Archive for the ‘YouTube’ category

Millennial Movie Fans: The Battle of the Five Armies

It’s a time of war.

Five forces, locked in bloody conflict, light against dark, in a fight to the death. Old adversaries clash in bitter skirmishes, as fresh rivals reveal new fronts to a timeworn battlefield. All the while, uneasy alliances are forged in the face of the common foe: malevolent and intangible, a shadowy presence hiding in plain sight, its bitter poison laying waste to the very earth itself.

It’s an ancient battle for a very modern prize: the love (and lucre) of the Millennial movie-watcher.

An appropriately dramatic analogy, perhaps, but the point is still clear: Studios, Multiplexes, Streamers (think Netflix and the like) and Brands are facing up against an army of Pirates in a conflict set to shape the future of film. So now, with the battle lines drawn for 2015, how can brands best prepare themselves to strike a telling blow in the war for Millennial film fans over the coming year?

With this question in mind, it’s worth considering the relatively unprecedented context presented by 2015: in cinematic terms, this could well be the single biggest year the industry has ever seen.

Not one, but three billion-dollar movies will be hitting screens in the coming 12 months. In May, we have Avengers: Age of Ultron – sequel to the third most successful movie of all time ($1.5bn worldwide gross, according to Box Office Mojo); Spectre, the follow-up to Skyfall (at $1.1bn, Bond’s biggest ever outing), appears in November; and that’s not forgetting a small production in December by the name of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the latest episode in the $4.2bn box office mega-franchise.

On top of that, in sequel terms, we’ll see the conclusion to The Hunger Games (the preceding movie having made $695m worldwide), Jurassic World, Ted 2, Mission: Impossible 5, Furious 7 and Magic Mike XXL. When you add in Pixar’s Inside Out, Josh Trank’s reboot of comic book The Fantastic Four and – ahem – Fifty Shades of Grey, there’s something in there for just about everyone.

So where does this leave Millennials? After all, a trip to the cinema represents only a single touchpoint with Film as a passion point…and an expensive one at that. With the average price of a cinema ticket in the UK now £6.53 (a 26% hike since 2007, with London seats topping £13) and US tickets hovering around the $8 mark, it’s not hard to see why a trip to the movies is becoming less of an impulse decision. In 2014, research published by Nielsen in America identified a 15% drop in attendances from the previous year amongst 12-24s.

The average Millennial’s world is fast-paced and relentless. Whether picking up emails from work or endlessly checking feeds for social currency and connections, they are seldom ‘off’. For the Multiplexes, this creates an interesting and relatively unique dilemma: while the cinema is considered by Millennials as one of the last places where they can still genuinely disengage from life, attendances amongst this group are still declining.

Time-poor, experience-rich

With the average length of the year’s highest-grossing movies up from 118.4 minutes in 1992 to 141.6 minutes in 2012 – not counting the incremental half hour of adverts and trailers – starved of smartphones and live pausing, Millennials need to commit or quit when considering a trip to the cinema.

What’s more, it’s fair to say that the cinematic experience itself at the Multiplex is generally not up to par for the young, free and single Millennials. As born multitaskers and social animals, there’s an expectation that a night out offers more than just silent contemplation of an IMAX screen. Look at the popularity of Secret Cinema, the immersive movie experience encompassing themed costumes, food and event production, whose 2014 UK screenings of Back to the Future saw 17,000 of the available 66,000 tickets sell out in under five minutes. There’s even proven to be an audience for East London’s Hot Tub Cinema pop-up events, with the Hot Tub Time Machine 2 surely a shoo-in as content for screenings this year.

Similarly, more ‘regular’ viewing experiences are available for the Millennial multitasker, with the Electric, the Everyman chain and the Roxy Bar and Screen leading the charge in London in terms of luxury and/or homely seating, refreshments and even mid-movie debate. Grab a beer and order some food; make a night of it; feel sociable and connected.

While brands may struggle to have an impact on the long-term Multiplex experience itself, there may be a mindset shift occurring here, with Cineworld’s acquisition of the independent Picturehouse chain in 2012 a conscious (albeit controversial) move to recognise and grow both brands in tandem.

The question is, what can brands learn from the independents that they could take to a national level in partnership with Multiplexes? One of London’s most popular independent theatres, The Prince Charles Cinema, a stone’s throw from Leicester Square’s Empire, ODEON and Vue, provides a few clues as to how sponsors might help the chains get a little more creative, whilst engaging relevantly with Millennial audiences.

