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.
On a recent Monday morning, I made the questionable decision to buy myself some followers on Twitter.
Egged on by a colleague and a feeling of intrigue, I plugged in my details and purchased 1,000 followers for the princely sum of £8; the speed and ease of the exchange was astonishing and within 24 hours my numbers had broken the 1,300 barrier. However, as I watched my follower count rise, the novelty of the original idea began to wear off. “I sort of did it for a joke” was proving an inadequate answer to those enquiring after my suspicious follower count, and the mounting social pressure of carrying over a thousand false friends inevitably resulted in a torturous Sunday morning spent blocking my 1,100 new disciples.
The whole charade was not completely futile, however, as the brief foray introduced me to the business of purchasing followers, likes, friends and even YouTube views; a practice becoming increasingly commonplace for celebrities, brands and even regular folk like myself. I was totally unaware of the exercise, and was stunned at the number of ‘fakes’ flying around social media, and Twitter in particular. Allegedly, only 28% of people following the 20 most popular Twitter accounts are real, and it has been reported that only 15 million of Justin Bieber’s 38 million followers are authentic. This is likely to be through no fault of his own, as the Twitter-bots and inactive accounts who sell themselves for money attach themselves to real accounts as a way of avoiding detection by Twitter’s supposedly effective spam filter.
Indeed, a quick flick through my new followers unearthed a few dubious characters (Jarvis Wenger, Jason van Smith) and a few incomprehensible names that seemed to be a random combination of numbers, letters and punctuation (I’m looking at you, SL:17-cv7).
However, not all big-name characters with large social media influences are completely innocent when it comes to artificially inflating their social media profile. Mitt Romney fell under suspicion for impossibly immediate rises in followers during the run-up to the 2012 Presidential election, whilst 50 Cent and Diddy are alleged to have shown that even the coolest cats are not averse to social media ego-massaging.
The pertinent question that arises from this is why people would bother with this practice in the first place. The answer for the most part is credibility. Nick Ashton, the creator of fake online guru Santiago Swallow, argues that on social media it is easy to confuse popularity with credibility. Much like a long line outside a restaurant, having a weighty Twitter following can be an easy way of enhancing reputation in the eyes of others. Even at my lowly level, this was exhibited by a friend receiving a text from a colleague asking ‘”Who is Rob Guppy and should I be following him?” Despite the predictable “definitely not” response, it is easy to see that a larger number of followers can make you stand out from the crowd.
However, beyond this initial mirage of credibility, is there any benefit to artificially augmenting follower counts? In other words, is there a correlation between number of followers and one’s social media influence? My personal score on Klout, a site that analyses social media behaviour, certainly suggested that this was (infuriatingly) not the case and, given that there was zero interaction between myself and my new mates, this was hardly surprising. The whole operation seemingly only served to improve the external aesthetic of my Twitter profile page.
This leads us to a more significant area of discussion for people and brands that chase social media love and focus purely on numbers of likes, views and followers they accrue. As recently expressed on the Synergy blog, pure figures are no longer sufficient and ‘participation’ is now crucial in any interaction between brand and consumer. The difference between an inactive follower and an interactive one is immeasurable. If connecting with the right people, this level of ‘participation’ can be incredibly valuable in introducing consumers to brands and influencing their behaviour.
The reasoning continues that it would be more valuable for a company to have 100 highly engaged consumers than tens of thousands of seemingly passive onlookers. Indeed, sponsorship is one way of sparking this conversation and increasing the engagement between brand and consumer.
In short, I believe my short-lived experience can be seen as a microcosm of a brand chasing Twitter followers: admittedly, my social media profile was slightly raised by my follower count increasing five-fold, but beyond that I gained nothing (not even a single re-tweet). The 200-odd followers I had previously earned legitimately tend to direct me towards content, interact with me and, to a degree, educate me, but the one-way process of me tweeting at the 1,000 Twitter-bots and inactive bods brought me nothing. The whole process underlined that whether real or not, purely chasing followers or likes for the sake of it is an out-dated concept. Level of participation will be the new measure of a brand’s social media influence, with those parties that successfully engage with consumers and catalyse conversation the ones that will benefit most.
Inevitably, the international headlines about Brazil tend to focus on our remarkable social and economic development over the last twenty years, but there are many other things that one needs to understand about the country. Yes, Brazil is a great country, and it’s getting better, but there are a lot of unsolved problems, especially in social development.
