper Akala; they have been brought together at the ‘Being a Man’ festival to debate masculinity in the 21st century. Conversation turns to Tom Robinson’s protest activity on behalf of the LGBT community and, specifically, his angry reaction to The Gay News being found guilty of blasphemous libel in 1977. His hit song ‘Glad To Be Gay’ pointedly addressed this and was subsequently banned by the BBC.

Nearly 40 years later and Russia has passed “gay propaganda” laws that have provided a controversial political backdrop to this year’s Winter Olympics in Sochi. In the past, it took people like Robinson and Bragg to protest against such laws; however, in recent months, brands have taken up the fight in a form of ‘protest marketing’.

As the Olympics kicked off, a number of brands, such as The Guardian, changed their logos to include the rainbow spectrum associated with the LGBT community, in order to show solidarity. Most notable was Google’s doodle, which included an evocative line from the Olympic Charter stating that all sport must never be subject to “discrimination of any kind”.

 google_sochi_doodle larger

Likewise, Channel 4 – in typically rebellious fashion – changed their logo and, what’s more, released a fantastically surreal and ostentatiously camp advert wishing luck to everyone out in Sochi. “Good luck gays, on gay mountain” sings the scantily clad cabaret singer.

The piece was also used to promote the channel’s documentary ‘Hunted’ about the physical abuse of homosexuals in Russia. Similarly, other brands have used the issue to promote their image and products; for example American Apparel launched a clothing range called ‘Principle 6’ named after the non-discrimination clause set out in the Olympic Charter. Meanwhile, in Scandinavia, clothing brand XXL have released an advert featuring legendary male Norwegian athletes trying in vain to impress a beautiful woman who ends the film by kissing her girlfriend.

It is easy to be cynical and argue that this use of marketing is an insincere attempt to create positive PR and merely play on what is in the public consciousness. Contextual marketing, after all, is very in vogue; one only has to think of the hordes of brands that rushed headlong to congratulate Will & Kate on the birth of their son, Prince George.

On the other hand, while a protest song by the likes of a Billy Bragg may have more of a deep emotional impact, it is impossible to deny that the reach of these brands is incomparably large and the content they have created has been seen, shared and discussed by millions (we are doing it right now!). Surely that is a positive thing and overall can only help the continuing shift of attitudes towards the LGBT community.

So what impact does this concept of protest marketing have upon domestic sponsorship? In the UK the obvious place where discrimination still resides is unfortunately football; this is evident in the fact there are no current professionals who are openly gay, as well as the number of well documented player/fan racism incidents in the last few years.

Personally, I would argue that league, club and cup sponsors have the ideal platform to use the sort of protest marketing we have seen over the course of Sochi 2014 to promote equality. Campaigns such as this will not only strengthen a brand’s persona but, if done well, create widespread discussion.

Take for instance, the partnership between Paddy Power (sponsor of Arsenal FC among other clubs) and charity Stonewall, which saw them send rainbow laces to every professional footballer in the UK. The campaign – Right Behind Gay Footballers – resulted in 72,000 tweets using the #RBGF, which Twitter says made a total of 101 million impressions.

It must be said that the campaign was marred by a degree of controversy as some clubs refused to allow their players to wear the laces due to a lack of consultation and rival sponsorship deals; however, these issues, with more thought and the right sponsor, could be traversed in the future. What’s more, the controversy only seemed to heighten the press coverage and debate.

Therefore, in conclusion, protest marketing has the ability to show a brand’s solidarity with a discriminated-against section of society and catalyse the conversations necessary to have any degree of real change. If in the process a brand also draws attention to their own positive and attractive values it’s a win-win strategy. Whether inspired by a singer-songwriter or a brand, it is people who are the real agents of change… So go ahead and share that Channel 4 ‘Gay Mountain’ advert on Facebook and retweet the Google doodle: you have the power to keep the discussion alive.

