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A year like no other: Synergy’s 2014

As another year comes to an end, now seems a suitable time to reflect on a whirlwind 12 months for Synergy.

Here we outline some of our most innovative work in 2014, what the wider implications are for the industry, and what other campaigns have caught our eye and set the benchmark for what will undoubtedly be another busy and exciting year:

JANUARY

What we did:

2014 kicked off slightly early for some of the team at Synergy, who were at Twickenham activating IG’s inaugural sponsorship of The Big Game. Through the ‘Big Game, Bright Lights’ campaign, we looked to capitalise on the down-time that half-time offers and re-invigorate the crowd for the second half. By innovatively using Twickenham’s LED inventory, fans experienced an audio-visual spectacular that connected IG’s brand with Harlequins and gave fans the chance to win some amazing prizes.

 

Industry insight:

Half-time at sports games have often felt like a necessary evil for sports fans in the UK; a short break to allow the players to recover and fans to visit the facilities. The Pepsi Half-time show at the SuperBowl in February emphasised that US sport is still the benchmark for half-time entertainment, but IG’s work at Twickenham showed that, with a clear insight and innovative use of standard sponsorship inventory, the half-time break may no longer simply be used as an excuse to get the drinks in.

FEBRUARY

What we did:

The RBS 6 Nations tends to dominate the sporting agenda in February, and is often when Synergy is at its most active. As part of the RBS 6 Nations activation, Synergy helped to produce a series of films based on defining moments from the tournament. These films truly encapsulated the values of sportsmanship, perseverance and teamwork that the brand and the fans love about The Championship.

Industry insight:

Capturing sport’s inherent ‘truths’ like this, and amplifying them to produce content of interest, based on real insight, is a gift that fans want to receive. Guinness also managed this feat, with their films in honour of Jonny Wilkinson, Shane Williams and Bill McLaren, whilst Barclays’s impressively moving Premier League film captured the essence of the match day experience that makes football so special for fans, and so valued by brands.

MARCH

What we did:

The Capital One Cup Final in March saw the climax of Capital One’s season-long campaign focused on ‘supporting the supporters’. As part of the Final activity, Capital One looked to maximise the audience of the final by offering free Now TV passes to those not lucky enough to have access to Sky Sports. This was a big gesture that delivered true value to football fans, who would otherwise have missed the first final of the 2013/14 season.

now tv

Industry insight:

Extending the true excitement of an event beyond those lucky enough to attend is a challenge facing a number of brands and rightsholders. However, alongside Capital One’s work, there have been a number of other examples in 2014 of brands bringing events closer to non-ticket-holders. Two that we particularly enjoyed were The National Theatre’s continued commitment to its National Theatre Live programme, which involves live screenings of theatre shows at local cinemas, and Manchester United’s partnership with Google+ that allowed fans around the world to ‘be’ at Old Trafford by appearing live on the pitch-side perimeter boards.

APRIL

What we did:

In order to kick off MasterCard’s partnership with Rugby World Cup 2015, Synergy created a photo moment on the Thames involving All Blacks legend Dan Carter kicking conversions over Tower Bridge. As emphasised on the Synergy blog, a good photo idea has to be reinforced with insight and good management in order to be successful. Both of these boxes were emphatically ticked here, with the resultant images capturing the imagination of the national media and providing one of the most compelling sports PR shots in recent memory.

Industry insight:

Other striking PR shots that grabbed our attention this year included the Yorkshire Building Society dying 150 sheep yellow in honour of the Tour de France and Puma’s water projection on The Thames to launch the new Arsenal kit. Once again, these examples looked fresh and innovative and therefore excited the media and fans alike.

MAY

What we did:

BUPA’s ‘My First Step’ campaign looked to get more people running by emphasising the ease with which people could start, or re-start, training. As part of the planning, BUPA and Synergy found that 60% of UK adults believed that their bodies would not be up to running once they reached 60, a myth BUPA looked to dispel as part of the campaign. 63 year-old non-runner Jennie Bond was recruited as an ambassador, as we followed her training journey that culminated in her completing the BUPA London 10,000 event.