This explains in part why the Brazilian sports industry has been able to create great campaigns using football, our main passion, as a way to make people aware of important causes.
This year WWF wanted to alert Brazilians to the fact that every four minutes an area equivalent to the size of a football pitch is deforested in the country. During the broadcast of a Brazilian women’s national team match, the green grass started to turn brown. It took 4 minutes to transform the whole pitch in a ‘deforested area’ through special effects. In the end, a caption on screen explained everything to the audience, and WWF websites visits increased by 73%.
Another campaign we love is from our neighbours Paraguay. They too, have a lot of social issues. In particular, around 25% of Paraguayan children aged 4 or under are not registered – in other words, they don’t have an official identity, which is a huge problem. So, during a 2014 FIFA World Cup Qualifying match against Uruguay, in an agreement with UNICEF, the main local TV channels and radio stations broadcast the initial minutes without saying names. Each player was just a number. After some time the commentators explained what it was about. This campaign occurred during the presidential elections, and resulted in the two main candidates promising to address the matter.
Brazil and Latin America have a huge potential to address social issues through sport. Clubs, athletes, governing bodies, sponsors, media, and NGOs should work together and create more campaigns like these. Of course, sport won’t solve everything, but it can be a great kick-off to drive awareness and create a pathway to action.
Bruno and Guilherme are partners at Ativa Esporte, the Brazilian sports marketing consultancy which is Synergy’s partner in Brazil.
For many of Britain’s sport enthusiasts, the May Day bank holiday signals a weekend spent glued to the TV watching the World Snooker Championship final. For the players, a Crucible final is the pinnacle of their career – not only for the event’s history and tradition, the privilege of playing in the famous auditorium and the ranking points on offer, but also the financial reward (£250,000 to be exact) that now comes with lifting the trophy. Thanks to the leadership and entrepreneurial nous of World Snooker chairman and Matchroom Sport chief executive Barry Hearn, the financial boundaries in the sport have been stretched significantly over the past few years and the best players in the world are finally being suitably rewarded for their skill, professionalism and hard work.
Behind the scenes, the Synergy team were hard at work delivering the PR activity to amplify Betfair’s sponsorship of the World Championship. As Barry Hearn continues to raise the financial stakes, Synergy tapped into the snooker psyche to develop the ‘Betfair Golden Cue’. Inspired by the players’ James Bond-style attire, Betfair gave snooker’s biggest stars the chance to become the first ‘Man with the Golden Cue’. This unique prize and a £10,000 cheque were on offer for the highest individual break during the tournament.
Given that a golden cue is not something you’d be able to find down your local Argos, we were indebted to John Parris, founder of Parris Cues, for undertaking the painstaking process of coating the cue in 23 carat gold leaf and producing such a high-quality cue. Designed to add some extra sparkle (or as Ronnie would say, “pizzazz”) to snooker’s flagship event, the Betfair Golden Cue took pride of place on set and became part of the conversation throughout the tournament, with BBC’s Hazel Irvine making regular references to it. In the first week, there were two early contenders for the prize with Ricky Walden’s impressive break of 140 quickly followed by a 142 break from the flamboyant Judd Trump.
As the high breaks continued, Twitter came to life with speculation from fans and snooker bloggers alike on who would win the Betfair Golden Cue. The cue itself became an object of mystery throughout the tournament, with speculation over its origin and manufacture maintaining the social media conversation. Consequently, Synergy placed another order with Parris Cues for a cue to give away on Betfair’s social channels, giving the lucky winner the chance to get their own gold-leafed memento from the tournament. At the time of writing, the social media giveaway has proved to be Betfair’s most successful yet, across all sports.
As title sponsors, Betfair offered a market on the Golden Cue winner, giving punters the chance to place early bets on pre-tournament high-break favourites with O’Sullivan available at 8/1, Judd Trump at 9/1 and Mark Williams at 12/1. Despite the strong early showings from Ricky Walden and Judd Trump, neither could prevent the explosive Australian, Neil Robertson, from stealing the prize. Indeed, despite quality cue play on show throughout the tournament (in total 55 century breaks were recorded), no one could surpass Robertson’s break of 143.