By on February 21st, 2014

Tags: Advertising, Ambush Marketing, Blogging, Brand marketing, Communications, Creative, Football Sponsorship, Olympic sponsorship, Olympic sponsorship consultants, Olympic sports, Olympics, Public relations, Sochi 2014, Social Media, Synergy, Winter Olympics

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The Sochi 2014 Marketing Olympics, Part 1: The (One) Issue Games

…Beijing, Vancouver, London, Sochi. Every Olympics Games evolves the Olympic brand, and evolves Olympic Marketing. With Sochi 2014 now into its second week, every day this week I’ll be taking a look at the key marketing issues, campaigns and stories of the latest edition of the Marketing Olympics, kicking off today with the LBGT controversy and the latest developments in IOC sponsorship.

The (One) Issue Games 

The run-up to every Olympics is always full of negative headlines and controversy, and Sochi was no exception, but with one issue absolutely dominant: the global protests against Russia’s anti-gay legislation, led by POTUS’s decision back in December to stay away from Sochi and to nominate Billie-Jean King in the US delegation, rising to a crescendo of campaigns and stories in the final weeks pre-Games.

Inevitably, these saw Games sponsors targeted both by campaigners and the media, in particular McDonalds, whose global #CheersToSochi campaign was hijacked so powerfully on social media that McDonalds has effectively withdrawn it, now barely referencing it in its comms, with the campaign website registering only a few thousand cheers – not exactly what McDonalds would have had in mind.

Cheers To Sochi website

Re-wind to Beijing 2008, the last ‘issue’ Games, when global protests about China’s human rights record targeted the international sections of Olympic Torch Relay, prompting the IOC to limit the Torch Relay to host countries only.

But who needs Torch Relay demos when you now have globally-distributed social media?

And why has the IOC done so little to publicly engage with the issue? President Bach’s Opening Ceremony speech was to be applauded, but was too little, too late.

Problem not solved.

And protests not going away.

The ethics of how Mega Events are awarded, where they are staged, and what they are for, is not going away for the IOC or FIFA. Next after the Sochi Olympics comes the 2014 FIFA World Cup, already highly controversial in Brazil and sure to see more of the protests which marked last year’s Confederations Cup and saw FIFA sponsors’ and other brands’ campaigns hijacked. Following which we have Rio 2016 and Russia 2018, with Qatar 2022 – already the most controversial World Cup of all time – ever-present in the background.

What Sochi 2014 has again proved, if further proof were needed, is that the IOC must radically overhaul its approach to protest and how it handles controversy, if it is to safeguard and evolve the Olympic brand and create a positive environment for its sponsors and NOC sponsors worldwide. Not to mention justify an increased price tag for TOP deals, of which more below.

Meanwhile, not much doubt that the LBGT protests have produced the ad of the Games. When I first spotted and tweeted it a couple of weeks back it had only 4,000 views on YouTube: now, that’s grown to over 5 million and quite right too. Sensational.

2024 At The Double

The IOC has announced two extensions to TOP deals during Sochi: Atos, to 2020, and Panasonic, in a move which took everybody by surprise, to 2024.

Patrick Nally hit the nail on the head.


Panasonic was widely expected to extend, particularly after Tokyo won the right to host the 2020 Games, but only to 2020, in line with the other global Olympic sponsors, and to allow for a much-mooted IOC review of the TOP programme post-Sochi.

Where the Panasonic extension leaves all that is now the big issue in Olympic sponsorship, particularly as it is also now being reported by SportsBusiness Journal (SBJ) that the contract is worth $350m-$400m, thereby doubling TOP prices in the most recent deal cycle.

SBJ has underlined its position as the must-read for anyone in the business with some great reporting from Sochi by Tripp Mickle on IOC sponsorship issues. Both these are worth a read:

Outgoing chair of the IOC Marketing Commission Gerhard Heiberg interviewed. Interestingly, he calls out Samsung as the deal which has added the most value to a TOP sponsor.

The IOC has stopped the Sochi 2014 Organising Committee from projecting sponsors’ logos on the outside of some of the Sochi arenas in view of TV broadcasters’ cameras.