Industry insight:

Consumer insight is clearly crucial for a successful sponsorship campaign, with the best examples based on thorough planning. Whilst the success of the ‘My First Step’ campaign was built on a relevant and robust consumer insight, we make no excuses for including another piece of Synergy work from 2014 that emphasised the importance of understanding a target audience. Ahead of Round 4 of the Capital One Cup, Capital One gave Brian Clough-style green jumpers to Nottingham Forest’s away fans at Tottenham as a tribute to their legendary manager. The story and images received widespread acclaim and, whilst the execution was impressive, the success of the story was thanks to the team’s insight around the 10th anniversary of Clough’s death and his unforgettable status within the game.

JUNE

What we did:

June at Synergy signalled the launch of Coca-Cola’s ParkLives project. Following many months of in-depth planning and research, the aim of getting more people more active more often was brought to life through this bespoke programme in partnership with local councils, which provides free activity classes for local people in local parks in cities across the UK.

 

Industry insight:

The planning for the ParkLives campaign re-iterated that self-created programmes can often be the best way for brands to achieve their CSR goals, rather than simply buying an off-the-shelf proposition. Another great example of this in 2014 was Western Union’s ‘Pass’ programme around the brand’s UEFA Europa League sponsorship. Each successful pass made during the competition signified a contribution of financial support for quality education of young people around the world.

JULY

What we did:

The SSE team at Synergy were up in Glasgow at the 2014 Commonwealth Games for the culmination of the brand’s GoGlasgow campaign. One of our many roles up in Scotland was managing SSE’s experiential activity on Glasgow Green, which allowed fans to capture a unique photo of themselves supporting their nation. Importantly this activity linked seamlessly into SSE’s wider campaign and fed into a digital leaderboard that acted as a real-time tracker on the conversations around the Games.

Industry insight:

Whilst by no means a new trend, by linking the experiential activity to the wider campaign and creating a strong digital output, the reach of SSE’s footprint went far beyond those lucky people at the Glasgow Green live site, and therefore generated significant engagement levels. Another really simple idea that we loved from this year was Nescafé’s activity in Croatia that again blended the online and offline world simply and effectively to create a fun and shareable experience.

 AUGUST

What we did:

A couple of crazy days in late August saw Synergy manage the media launches for both the Guinness Pro 12 and Aviva Premiership 2014/15 rugby seasons, and give journalists, staff and fans unique access to two of the biggest club rugby competitions in Europe. The Guinness launch focused on staff engagement at Diageo’s global HQ in London, which gave employees the chance to quiz the Pro 12 captains; whilst Aviva’s event at Twickenham harnessed the Twitter reach of several of the players by creating the first ever ‘Captains selfie’ which provided fans with a fun, new viewpoint of the launch.

Industry insight:

One of the obvious benefits of sponsorship as a marketing tool is the ability for a brand to give their target audience behind-the-scenes access to something about which they care passionately. Whilst not specifically a launch, The FA’s use of the trophy to promote the sense of adventure around the upcoming third round of The FA Cup is a heart-warming example of a rightsholder giving fans unique access to something special (in this case, young fans being able to take the trophy on a series of their own adventures).

SEPTEMBER

 What we did:

2014 has been a massive year for Martini and Synergy, as we have helped take the iconic stripes back to the Formula 1 grid through the title partnership of Williams Martini Racing. In September, at Martini’s home race at Monza, a massive pan-European trade promotion reached its climax, with consumers and trade partners having the chance to experience  an exclusive Italian weekend. This included rooftop parties, power boating on Lake Como and, of course, access to the Italian Grand Prix itself, and Synergy were on-hand to ensure this massive operation ran smoothly.