Although the tournament did not see a magical 147 break, snooker fans were still treated to a masterclass from O’Sullivan, who performed at his mercurial best to claim a fifth World Championship title. Indeed, the Betfair Golden Cue may have gone to Robertson but there’s no doubt that the Betfair World Champion, the ‘Rocket’ Ronnie O’Sullivan, remains snooker’s ‘golden boy’.
The air above the hot barbeque wavers and wobbles, the smoke drifts across the garden and gradually dissipates. Satisfied, you and your friends lounge on the warm grass and revel in the sensation that winter has passed and summertime is around the corner. A light breeze ruffles the grass and you feel the blades brush subtly against your calf. You look down…
… and there they are. Two bright white sticks protruding awkwardly from a pair of shorts. The knees knobbly. The skin almost translucent. It is that time of the year again – May Bank Holiday – time to crack out the legs. For months they have been comfortably lying dormant hidden under thick trouser material, but now, at the first sight of a patch of blue sky, they stand obstinately naked to the world. Surely there is no sight more symbolic of a sunny day in Britain than an assortment of pasty men’s legs, so white that the intense light reflecting off them creates an almost angelic glow.
Unattractive as they might be perceived, I see our lacklustre limbs as a massive untapped resource for brands wishing to sponsor something more real and universal than an event or asset that may only be experienced by a certain demographic. What could be more human than a pair of legs – we all have them and millions of us, whether we like it or not, sport ones of a rather pale complexion. Thus, I propose that a brand steps forward to become the first official sponsor of Britain’s pathetically pale legs.
A brand sponsoring the human body is not unheard of. In the media recently there have been stories about people who have sold advertising space on their bodies, with the result that they are branded for life with a company’s logo – which is sometimes a move they come to regret as in the case of Billy Gibby – aka “Hostgator Dotcom” who transformed his face into breathing billboard for various companies including online adult sites. Other companies have been known to market their brand on physical attributes; for example L’Oréal employ Cheryl Cole and her much celebrated locks to promote their hair products. Famously Subway told the story of Jared Fogle, an American who lost 107kg through exercise and a strict diet of subs, in a number of PR stunts and advertisements. Closer to home in London, anyone familiar to Oxford Street will have come across the especially tall man who hands out leaflets for the chain.
Like Jared Fogle our leggy campaign would need a front man and with some fear of appearing self obsessed I wish to put myself forward. Being a 6ft 2’’ ginger haired chap my long, spindly legs are exemplary. Sure, they are not insured for £90 million like Ronaldo’s but my pasty credentials are strong; for instance, if I stand against a white background it appears as though my shorts are merely hovering above a pair of shoes. Being the pins of such a campaign would be a tall order, but it is a challenge I am willing to accept.
It is my belief that sponsorship of the nation’s legs is an opportunity for three distinct types of brand:
1) Fake tan / tanning moisturiser brand
We all know that exposing our skin to too much sun can be dangerous and awareness of the risks has increased in recent years. This has consequently led to an increase in the sales of fake tan and tanning moisturisers that provide a golden glow/ orange hew (depending on taste) without the potential cancerous after effects. I propose that a brand could sponsor the upkeep of my legs, transforming them into the sun kissed legs of a Grecian god. I’d be willing to let them leave the shape of their logo untanned, on my calf perhaps, to serve as a visual advertisement of before and after. I am not quite sure how the tanning of a lanky young man will help target the majority female demographic, but these are only initial ideas. We will leave the finer details for the moment.
2) Sun cream
Way back in the olden days, a pale complexion used to be all the rage. Queen Elizabeth I loved nothing more than pasting her face with ghostly lead-based make-up and till the 19th century a tan was seen as an unattractive quality associated the poorer classes who had to work outdoors. There are signs that this historic admiration of pale skin is having a resurgence; take, for instance, Dainty Doll – the makeup range created by Nicola Roberts for those of a lighter complexion (or the vampiresque cast of the Twilight films). I believe we should look after our skin and celebrate our milky complexion. Whether the damage is salmon pink or lobster red, sunburn is never a good look – I should know having written a large part of this blog post outside and protected only one side of my face, leaving me looking like a red and white version of Braveheart. Thus, why doesn’t someone sponsor our pallid legs to encourage us to take care of our skin and thereby celebrate our natural form? This is currently in vogue; Dove for the last few years has celebrated natural beauty. The art of protecting this untarnished beauty could find a champion in my two unequivocally natural limbs.