Tripp also had some nice takes on Twitter on new IOC President Thomas Bach’s appearances at sponsors’ showcases in Sochi:

Tripp Bach Sochi tweets

The days of Jacques Rogge are well and truly over.


By on February 17th, 2014

Tags: Beijing 2008, Brazil 2014, Default, IOC, Olympic sponsorship, Olympic sponsorship consultants, Rio 2016, Rio 2016 Sponsorship, Sochi 2014, Social Media, Socialympics, Sponsorship, Sponsorship consultants, Winter Olympics, World Cup, World Cup Sponsorship

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Five Things The IOC Can Learn From The #SelfieOlympics

In early 2012, to denote the collision between mass-adoption social media and the Olympics, Synergy coined the term ‘Socialympics’, which subsequently went viral (even being adopted by the IOC), and staged two panel sessions in front of invited audiences either side of London 2012 to discuss the Socialympics phenomenon. (If you missed them, you can find a round-up of Socialympics 1 here and Socialympics 2 here).

Fast forward to today, and in the days leading up to Sochi 2014, the first big internet meme of 2014 is the #SelfieOlympics, which has seen teens and young adults compete to top one another with selfies which vary from the extreme to the bizarre and everything in between. You haven’t seen one? (‘WHAT ARE YOU 30?!’ as MTV wrote recently). Here’s an early example: 


I can’t say that we predicted the #SelfieOlympics back in our 2012 Socialympics sessions (now that would have been something), but I can say that we focused on an issue highlighted by the #SelfieOlympics: the enormous potential of social media to help the IOC address one of its biggest challenges – making the Olympics relevant and accessible to teens and young adults, and reverse the ageing Olympic demographic worldwide.

So, here’s five things I’d suggest that the IOC and the Olympic Movement could learn from the #SelfieOlympics about marketing to the young.

1. The young get ‘Faster, Higher, Stronger’. For any brand manager that would be good news: for the IOC, in a world full of brands with much bigger budgets competing for the young’s attention and understanding, it’s amazing news.

2. If you want the young to get into your brand, above all let them have some fun with it. This is not natural territory for the IOC, which has a tendency to be over-worthy, but it’s territory they need to embrace.       

3. Your best marketers are your consumers. If the next generation is capable of spontaneously creating and spreading an idea as entertaining and viral as the #SelfieOlympics, who knows what else they can come up with? Invite them to play around some more with your brand.

4. If you want to market the Olympics to the young, think beyond sport. The #SelfieOlympics has done as much for the Olympic brand with the young as the Youth Olympic Games, which hasn’t ever come close to going viral.

5. If the Olympic brand can go viral in this way once, it can do it again. The IOC and its stakeholders can make this happen: start with athletes posting #SelfieOlympics pics at Sochi, say.

By on January 22nd, 2014

Tags: IOC, London 2012, Olympic sponsorship, Olympic sponsorship consultants, Rio 2016, Rio 2016 Sponsorship, Rio 2016 Sponsorship Consultants, Social Media, Socialympics, Vancouver 2010, Viral Marketing, Winter Olympics

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Our Favourite Things Of 2013

The last week before Christmas gives us a great excuse (not that we need one) to remind ourselves of some of the campaigns, films, stunts, tech, social and experiential activity that really caught our eye in 2013. We don’t claim that this is an exhaustive list, and some of the things on it aren’t sponsorship, but they all made us want to share them (the key metric in the social era) because they were clever, creative, funny, and in some cases all three.


“Immortal Fans”

There is little doubt that this is the campaign of the year, and it has the Cannes Golden Lion to prove it.  If you haven’t seen it yet, where have you been? Hurry up and click on the film – your life is about to get better. And if you have seen it already, you’ll need no excuse to watch it again and remind yourself of the emotional power of sports. Nothing comes close to it, and that’s why sponsorship is awesome.


Another brilliantly clever use of sport  to address an important social problem. In Paraguay, 24% of children are not enrolled in civil registration, effectively leaving them with no identity. To raise awareness and spark social discussion on this issue, Paraguay and Uruguay played a football match where both teams wore shirts with no names on their backs, while the opening minutes passed without commentators referring to the players by name. As a result, both major presidential candidates agreed to address the problem if elected to office in the upcoming elections.