Double-bills, seasonal themes, franchise marathons, fancy dress evenings – even sing-along events (Frozen being the spectacle du jour) – you name it, the PCC could be the ultimate incubator when it comes to replicable in-theatre ‘moments’.

All you can eat content

Whether the big chains like it or not, the Millennial perception of acceptable pricing policy is changing. The Streamers have it right: at £5.99/$8.00 per month, Netflix/Amazon/Hulu have this audience wrapped up, feeding the Millennial binge-watcher a constant supply of on-demand content, all for a low (or, at least, acceptable) monthly charge. So why haven’t the Multiplexes adopted the same approach to generating a regular subscriber base? To date, of the UK’s major chains, only Cineworld offers this with its Unlimited card, £16.40 granting you as many screenings as you can fit into a month.

Stateside, the cross-chain MoviePass subscription service lets users go to a film a day for $35, a ‘premium’ version of which (think 3D and IMAX showings, not just standard 2D) AMC – the second biggest Multiplex in Northern America – is also now trialling.

The question is, if the Multiplexes aren’t offering this themselves, then how could a sponsor make this happen? And we’re not necessarily talking for free: Orange Wednesdays – arguably the biggest thing to happen in cinemas in the past 10 years – was essentially a customer BOGOF. With EE now having walked away from the offer, perhaps a reboot is in order (this is the cinema, after all), especially now that Aleksandr Meerkat and chums are now involved.

How about adding a premium bolt-on to your monthly mobile phone tariff and then using your NFC-enabled smartphone to claim tickets as often as you like, every month?

I’d buy that for a dollar (or even twenty).

Instant gratification

Another area where the big boys – in this instance, the Studios – could learn from the Streamers, is in how they deploy Video on Demand (VOD). The hacking of Sony Pictures’ systems in late 2014 – their very own Nightmare Before Christmas – actually went some way to demonstrating that whilst physical distribution in theatres is critical, it’s not essential.

Following the decision (by the major cinema chains, rather than the studio) to pull the release of the North Korea-baiting comedy The Interview, Sony Pictures finally released the movie as VOD content, making $15m in the process. Sure, this is still short of the reported $44m production budget, but (if you believe the financial documents released by the hackers) just about covered stars Seth Rogen and James Franco’s fee.

The controversy of this particular film aside, from a sponsorship perspective, the lack of a physical presence for a movie in theatres presents an opportunity for the right brand to create the necessary real-world touchpoint for consumers. Whether through Coke Zero’s excellent ‘Unlock the 007 in you’ Skyfall tie-in, or more standard marketing real estate, sponsors have the unique ability to meet Millennials half-way, and bring them closer to the movie itself.

Another related consideration for brands is that of simultaneous cross-platform release schedules. This is not a new phenomenon, with examples of ‘opening days’ synchronised across multiple media stretching back at least a decade, from such film-makers as Steven Soderbergh and, more recently, Ben Wheatley. Although unlikely to ever replace the release model for the summer blockbuster – where even the most extravagantly proportioned household flatscreen will fail to do justice to the scale and seat-juddering spectacle of a good movie theatre set-up – the provision of both immediacy of content and a choice in how to view it are drivers for Millennials across the globe. This would likely also prove popular for Gen Xers with childcare issues…

How about a sponsor-driven release day, with loyal customers or promotion winners provided unique access to either a VOD stream, DVD or viewing party – rather than just the typical activation of a local premiere we’ve come to expect? The trick is realigning the Studio- Multiplex licence agreement, which generally provides a 3-month exclusivity period to the theatres before movies can be distributed as hard copies or as digital pay-per-view content.

Any sponsors wanting to demonstrate how much they ‘get’ the Millennial film fan would also do well to consider supporting lower budget movies through this instant medium. With the blockbusters often hogging screen time at the Multiplexes, the opportunity for brands to use existing VOD technologies to drive audiences to the best new, yet otherwise unheralded films may help rather than hinder some of these productions. IMDB’s #1 rated movie amongst users, Frank Darabont’s The Shawshank Redemption, was almost completely overlooked when on general release, with only VHS bringing it into the homes and hearts of millions across the world. What if yours was the brand that had first said ‘Welcome to Shawshank’, and facilitated bringing a masterpiece to the masses?