3) A British summertime brand
As mentioned, the re-emergence of men’s legs from their winter hibernation truly marks the start of British summer. An eccentric time; meetings are held outdoors, ice creams are handed out around the office, people skip excitedly to supermarkets to purchase sausages, obligatory salad and inexplicably small bottles of beer. Like the emergence of Pimm’s, 99 Flakes and disposable BBQs, pale legs are symbolic of the British summer. Thus, I propose that my legs are sponsored by one of these famous British brands that we associate with the start of the season. Top of the list would be Pimm’s – the ultimate summery drink that is arguably a necessary component at any good BBQ.
So how would the sponsorship work? For starters, there would be a marketing campaign that trumpets their designation, “Pimm’s: The Official Sponsor of Britain’s Pasty Pins”. Next I am thinking branded shorts (which would look incredibly fetching modelled by myself in various PR shoots) and flip flops. Clearly there would be leg-shaped jugs (inspired by the boot-shaped beer glasses – Bierstiefeln – found in Germany) and limb-like stirring sticks. Concerning events, what about the national competition to find the most pathetic pegs in Britain – the winner of which could win the ultimate summertime BBQ. We could even indulge in guerrilla marketing at large summertime events – music festivals, sporting fixtures etc. – where branded transfers could be stuck on exposed legs in return for a free drink.
Of course, these are only initial ideas and any good brainstorm would come up with a multitude of better and funnier concepts that would far surpass that of a blogger enjoying yet another refreshing summertime beverage.
To conclude, I am rather proud of our nation’s pale pins and hope that I have gone some way to convincing you that they are a valuable asset for sponsorship – whether it is for a sun cream, tanning or British summertime brand. Personally I believe that the latter is the most viable; especially as I, rather than a gorgeous woman, can be a credible option to front it. It is just a thought – maybe a good one? Then again, I do feel a touch of sun stroke coming on.
Disclaimer: The author is aware that since the time of writing it has in fact turned out that the May Bank Holiday was a false dawn for this year’s summer. Rest assured he is currently shaking his fist at the sky.
Bringing together over 1,200 delegates and a stellar cast of keynote speakers, the annual IEG Conference is the place to go to get a feel for the US sponsorship industry and the latest trends emerging from that side of the pond.
Having experienced three full days of presentations and roundtables covering every topic under the sponsorship sun, we have enough thoughts, insights and observations to fill a whole series of blogs (which we’ll be publishing over the next few weeks). But in advance of that, it makes sense to start with a high-level view of the key themes to emerge from the conference as a whole, with a particular focus on the keynote speakers.
The New 4 Ps of Sponsorship
In her welcome address, Lesa Ukman (Chief Insights Officer at IEG) introduced “The New 4 Ps”, a simple framework which outlines the critical components of successful sponsorship.
So here it goes: a summary of the core themes from the keynote speakers in the context of “The New 4 Ps”.
Great sponsorship is far more than skin deep. It is about both the brand and the rights holder working together through all available channels to create win/win/win situations, where genuine value is added to the brand, property and audience.
This is not a new idea, and the debate about whether we should move away from the word “sponsorship” has been rumbling for years (decades even). Of course, it doesn’t really matter what we call it as long as brands realise that sponsorship is not a one-way value transfer.
This sense of partnership is at the centre of Pepsi’s new deal with Beyonce. Frank Cooper, Pepsi’s CMO, acknowledged that on the surface it looked like exactly the same sort of deal that Pepsi has been doing since the ‘80s with Michael Jackson (a thought that we have already discussed in the past). However, he assured us that this couldn’t be further from the truth. Evidently, it is a deep collaboration that will redefine how music is created and distributed, deliver innovative episodic content, while also resulting in new Women’s Empowerment projects that come from Beyonce’s personal social conscience. We’ll be watching with great interest.
Miller Light has taken things far deeper than simple product placement in its partnership with The Internship (a new comedy re-uniting Wedding Crashers Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson). The brand is providing large-scale marketing support on-pack and through a high-profile competition to win the ultimate internship with Miller Light. This will, in turn, deliver great content and social currency for Miller, in addition to strong product placement within the movie.