Nike Hypervenom House of Deadly

Nike, Neymar and the world’s largest immersive game experience – a combination that’s tough to beat. In addition to the ‘making of’ film below, here’s a blog we wrote about it back in November.

Coke Small World Vending Machines

Who’d have thought that two countries with such a history of mistrust and conflict could be brought closer together by a humble vending machine? But Coca-Cola showed how it could be done, and why they continue to be among the best marketers on the planet.

HTC Snapdragon Photobooth

To demo the power of its Snapdragon processor, Qualcomm mounted 130 HTC Smartphones into a big spiral to create a 540⁰ photobooth. Needless to say, capturing images in this way allows you to create pretty cool films – and almost convinces you to buy a smartphone just because it contains a Snapdragon processor.



It feels so long ago, but it was only this year that Oreo did its thing at the Superbowl. We’re not going to add any more column inches to that particular execution, but it did mark the tipping point when real-time and reactive content became a new, must-have weapon in sports marketing.

Zippo Saves the Sochi Olympics

The Sochi 2014 Olympic Torch has had more than its fair share of mishaps, but when it went out and was re-lit by a bystander with a Zippo, everyone’s favourite lighter company jumped on it brilliantly with executions that quickly went viral and, top of every Olympic ambusher’s wish-list, incurred the displeasure of the IOC.



Nando’s Fergie Time

Nando’s honoured the Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement by copying the stoppage time generosity that Sir Alex all too often received from referees, by keeping all their Manchester restaurants open for an extra 5 minutes of #NandosFergieTime.

Adidas and Andy Murray

Adidas ensured their tribute to Andy Murray went viral as soon as he was voted BBC Sports Personality of the Year with instant social media creative and projection mapping outside the SPOTY. It didn’t hurt that Andy Murray also used the exact words in his acceptance speech… All demonstrating that much ‘real-time’ content is actually ‘prepared well in advance’ content.



Yeovil Town and the Safely Delivered Loan Signing

23rd July 2013 was a big day for the country: Yeovil Town was safely delivered of the loan signing of defender Alan Tate. In a move mirroring the announcement of the royal baby, the use of an easel and a framed declaration grabbed the attention of the national media and beautifully hijacked the zeitgeist.



The Oakley Bubba’s Hover

In the week before the US Masters, Oakley produced a fabulous stunt featuring a Bubba Watson hovercraft which re-imagined the golf buggy and perfectly matched Bubba’s ‘go for it’ approach. Here’s our blog on it all from back in April.



An American Coach in London

An amusingly self-deprecating take on (some) Americans’ views on sah-ker, this film, featuring Saturday Night Live’s Jason Sudeikis, helped launch NBC’s Premier League coverage. We expected it to be crap. It wasn’t.

Rory versus the Robot

Another golf stunt, with the European Tour pitting Rory McIlroy against a robot in a series of challenges. Went viral way beyond golf fans, and easily Rory’s best moment of the year on or off the course.

Heineken: The Negotiation

To be honest, Heineken create so much brilliant content, that it is almost impossible to choose just one. But, we’ve gone for The Negotiation, an imaginative take on the often repetitive story of a Football-loving partner and their other half.



US PGA Championship Pick the Pin Challenge

For the first time in history, the US PGA enabled fans to pick the pin location for the 15th hole during the final round of this year’s PGA Championship at Oak Hill. Nearly 100,000 people voted and (surprise surprise) 61% chose the location closest to the water. A brilliantly innovative way to engage fans digitally with the event and the sport. Check it out here.

David Beckham e-Book Signing

In 1998, David Beckham re-invented the sarong. In 2013, he re-invented the traditional book signing, streaming his book launch live on his Facebook page. And if you opted in with your e-mail address, you even got your very own digital Becks autograph. It sure beats the local Waterstone’s. Here is the great man in action.