Industry insight:

Global sponsorships don’t get much bigger that a Formula 1 car deal, and Martini have used their sponsorship effectively to create unique promotions that engage with their target audiences. We also loved Coca-Cola’s huge FIFA World Cup on-pack promotion – offering consumers the chance to win one of a million footballs. For a brand that is committed to helping people get more active, this was a bold statement of intent. The additional element of a 10p donation to StreetGames for every purchase showed a brand that is embracing the Social Era and also reiterated that sponsorship, shopper marketing and CSR can work brilliantly together when applied correctly.

OCTOBER

 What we did:

October was all about The 2014 Ryder Cup, and the BMW and SLI teams at Synergy used their sponsorships in very different ways to achieve their objectives. BMW focused on generating sales leads and bringing fans closer to the action, with all activity centring on the #DriveYourTeam hashtag, whilst SLI used the tournament to demonstrate their ‘World Class As Standard ‘proposition. Two unique content strategies helped to achieve these objectives, with BMW focusing on using Twitter to create relevant and reactive golf content for fans and SLI creating long-form video content with ambassadors Sam Torrance and Curtis Strange to connect the World Class attributes of The Ryder Cup with Standard Life Investments.

Industry insight:

As we all know, a single sporting platform can be approached in very different ways, and a third brand (this time a non-sponsor) who once again used The Ryder Cup as a prime PR opportunity was Paddy Power, and we loved their approach, using a tongue-in-cheek appearance from Nigel Farage to extol the virtues of Europe coming together.

 NOVEMBER

What we did:

The QBE Internationals are always a busy time in Synergy’s calendar and this year we were busy creating fantastic social content for our new client, and England kit manufacturer, Canterbury. Using Canterbury’s innovative new shirt fabric as our literal canvas and creating messaging that linked the product with the team, we were able to put an innovative spin on real-time messaging and put the shirt at the heart of Canterbury’s content.

Industry insight:

As the fan appetite for real-time content continues to grow, the evolving challenge for brands is how to get serious cut-through from their communications. We therefore also liked Virgin Media’s real-time newsroom during the Commonwealth Games, which created fun, amusing and – most importantly – differentiated sponsor content throughout the Games.

DECEMBER

What we did:

December has seen another milestone reached for Synergy, as the first instalment in a series of Royal Salute videos inspired by the world of horsemanship, reached over a million views on YouTube (across four geo-tagged edits for different markets). This visually stunning video beautifully encapsulates the bond between man and horse, and is perfectly in keeping with a luxury brand with a strong heritage in polo.

Industry insight:

We have thought about some of the other content we have enjoyed in 2014 and in no particular order, three of our favourites include:

Beats By Dre – The Game Before The Game

The ultimate ambusher pulled off a masterstroke – brilliantly framing the key moment before a game (the moment when Beats headphones have an obvious and key role for the players) with a little help from among others – Neymar (and his dad), Fabregas, Van Persie, Lebron, Serena and even the two stars of the World Cup final – Schweinsteiger and Gotze. The presence of the pantomime villain Suarez didn’t even detract from it!

Nike Football – The Last Game

We loved how Nike brought out the personalities of their superstars and used animation in a fresh and interesting way,  helping them to get around the obvious problems of bringing together a wealth of their talent for a shoot. The medium also opened the door brilliantly to the unique #AskZlatan real-time content series.

Always #LikeAGirl

A very different video – and one that doesn’t rely on any talent costs or high production values – but in an incredibly focused, simple and beautiful way reinforces Always’ commitment to empowering girls globally.

What do all of these videos have in common? All four of them are (in very different ways) tapping into something of genuine interest and relevance – whether a moment or a movement – and therefore people in their millions have actively chosen to watch, talk about and share them.

For Synergy, 2014 has unquestionably been a year to savour in sponsorship – here’s to another great year for the industry in 2015.