Deborah Dugan, the CEO of (RED), showed another great example of brands working together to create win/win/win scenarios. For those of you not familiar with (RED), it partners with world-leading brands including Nike, Apple, Coca-Cola, Starbucks, Beats by Dr. Dre and Bugaboo to create limited edition (RED) products. A percentage of the profits from these products go to The Global Fund which fights for an AIDS-free generation. This is a great example of a win/win/win scenario: The Global Fund raises much-needed money; brands drive revenue through new products while demonstrating what they stand for; and customers can support the cause simply by buying great, new, limited edition products from the brands they already love.
Clearly, what all these examples have in common is that actively working together creates more value for all parties, while also establishing a concrete role for the brand – all of which deliver the authenticity that is critical to being accepted by an audience.
Of all the New 4 Ps, the idea that a brand needs a purpose (beyond making money for the sake of making money), is probably the one that came through most clearly. Consumers don’t just want to know who a brand is, they need to know what it stands for. A really powerful element of sponsorship is that it can provide a highly visible symbol of a brand’s purpose.
Jim Stengler is so committed to the idea that doing good and doing well are two sides of the same coin that he left his role as CMO of P&G to write a book, Grow, showing that companies with a strong purpose outperformed the market. His view is that a company’s culture – what it believes in and how it behaves – is the only truly sustainable source of differentiation.
He showed how the turning point in the Pampers business was this ad – when it stopped telling people about the product and started showing that “Pampers get babies. Pampers loves babies”. Andy England from MillerCoors used a nice turn of phrase to capture this idea: we need to move from brand campaigns to campaigning for our brand.
For Frank Cooper, the CMO of Pepsi, it’s a case of “The King is dead; long live the King”. Specifically, Content isn’t King. Intent is King. Consumers are no longer happy to just know what you do and how you do it, they want to know why you do it. A brand’s intent is now as important as the product itself.
Ironically, Frank Cooper didn’t manage to articulate the specifics of Pepsi’s “intent”, but he did refer to the Pepsi Refresh Project, describing it as “one of the most important experiments” Pepsi (or any other brand, for that matter) had undertaken in the past decade. It was undeniably brave – but the fact that it was ditched after just one year might indicate that it was a brave failure.
Jim Trebilcock from Dr. Pepper Snapple, provided one of my favourite case studies from the event. The Dr. Pepper Tuition Giveaway uses its sponsorship of NCAA Football to run a promotion giving college students the chance to win their tuition fees ($100,000) by uploading a video which described how they would use their college education to create a better future. I like this because it really brings to life Dr. Pepper’s intent to encourage everyone to tread their own path to become one of a kind.
Synergy have covered this trend extensively over the past year as part of our discussions on the Social Era of Sponsorship – so it was nice to see it reinforced in Chicago.
Brands that simply badge content might get awareness but they don’t necessarily get any credit. Anyone can get awareness by slapping a logo on something – but producing content, events and experiences that resonate with the audience and enhance their experiences is the best way to truly connect.
All the keynote speakers emphasised the importance of being Creator Brands and took the opportunity to showcase some of the great content they had developed. From TV spots to earned media and user-generated content, no presentation was complete without a few examples of the engaging content they had created.
A couple of examples deserve special mention. The first is the deep, multi-channel engagement which Coors Light created around its sponsorship of Liga MX (the Mexican Football League) for the US audience. The sponsorship started with standard on-pack and in-store activity, but the brand took it further to create a website called ‘Fanaticos del Frio’, providing exclusive fan content about Liga MX. It then extended it into mobile apps, social media engagement and experiential activity, before finally partnering with Univision (the major Spanish Language TV Channel) to turn Fanaticos del Frio into a prime-time weekly TV programme. Creating and curating this content means that Coors Light owns the Liga MX fan experience in the US.
Pete Blackshaw, Global Head of Nestle’s digital marketing and social media, shared a very clever new interactive film with us called Perrier’s Secret Place. You are in control as you switch characters to navigate your way through the ultimate Secret Party, trying to find clues that will lead you to the Golden Perrier Bottle. Finding the golden bottle gives you a chance to win trips to “the ultimate parties around the world”. The idea that you should be drinking Perrier at parties to make sure you don’t miss any details of the experience is interesting – and the film is great.