Adidas Brazuca World Cup Ball Launch

A fan vote to choose the name? Check. A very cool interactive video with hidden content and allows you to see what the Brazuca sees? Check. Its own Twitter feed with 104,000 followers at the time of writing? Check. A total re-invention of a sponsorship asset? Check. Hats off to adidas, and here’s our blog on the Brazuca from a few days ago.



The Surprisingly Good Middle Eastern Airline Ad of The Year: Qatar Airways Barca Island

Book me a ticket on Qatar Airways. Barca Island looks awesome.


What do you do when a legend retires? You set the ball rolling by creating the #ThankYouSachin hashtag and then watch as fans, brands (including Coke and Heineken) and even the founder of Facebook picks it up and runs with it. Here’s our Storify of the key moments:


We hope you liked this review of some of our favourite things from 2013. If we’ve forgotten something that you think should be on the list, then please post a comment – we’d love you to share it.

Congratulations to all the people, brands, agencies and rightsholders who were responsible for this work and let’s hope the list in December 2014 is even better.

By on December 19th, 2013

Tags: Advertising, Ambush campaign, Ambush Marketing, American football, Andy Murray, Barclays Premier League, Basketball, BBC, Blogging, Brand marketing, Branded content, Brazil, Brazil 2014, Charity, Communications, Consultancy, Content, Creative, David Beckham, Default, Engine, Experiential marketing, Facebook, Football, Football Sponsorship, Golf, London 2012, London 2012 sponsorship, Media, Mobile, Naming Rights, NFL, Olympic sponsorship, Olympics, PGA Tour, PR, Public relations, RBS 6 Nations, Rugby, Running, Social Media, Sponsorship, Sponsorship Activation, Sponsorship consultancy, Sponsorship consultants, Sport, Synergy, Synergy Loves

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The Magic of Flying

In this world first campaign, the new British Airways #LookUp digital billboards at Piccadilly Circus and on the A4 are allowing a simple, yet very effective story to be told. Courtesy of some digital wizardry, BA’s new outdoor sites ‘interact’ with aircrafts flying overhead to remind us of the magic of flying.

The billboards use custom built surveillance technology which triggers the image of a child pointing at the plane passing overhead with real-time data of that plane, including destination, flight number and a custom message, such as the lowest fare for that route or the current weather where that plane is headed.

Forming part of the airline’s new Magic of Flying campaign, this campaign is a stroke of creative genius. It is interactive, intriguing and brilliantly simple. It evokes our childlike interest in planes that, however many Air Miles you have clocked up, still lies somewhere within us all. Who hasn’t looked up into the sky and wistfully wondered where that plane in the sky is off to? This technology allows the advert to engage people there and then, answer that question and remind them how accessible the world can be.

They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and this campaign clearly caught the eye of  Domino’s Pizza who have re-created similar billboards that just happen to detect pizza instead of planes, using the hashtag #lookdown.

Digital campaigns focusing on consumer engagement aren’t a new thing of course and here are two more examples that we like from earlier in the year:

The Spanish Aid to Children and Adolescents at Risk Foundation campaign developed a new way of using lenticular printing (images with an illusion of depth and motion which change as the image is viewed from different angles) to convey a different message to children and adults.

The NCDV (National Centre for Domestic Violence) ‘Drag him away’ campaign brought awareness to the issue of domestic violence by creating a campaign that urges passers-by to text in to stop the abuse seen in the video, to not only educate people on the issues of domestic violence, but involve them and make them more than bystanders. Once the text has been received, the passers-by sees the man being dragged away.

Although none of these examples are driven by sponsorship, we are all very aware of the importance of engaging consumers with brand messages to create more meaningful connections with consumers through experiences. These examples have done this well through innovation; captivating crowds nearby and generating a burst of consumer conversations off the back of it.

By on December 19th, 2013

Tags: Advertising, Aviation, Brand marketing, Content, Creative, Innovation, Media, PR, Social Media, Sponsorship, Synergy, Synergy Loves, Twitter

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Is social media turning us into fickle friends and lazy lovers?