By on December 16th, 2014

Tags: Advertising, Aviva, Barclays Premier League, Blogging, BMW, Brand marketing, Branded content, Brazil, Brazil 2014, Commonwealth Games, Communications, Content, Creative, Default, Digital marketing, Experiential marketing, Football, Football Sponsorship, Golf, Guinness, Innovation, Kit sponsorship, PR, Public relations, RBS 6 Nations, Real Time Marketing, Rugby, Rugby World Cup, Social Media, Sponsorship, Sponsorship Activation, Sport, Synergy, Synergy Loves, Twitter, Viral Marketing, World Cup, World Cup Sponsorship, World Cup Sponsorship Consultants

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Sports Fans, Social Media & The Millennial Myth

Rarely does a moment go by without the ‘Top 10 social tips of the day’ dropping into your feed… ‘Social Gurus’ come at us relentlessly with hot new widgets that achieve unparalleled engagement… Wired tells us what’s ‘wired’ before we’ve got our heads round what’s ‘expired’… and global events from presidential elections to World Cup finals are measured by their tweet-count.

We have a new ‘front page’, or in sport’s case, a new back page. Sport is never far from the epicentre of social discussion. Nor are Millennials. As sports marketing people, we are fascinated by the power and potential of social media. Yet there is  shockingly little publicised research into what motivates sports fans (let alone a hefty chunk of the human race) to use it. Our social strategies are often shaped around unsubstantiated insights, convenient assumptions and marketing myths.

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In our report, we lay bare the findings of #socialsportsfan. We put evidence around the importance of social media in the lives of sports  fans and expose assumptions that are often made about what sports fans want from social. Our goal is to inspire a smarter breed of socially supercharged sports marketing where innovation is driven by real consumer needs, not the marketing industry’s need  to ‘do something new’.

See the full report here.

By on December 2nd, 2014

Tags: Social Media, Sponsorship

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Synergy at The Ryder Cup

As is customary at Synergy, major sporting events not only create a buzz of excitement around the office but also represent the culmination of a lot of hard work for certain account teams. This year’s Ryder Cup at Gleneagles was no different, as we helped Standard Life Investments and BMW showcase their partnerships at the historic event.

As the first ever worldwide partner of the Ryder Cup, Standard Life Investment’s campaign focused around the theme of ‘World Class as Standard’, with much of Synergy’s work revolving around key ambassadors, Curtis Strange and Sam Torrance. Opposing captains at the Belfry in 2002, they have grown to become great friends over the years and this rapport became the foundation for SLI’s series of 12 films, focusing on the Ryder Cup as a truly world class event. Interviewed by Sky Sports Golf correspondent, Sarah Stirk, the duo spoke on location at Gleneagles about the decisions, preparation, and challenges that are part and parcel of being Captain of either side. These films were a great success, gathering over 34,000 views on YouTube and featuring on the Sky Sports Ryder Cup On Demand channel.

Standard Life Investment’s ambassador work was not restricted to this film series however. Sam Torrance took part in content days before and after the competition, giving golf fans and national media real insight into the European team through one of their vice-captains; whilst Curtis Strange helped to underline the worldwide nature of the campaign with a SLI golf day in Boston.

All of this work led to over 78 pieces of coverage for Standard Life Investments including key ‘golden media’ titles FT Weekend Magazine, The Guardian and The Sunday Telegraph.

COverage

2012 European captain, Jose Maria Olazabal and 2014’s victorious captain, Paul McGinley, also became part of the team as key-note speakers at conferences targeting Standard Life Investment’s C-suite audience. In the final month before the tournament, the Ryder Cup was also on the road as we managed an engagement tour around 9 key media outlets in London.

Synergy’s footprint was also clear at the event itself having helped manage SLI’s significant ticket allocation. Through the distribution of tickets to local schools and suitable charities (recommended by ambassador, Sam Torrance) Synergy were able to contribute to SLI’s community and client guest programme, which was the largest at the tournament.