Again, there is nothing new about the idea of content being at the centre of the sponsorship experience – we have written about it many times (here and chapter 6 of our 2013 Trends Report, here) – but it is important that the point is reinforced at every possible occasion.
The stories that a brand can tell about itself are dwarfed by the potential stories that others can tell about it. That’s why sponsors should be finding ways to create movements that everyone can participate and share in.
Adam Garone, co-founder of Movember, really brought to life how a simple idea can harness the power of the audience to spread the word and drive the storyline. Every man that grows a moustache sparks hundreds of different conversations during the month of November – with friends, colleagues and even strangers on the Tube. And that, rather than simply raising money, is the whole point.
However, it is worth raising a couple of words of caution at this point. Firstly, don’t expect customers to participate in something which they don’t really care about (and they’ll be the judge of that), or which doesn’t fit into and improve their existing ‘rituals’. Hundreds of activations fall flat because the consumer just thinks: “why bother?”. Secondly, the whole point of ‘Participation’ is to create some form of legacy – a deeper connection with the consumer that lasts longer and means more than simply viewing an ad. With that in mind, it’s worth remembering that not all content is shareable. As Pablo Ganguli, founder of Liberatum, which creates cultural festivals in countries around the world said: “I would prefer 200 highly motivated, energised, intelligent people to experience my content directly rather than 2 billion people watching my YouTube video because they are bored.”
Sponsorship gives brands the ability to show that they have something in common with the audience. Brands that use sponsorship well are seen by fans to be “one of us”, and that makes them willing to tell their story.
So those are the new 4 Ps. If you have read the Synergy blog and our 2013 Trends Report, you will recognise many of the same themes in our ABCDE framework: for Beyond your Brand (B), read Purpose; for Content (C), read Production; and for Dialogue (D), read Participation. The New 4 P framework doesn’t explicitly reference Authenticity (A) and Emotion (E), but there is no doubt that both those elements need to be at the heart of all of the Ps. Conversely, ABCDE doesn’t explicitly mention Partnership – but that’s simply because the whole framework is about partnerships and the vital ingredients required to create great ones.
So when it comes to great sponsorship it doesn’t really matter what side of the Atlantic you might find yourself on: what the IEG Conference really demonstrated – as the ABCDE and the 4Ps frameworks make clear – is that the rules for outstanding sponsorship are universal.
Earlier this month it was announced that Itaipava, the third biggest beer company in Brazil, had become the naming rights sponsor of Arena Fonte Nova, the 2014 World Cup stadium for Salvador in north-eastern Brazil, and the first of the new generation of Brazilian sports arenas to successfully sell its naming rights sponsorship.
Despite several previous naming rights sponsorships of concert venues and movie theaters, naming rights sponsorship in sports is still rare in Brazil. Prior to the Itaipava Arena, the only other Brazilian football stadium to have a branded name was Kyocera Arena, of Atlético-Paranaense in Paraná, which was sponsored from 2005 for R$2m per year but discontinued after 2008.
The main reason for this is that Globo, the dominant Brazilian TV network, has a policy of not using brand names in its sports coverage. It’s a policy applied to almost everything it covers, and brands usually cite this as a reason why naming rights sponsorship in Brazil is a poor investment.
Just after the Itaipava announcement, for example, Visa’s Ricardo Fort tweeted
Globo is considering changing its ‘no brands’ policy, on the condition that it receives a percentage of every contract involved. If it happens, this would fuel the naming rights market in Brazil, but Itaipava had other reasons for naming the Arena Fonte Nova. Primarily, Itaipava is opening a new factory in Bahia, close to Salvador, and naming the region’s most important stadium is part of its strategy to connect with local consumers, engage staff and steal marketshare from its main rivals Ambev and Kirin Schin. But also, the deal ambushes Ambev’s FIFA World Cup sponsorship, especially if Itaipava can make the new stadium name stick with consumers and thus sidestep FIFA’s policy of de-branding sponsored stadiums which host World Cup matches.
Another interesting fact is the Itaipava Arena financial details: R$ 10 million per year over 10 years – almost 70% more than most estimates expected.
So it seems the naming rights market in Brazil could be about to take off, and that companies are starting to understand that there is much more to it than brand visibility. But the big question, as we’ve said before, is can sponsors make it pay back?