Yesterday I overheard a conversation about the previous night’s episode of Homeland – *spoiler alert* – the one where Brody is captured by the bad guys behind enemy lines.  The general vibe of the exchange was ‘why did we have to go through the first few episodes before getting to the good bit?’ Our inability to savor the wait, to enjoy the journey is eroding fast.

There’s a strong argument that social media isn’t helping. Once an event has dropped off our timeline, it’s as good as dead. Real-time is the only time that matters.  Sharing something that’s been shared before is social suicide.  Cut through becomes a volume game – you’re better off backing lots of bite-sized bits of content versus fewer big chunks.  It’s a content-canapé feeding frenzy!

This shift to ‘disposable delight’ is evident across the social web, from teenage flirting – where a few SnapChat selfies now get teens to sex without the inconvenience of a movie and meal, to marketing – where content created ‘in the moment’ now trumps copy that a creative team have spent weeks refining.

The social web is like a firework display.  We’re all oooing and aaahhing, waiting for the next bit of fun to explode and fizzle out in a matter of seconds.  So, if social content is such a big part of our interaction with others, how do we avoid our craving for superficial content leading to superficial relationships…with our interests, our colleagues, our friends?

The key is for the bites to be born out of something bigger, something that exists in a richer, deeper form than a tweet, a photo or a vine.  Something with which we and those we are sharing with have a stronger connection.  This might be a physical thing, like a shared event or an emotional thing, like a shared memory or excitement about the future.  Bites are OK, as long as they’re bites out of something bigger.

In the world of social media, we often assume that new rules come into play.  Not true.  The strongest political and marketing campaigns have always fed off a rich vein – a central purpose, theme and message.  And of course the strongest friendships – those forged around shared experiences and passions – are often characterized by the most flippant and superficial conversations.  Something stronger lies beneath.

As we develop our social marketing strategies, we should not be blinded by the excitement of new technology and techniques and remember that the fundamentals of marketing come first. Have all activity feeding off the same pie. Have a higher purpose. Tap into something that really matters.  Otherwise superficial social media will threaten the integrity of the relationships it could so easily strengthen.

By on December 16th, 2013

Tags: Advertising, Brand marketing, Branded content, Content, Creative, Facebook, Media, Real Time Marketing, Social Media, Sponsorship, Synergy, Twitter, YouTube

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Sponsorship at the ATP World Tour Finals – ace or out?

On a recent visit to the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals a couple of weeks ago, I was struck – as I’m sure many other tennis fans were – by the whizzy digital atmosphere created for the matches at the O2 Arena, where pounding music, lasers and LEDs all combine to create a genuine spectacle. It may be tennis, but not as you or I know it – and a far cry from the traditional, and very white, Wimbledon Championships.

It’s not just the ambiance which is different; rule tweaks, with matches played as best of three rather than five, are in place to shorten matches from the Grand Slams. And, of particular interest to this blog, is the friendliness to sponsors. The O2 Arena, in its ATP World Tour Finals guise, is bursting at the seams with sponsor branding, with neon perimeter ads for sponsors including Barclays, Ricoh, Corona and FedEx. So far, relatively standard. But add to this that every ace hit during the tournament is sponsored by Mercedes, and Ricoh’s ownership of the match facts, and it’s fair to say that fans face a sponsor bombardment, unusual not only in tennis but in top-level sport in the UK.

So, have the ATP World Tour Finals gone too far? Not necessarily.

While such a level of branding clearly isn’t appropriate for every sporting event, this particular tournament has established its own tone and atmosphere, which creates an appropriate context for more ‘in your face’ sponsorship. To make the obvious comparison, it just wouldn’t work at Wimbledon (forget the fact that on-court branding isn’t allowed there – there’s just a sense that it doesn’t feel right for such a traditional and refined event). And in fact it’s not just the amount of branding that feels more relevant to the context but the type too – the “night out” atmosphere creates a better fit for a beer brand such as sponsor Corona.