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The BMW team at Synergy had their eyes trained even closer on the action as they managed the brand’s social media activity throughout the tournament. The social space at the Ryder Cup was a key battleground, with bookies, European Tour and PGA Sponsors, Tournament Sponsors and even FMCG brands such as Innocent smoothies getting involved. It was essential that BMW not only avoided the usual traps that reactive content can fall into (becoming a score feed) but also stood out in a crowded market.

The team were fortunate enough that the creative basis of BMW’s #DriveYourTeam campaign was visually compelling and allowed BMW to take a neutral position. From there, BMW were able to offer fans high quality, emotive, and selective content that encouraged interaction. Across the weekend, this balanced what BMW were doing ‘on the ground’ at Gleneagles, as well as reactive content from the action on the green.

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The Synergy BMW team were based in the media centre at Gleneagles; designing, curating, watching and reacting quickly to what happened on the course. With up to 12 matches going on at once, it was important to prioritise moments that stood out. Some of these were obvious, such as McIlroy’s destruction of Rickie Fowler on day three, but for the less obvious, the team were able to monitor the crowds at the course, as well as internet buzz, to focus on moments that were already being discussed and were therefore more likely to be engaged with.

The Ryder Cup’s unique match-play set-up also allowed the team to utilise innovative Twitter features intelligently and creatively. This included 4-pic montages that helped to highlight crucial moments and session scores – a tactic that was mirrored by the official Ryder Cup social feeds and several other broadcasters.

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 Following Europe’s win, the team reacted extremely quickly by delivering a ‘trophy’ shot both of the team and of BMW Ambassador Paul McGinley, resulting in an immediate uplift in interactions. This sort of quick thinking, alongside a well thought out strategy, contributed to BMW being named as the most dominant Ryder Cup sponsor across social by monitoring group Brandwatch.

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By on October 31st, 2014

Tags: Content, Default, Digital marketing, Golf, PR, Public relations, Ryder Cup, Social Media

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‘SSE showed some striking moments both on an individual and a grand scale’

SSE Hydro

Synergy’s real time social media work for SSE features in this blog by Twitter on the social media highlights of the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games.

By on August 6th, 2014

Tags: Commonwealth Games, Default, Digital marketing, Glasgow 2014, Press Clipping, Social Media, Sponsorship, Sponsorship Activation, Sponsorship consultants, Synergy, Twitter

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Five of the best Glasgow 2014 digital brand activations

Synergy’s #GoGlasgow campaign for SSE features at the top of The Wall’s five top picks of Glasgow 2014 digital brand activations.

Click here for the feature.

By on August 4th, 2014

Tags: Brand marketing, Commonwealth Games, Digital marketing, Glasgow 2014, Press Clipping, Social Media, Sponsorship Activation, Sponsorship consultants, Synergy

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Five Real Time Marketing Lessons From #Suarez

So, the World Cup has just had what you might call its first Oreo moment, in the shape of Luis Suarez’s alleged bite mark on Giorgio Chiellini, the subsequent social media explosion (there were two million tweets mentioning Suarez in the hour after the game), and numerous brands’ social media attempts to exploit the opportunity. Given all the pre-tournament buzz about Brazil 2014 being the first real-time World Cup and the readiness of brands to leverage moments like Suarez’s bite real time, it’s interesting to take a look at what actually happened. Here are five things I noticed in the 24 hours since the incident.

1. Despite the significant number of brands who attempted to leverage #Suarez, very few achieved mass levels of engagement. Here are the two most successful I’ve come across so far.

(Translation: Hi Luis Suarez, if you are still hungry, come take a bite out of a Big Mac).

I doubt that either of them will win any awards for creativity, or humour, any time soon. There are more creative, and much funnier executions out there. This, by Bud Light, for example.

But look at the number of re-tweets compared to McDonald’s and Nando’s, and most importantly the time it took to publish the tweet after the event. Bud Light, like most, didn’t react quickly enough. McDonald’s and Nando’s did. And in real time, above all, speed wins.