Bruno and Guilherme are partners at Ativa Esporte, the Brazilian sports marketing consultancy which is Synergy’s partner in Brazil.
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 couple of weeks ago my brother and I set off for the Saracens vs. Harlequins match, safe in the knowledge that the game would definitely be going ahead (despite the freakish sub-zero weather conditions) due to the artificial pitch, and keen to experience the new Allianz Park. Saracens‘ vision is ‘to be the most innovative, hard-working and caring rugby organisation in the world’, so at this official opening of their new stadium I was interested to see how close they are to meeting this ambition.
Earlier in the week I had received an extremely clear and helpful email from Saracens detailing the match day itinerary, the travel options and any other info we might have needed. If one of the key objectives of a rights holder’s ECRM is to improve the customer experience, then this email certainly ticked that box. Whilst it was by no means ground-breaking, it is striking how often this is either absent or uninformative in the build-up to a big event.
Following our travel instructions, we were warmly greeted at Mill Hill East tube station by one of the Saracens Pioneers. These volunteers have been selected to help deliver the perfect match day experience, no doubt inspired by the widespread acclaim for the Olympic Gamesmakers and to position Saracens as a club for the community.
Then a free (and spacious) shuttle bus whisked us to the stadium and we collected our tickets without any fuss. Again, these are perhaps small things that a sports fan should expect on a match day, but which can so often be sorely lacking.
It must be said that we weren’t totally blown away by the Stadium: although the new East stand is impressive, the existing West Stand and temporary seats on the Barnet running track didn’t exactly scream out ‘new stadium’, but there was no lack of effort from the club to make their opening feel special. A Legends match (featuring among others Jason Leonard and Thomas Casteignede) took place before kick-off, adding further value to our £20 match ticket.
In the innovation stakes, (aside from the pitch), Saracens have installed two giant video screens which provided a fantastic picture throughout, and for this fixture they also took a 360 degree fan-pic at the game for fans to tag themselves on Facebook (I’m the one in the red hat in the middle!).
Whilst a fan-pic at an event is now familiar territory, Saracens added an interactive element by offering the chance to win a signed shirt for spotting Sarrie the Camel, and also gave fans who were unable to get a ticket (the match was sold out) the opportunity to add their profile picture to the shot. Perhaps Saracens could have done even more with this by promoting the picture on the big screens and asking fans to smile for the camera! I also think the big screens could have had a more interactive element to them – for example Saracens could look to add a Twitter ticker-tape running along the bottom of it so fans can add their thoughts on the action. As we saw at the Olympics, initiatives such as the kiss-cam and bongo-cam are great ways of getting the crowd involved in the action and these big screens offer this opportunity. If Saracens really want to become the most innovative rugby club around, then the most obvious first step for them will be to provide free wi-fi at the ground (a topic that we have discussed many times on this blog). A partner deal like the recently announced MLB and T- Mobile and Liverpool F.C and Xirrus initiatives would really allow fans to interact at the stadium, and Saracens already have a mobile app which could, in time, become the tool that gives supporters the ability to interact with the game in real time.
In terms of the sponsor activity on the day, there was a clear winner: despite Allianz’s naming rights deal, it was Domino’s Pizza who stood out. They have given fans the chance to get pizzas delivered to their seats at half-time (which seemed to be a popular option in the freezing cold) and their half-time catching challenge between Saracens and Harlequins fans also proved to be popular. It will be interesting to see if Allianz remain passive in their activation and apparently happy to rely on the media value driven from the stadium name and shirt sponsorship, although I have since spotted that they are running a reporter competition on Facebook for their next home game.
After the match, fans were encouraged to take to the pitch and kick a ball about (taking me back to the days of bringing my bat and a ball along to The Oval for some throw-downs on the outfield). As you can see this proved really popular with the kids (both big and small) and reinforced Saracens’ positioning as a community-friendly club. We went to de-frost with a few pints (with our souvenir cups – see below) in the longest match day bar in the UK, and there the Saracens band played and the Man of the Match (Mako Vunipola) was presented with his award. This was a really nice way of allowing the fans to get closer to their heroes in a relaxed, family friendly atmosphere after the game. On the way out of the ground, a large Pepperoni Passion pizza for a fiver capped off a really great fan experience for us!