Is this openness on the part of the ATP at the World Tour Finals good news for the sponsors? In some senses, yes. More visibility combined with record numbers of fans tuning in to watch this year’s tournament creates more exposure for sponsors –  the bedrock of many brands’ sponsorship objectives. The ATP screens and LEDs provide a great platform for communicating sponsorship campaigns, such as Barclays ball kids programme. But are these sponsors having to work as hard as they might if branding opportunities weren’t simply served (excuse the pun) up to them on a plate? At Wimbledon, the only brands on court are those with an authentic role in proceedings – Slazenger providing the balls, Rolex the clocks, Robinson’s the drinks, and so on. This filter clearly isn’t apparent at the ATP, unless there is an existing link or brand campaign connecting Mercedes and aces.

Of course, that’s not to say that the ATP World Tour Finals sponsors’ greater branding opportunities stop them from activating creatively off-court (see Corona’s beach bar for example), nor that they can’t use these opportunities to support a bigger sponsorship campaign with an authentic brand or product link at its heart. However, considering the highly tactical nature of some of the uses of branding, it is at least possible to make the argument that an exposure-strategy trade-off exists for sponsors.

On the other hand, if it’s fair to say (as I have) that some sporting environments are more appropriate for this sort of branding than others. At Twickenham for example, there is a heartbeat soundtrack and graphic on the newly installed LED screens for video referee decisions in the same way there is at the ATP World Tour Finals – could a (relevant) brand claim ownership of this? At football, could the right brand sponsor goal announcements or injury time?

If harnessed to a genuine brand insight, more branding doesn’t have to feel crass – in fact, it could be ace.

By on November 20th, 2013

Tags: Advertising, Brand marketing, Consultancy, Creative, Experiential marketing, Social Media, Sponsorship, Sponsorship Activation, Sponsorship consultancy, Tennis

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Win If They’re Singing

Manchester United's singing section

The inevitable cynicism provoked by last Wednesday night’s debut of the Manchester United singing section for Champions League matches shouldn’t be allowed to obscure either that it was a resounding success or that it raises important questions for Big Sport in general and football in particular about why and how it interacts with fans.

Let’s start with what creating a better atmosphere is for. And this is, above all, to inspire the home team to win – including by intimidating the opposition. If you’ve ever attended a Wales v England RBS Six Nations match at the Millennium Stadium, an Ashes Test at the MCG, an Old Firm Derby, or a Gran Clasico at the Bernabeu or Nou Camp, you’ll know exactly what I mean. And anyone who was in the Olympic Stadium on Super Saturday at London 2012 will attest to the power of Home Advantage for Team GB.

United aren’t alone on this path. There is a trend emerging here. I know of a number of other major rights owners whose strategy is to create a more febrile, ‘fortress’ atmosphere at their stadium, especially by promoting more singing, because they know it will inspire better performances, and more wins, by their team. We live in the post-Brailsford era of incremental gains.

But this also brings with it certain challenges.

One is how to promote more singing and, with the greatest respect to United, to do it in a more effective and perhaps more credible way.

My colleague Josh Robinson has written on his blog about the psychology of social contagion, how ideas and actions gain momentum by the actions of those around you. For example, that clapping is contagious and that it only takes one or two people to start a round of applause.

Which makes me wonder whether United would be better served by pockets of singers working together around Old Trafford rather than a singing section.

And then there’s the challenge of what clubs want people to do while they’re at the game.

Increasingly, this is about driving digital engagement using mobile connectivity – to turn fans into customers in connected stadiums.

But isn’t this at odds with the need to turn fans away from the technology and back to the game – to turn (non-singing) customers into (singing) fans?

No, actually. Sounds like the perfect brief, heading as follows (HT Jonathan Ive):

‘Technology is at its best, at its most empowering, when it simply disappears’


By on October 28th, 2013

Tags: Default, Digital marketing, Experiential marketing, Football, Football Sponsorship, Manchester United, Social Media, Team GB, UEFA Champions League

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Bupa GREAT North Run 2013 – The ‘My First Run’ Campaign

Since embarking on their sponsorship of the Great Run Series in 1993, which includes the Great North and Great South Runs, Bupa has helped nearly 2 million people get active.