See also Evander Holyfield. Fast (over an hour quicker than Bud Light), relevant and funny.

 

2. Talking of funny, there was some absolutely brilliant stuff out there created by outliers, but none of it went big because they didn’t have the distribution skills or the platforms.

For brands, crowd-sourcing from outliers is an untapped opportunity in real time.

3. By far the majority of the brands that did try to gatecrash the party were non-sponsors. Search for Suarez on Twitter, or check out the innumerable lists of Suarez executions that are flying around in the media, and you’ll see what I mean.

Bye bye Bavaria et al. Ambush marketing has gone social and real-time.

4. Of the sponsors, McDonald’s was the big winner, but most of the sponsors didn’t play, in all likelihood because they couldn’t come up with something good enough fast enough that was relevant to their brands. All those brand World Cup war-rooms would have been an interesting place to be last night. But I noticed several of the bigger brands buying Suarez as a term on Twitter.

If you can’t think your way in, buy your way in. Fair enough, but nowhere near as good as becoming part of the conversation organically.

5. There was a lot of hilarity in the sports marketing ecosystem when Listerine, a World Cup sponsor via Johnson & Johnson’s FIFA deal, unveiled its #PowerTo YourMouth campaign, in particular this quote from a senior Listerine exec in the launch PR:

“The World Cup is a good opportunity to get people to reconsider the importance of oral care beyond cleaning your teeth, and to consider what a mouth goes through.”

Really? But when the Suarez incident happened last night, the first thing I thought of was #PowerToYourMouth and the gilt-edged real-time opportunity it presented for Listerine, and I tweeted as much.

Now I can’t say that what Listerine came up with really did justice to the opportunity, especially compared to the likes of McDonalds:

 

But I loved the fact that they took the time and trouble to reply to my tweet with a customised line.

Now that’s great marketing.

By on June 25th, 2014

Tags: Ambush Marketing, Branded content, Brazil 2014, Brazil 2014 Sponsorship, Default, Football Sponsorship, Real Time Marketing, Social Media, Sponsorship Activation, Sponsorship consultants, World Cup, World Cup Sponsorship, World Cup Sponsorship Consultants

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Synergy Kick-Off MasterCard’s Rugby World Cup Partnership

Earlier this year, Synergy helped MasterCard announce their worldwide partnership with Rugby World Cup 2015 . In order to emphasise the iconic nature of both the Rugby World Cup and London, Synergy developed a plan to launch the sponsorship with a striking image with one of the best rugby players in the world, Dan Carter.

As the world’s leading points scorer, Dan Carter needs little introduction. As someone who sits comfortably alongside legends of the game, he is a perfect fit with MasterCard who have signed him up as an ambassador from the launch through to the beginning of the tournament in 2015.

In his first outing as an ambassador, The All Blacks legend headed out into the middle of The Thames to practise his kicking towards London’s largest set of goalposts, Tower Bridge, in front of the world’s media. Dan also conducted a series of interviews to deliver MasterCard’s key sponsorship messages. A press release, imagery and a behind-the-scenes video were delivered across MasterCard’s media in key global markets.

Ann Cairns (President of MasterCard’s International Markets) and Brett Gosper (Chief Executive of International Rugby Board) were also both in attendance on the day to speak to the assembled media about the Priceless nature of the Rugby World Cup, as well as the important role MasterCard’s sponsorship plays in creating a legacy of innovation around the tournament.

The day was a great success and, in total, the activity generated over 150 pieces of coverage across global markets, with highlights including CNN, Bloomberg and The Wall Street Journal. The image of Dan Carter and the accompanying interviews certainly seemed to strike a chord with rugby fans and proved to be a fantastic way of celebrating the new partnership. 

Highlights of what was a very memorable day can be seen below:

By on June 2nd, 2014

Tags: Brand marketing, Branded content, PR, Public relations, Rugby, Rugby World Cup, Social Media, Sport, YouTube

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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?

(more…)

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.

Nally

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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