It really seems that Saracens have considered the fans’ journey every step of the way, and we had a great debut experience at Allianz Park. On the day, their stars on the field didn’t disappoint and faster, better rugby was produced due to the 4G pitch. Whilst Saracens may still have a little way to go on the innovation front, they are certainly ahead of the game in terms of putting the fans and the community at the heart of everything they do; more rights holders should definitely take note.
In the debate about how to best enjoy watching sport, most would agree that those at the stadium have it best. The proximity of the live action amplified by the collective reactions of the crowd combine to generate a priceless “I was there” experience that most people dream about experiencing even a few times in their lifetime, let alone week in, week out.
Celebrating with strangers in the away end at a football match, waving Union Jacks at the Olympic Stadium, seeing the sweat drip off a boxer as he slaves towards the end of another punishing round, or relaxing with a drink while watching the cricket at Lord’s on a summer’s evening – all unique experiences to which sitting in front of the television can hardly compare.
That said, there has been some significant press attention of late focusing on the escalating price of watching live football. Rising ticket prices, along with the additional associated costs of the matchday experience (travel, food, etc.), all add up to create an expensive day out. And it’s not just the prices that can make sitting in front of the TV seem a bit more appealing; a better view of the action, replays, punditry (even if of often dubious quality) and the ability to go online and join a community of others watching the same event all contribute too. While recent focus has emphasised the plight of match-going football fans, many of these issues are common to all those who watch live sport.
Up until now, any complaints expressed by those lucky enough to regularly attend live top-level sport would have been dismissed as spoilt whinging from people who don’t know how lucky they are; however, the extent of ticket price rises, especially in football, and the simultaneous observation about the importance of fans to the health of live sport have started to make people sit up and take notice. Sport not only unites and inspires, but also represents big business. If fans stay away, clubs and stadia lose out on income, the atmosphere flattens (with potential impact on both the players and the excitement conveyed in the broadcast), and fans miss out on a potentially fantastic experience; in other words, everyone suffers.
And while the message is still filtering through to clubs and venue owners (though as a previous blog reported, innovative pricing schemes are becoming increasingly common), smart brands have already been stepping in redress the balance. With live events a central asset in many sponsorship platforms, focusing on those who attend is a vital pillar of a strong activation plan.
For example, to reward fans of Capital One Cup finalists Swansea and Bradford – travelling hundreds of miles to Wembley with fuel prices notoriously high – Synergy created the Capital One Convoy, thanking fans for their loyalty by providing them with free transport, another cost contributing to the high price of following a football team.
And recognising that the actual viewing experience at live sport events can often be compromised, with key incidents happening in a flash and without the benefit of televised action replays, Barclays, title sponsor of the Barclays Center in New York – home of the Brooklyn Nets – created an app that gives users a live stream and instant replays: the best of the live and televised experiences rolled into one.
Of course, one thing compromising the live sport experience (well, depending on your point of view) is the lack of internet in many stadiums, something else we’ve passionately questioned on this very blog. This is something that obviously distinguishes the live and televised experiences quite considerably, with TV audiences able to follow punditry on Twitter, interact socially with their mates, and engage with a whole host of branded content as they watch sport. Were WiFi to become widely available in stadiums, the opportunities for brands to step in with apps that improve the live viewing experience for fans would be manifold.
Indeed, some forward-thinking brands have already started to step in to fill this gap. At the Betfair World Matchplay Darts and the Betfair Masters for example, Synergy worked with title sponsor Betfair to install wireless internet in Blackpool’s Winter Gardens and Alexandra Palace respectively – allowing event attendees to bet online and interact socially in just the same way television viewers. A bonus for the brand – after all, they want as many people as possible to be betting on the action – and fans alike. And given the existing online inventory of many sponsor brands, be it content, websites or apps, it is surely in the brand’s interest to allow fans at the venue to make use of them (as well as boasting about their attendance!).
No doubt, the smartest brands will be those that enhance the sporting experience for those watching any touchpoint – be it at the ground, on the sofa or in the pub. With the size of the televised audience for major sporting events, only a very naïve sponsor would forget about the legions of fans in front of the TV. Hence the success of the RBS 6 Nations Live Challenge app, for example, which capitalises on the second screen phenomenon.
The atmosphere is ripe for rewarding those who attend live sport, and the message is clear: wherever they may be, don’t forget the fans.
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