In 2013 the ambition is to help new and lapsed runners get active.

“My First Run” Campaign

The 2013 “My First Run” campaign saw 2,000 free 5K race places offered to first time Bupa Great Runners. The places were targeted at first timers of all abilities who had never previously taken part in a Bupa Great Run Series event.

Our insight work helped us understand that people are more likely to get active and stay motivated if they have someone to train with.  To bring this thought to life, we created “Bupa Buddies” to encourage non-runners to start running with a mate. Radio star Jo Whiley was selected to lead the “My First Run” campaign and Bupa embarked on a mission to find her a running ‘Bupa Buddy’ to help her train and prepare for the Bupa Great North Run.

Fans of the Bupa running page on Facebook were given the chance to explain why they should be Jo’s running buddy. Hundreds of entries were received and some great and worthy stories shone through. After sifting through the entries, Susan Spence was selected by the panel (including Jo) as the lucky winner! And what a winner she turned out to be…

Susan’s eldest son has Aspergers Syndrome and she took up running as she found it provided her with space and time to think. So, together, Jo and Susan embarked on their biggest running challenge, training for the Bupa Great North Run in Newcastle.



The PR Campaign

PR played a big part in the success of this campaign. As part of her role as a Bupa Ambassador, Jo Whiley attended 3 appearances during which she conducted media interview with key titles, sought advice and training tips from our Bupa experts, and also trained with Susan. The team also designed the first ever pair of ‘Running Wellies’, designed to be wearable at Glastonbury during her radio commitments.

In the build up to the race, Jo and Susan had training sessions together and kept in touch via Twitter and text. To help everyone else prepare for the run, Bupa hosted pop-up training runs targeted at those taking their first steps towards the race, and encouraging existing runners to bring their “running buddies” along.



The Telegraph Partnership

On top of the Facebook campaign, Bupa also teamed up with the Telegraph to provide a running hub following Jo and Susan’s training, as well as the preparation of the Team Telegraph journalists also running with their running buddies. The guide included hints and tips for first time runners who want to get started, including diet advice, running techniques and running playlists.

What about Digital?

Of course, no integrated campaign would be completed without digital inputs. Facebook and Twitter both played a key part in the “My First Run” campaign. Entrants looking to win a place, and those applying to be Jo’s running buddy all had to apply through Facebook. Posts and Tweets throughout the campaign drove entry traffic. In between reminders about race places, the Facebook and Twitter feeds also provided advice for aspiring runners, helping them with their training plan and to keep motivated. 

What happened on the day?

The big day arrived on Sunday 15th September and both Jo and Susan (as well as all the other runners) were extremely nervous as they approached the start line of the Bupa GNR. To make matters worse, Jo had suffered a torn calf muscle in the final build up to the race. This was clearly a big concern for Jo but thanks to some intense sessions with a top Bupa physio, she pulled through and was fit enough to take her place on the start line. Despite their nervousness and injury, Jo and Susan both managed to cross the finish line in 2.05 hrs and 2.13 hrs respectively, which proved to be massive achievements that they were both thrilled with!

A key part of the day for Bupa was the amazing coverage received on the BBC ahead of the raise, which featured Susan and Jo’s story and an interview with Jo explaining the Bupa Buddy and First Run Campaigns. This was an amazing achievement for the team and great for highlighting the work Bupa do.

Over 50,000 people ran the Great North this year and Bupa were on hand at the Bupa Boost and Finish Zones giving out jelly babies, massages, support and advice from physios and massage therapists.

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So the Bupa Great North Run is over for another year but Bupa’s campaign to help people get active shows no sign of relenting. The Bupa Great Birmingham Run and the Bupa Great South Run provide additional opportunities for people to get involved, and as always the team will be there to help get runners of all experiences across that finish line!



By on October 18th, 2013

Tags: Brand marketing, Branded content, Celebrity, Charity, Consultancy, Content, Experiential marketing, Marathon, PR, Social Media, Sponsorship, Sponsorship consultants, Synergy, Twitter

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