If you love something, give it away…or, more likely, share it

It’s the ultimate double-edged sword for the industry.

Avatar, the most successful film of all time ($2.87bn worldwide gross), is also the most pirated (hitting 21 million individual downloads as far back as 2011) – demonstrating a curious co-existence and begging the question of which came first.

Whilst it’s often digitally savvy, legally unfazed Millennials who help perpetuate online piracy by viewing and distributing studio content, there’s little doubt that sharing is critical to the movie marketing ecosystem.

Without word-of-mouth recommendations, film forum debate and the excited re-posting of trailers and outtakes, there would be no cult classics or sleeper hits, and viral teaser campaigns for movies such as The Dark Knight or X-Men: Days of Future Past would fall flat.

Encouraging Millennials to share what you want about a movie (rather than just its BitTorrent download address) is the key for studios. This is something that the team at our sister agency Trailer Park know all about. By building excitement about the Multiplex experience, they maximise their profits, and by drawing attention to the must-see lower-budget films – which perhaps don’t get so much airtime on general release – even the little guys get to benefit.

It only takes a short flick through Twitter, Facebook or Reddit to discover a wealth of talented individuals lovingly creating their own take on the films that touch them. From alternative homage posters, brain-bending FullMovieGIFs and the niche but nifty 8-Bit Cinema animations – the democratisation of design has enabled credible, cool fan-made marketing campaigns to live and breathe across the social networks.

Marketers that could appropriately leverage the creativity of the talented masses to deliver genuinely shareable content or relevance to the Millennial audience will win here.

As we enter into 2015 proper, for the big players in film the audiences have never been more empowered, and the stakes have never been higher. One thing is clear, however: in the Battle of the Five Armies, it’s the Brands – in particular, the sponsors of film – that have a genuine opportunity to help raise the standards for the conflict ahead.

It’s showtime…

Jonathan’s blog comes from Synergy’s Now, New & Next sponsorship outlook for 2015, which can be viewed in full here.

By on March 27th, 2015

Tags: Broadcast sponsorship, Default, Film, Millennials, Sponsorship, Sponsorship Activation, Synergy, Technology, Television audiences, YouTube

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ESports: It’s in the Game

Banana, Fenrir and ppd. No, that’s not a profound spellcheck error, but actually three superstar players who, as part of separate teams, competed for $10.1m in prize funds at a single tournament earlier this year. To make a comparison, this is only 19% less than what UEFA paid out to Real Madrid for winning La Décima in 2014.

Unlike Bale, Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo, however, you probably haven’t heard of them, their teams or even the sport they play. They won their money playing Dota 2, an online multiplayer battle arena game, think digital chess combined with fantasy gaming, and they represent top members of the growing eSports community.

ESports is a catchall phrase for what is essentially competitive computer gaming: organised tournaments, put on either by game producers, game players or independent bodies. The range of competitive games is, as you’d expect, huge, but they mostly fit within competitive categories; from the lesser-known computer-based multiplayer games, such as League of Legends and the aforementioned Dota 2, to major console gaming titles such as Call of Duty and the EA Sports FIFA Series.

ESports have long been part of gaming culture, but as this generation of tech-savvy gamers has grown up with high-speed Internet in conjunction with the growth of free-to-use video stream sites, such as YouTube and Twitch, the growth of the competition and consumption elements of eSports has sky-rocketed. We spoke with Kyle Bautista, General Manager of compLexity Gaming – one of the world leaders in competitive gaming – who told us: ‘Players and teams have been competing in these games for decades, but the problem was being able to expose a large enough audience to them to get people to know they existed, let alone sustain any substantial growth. The biggest contributor to the growth of eSports is likely Twitch and other livestreaming services.’

Following its growth in 2014, which saw its number of visitors surge by 513% from 371m to 1.9bn, Twitch was purchased by Amazon, and whilst the parent company’s influence has so far been minor, Twitch’s recent purchase of the company ‘Good Game’ – which manages eSports teams ‘Evil Geniuses’ and ‘Alliance’ and also curates eSports tournaments – suggests that Twitch is looking to integrate itself even further into eSports culture.

Amazon will be hoping to replicate Google’s success with YouTube (which sees successful content creators having their streams and videos sponsored by advertisers) on Twitch as a long-term monetisation programme. The advertising streaming option is beneficial as it promotes both great content creation from its users, as they receive a cut of the money, but also encourage brands to spend their valuable ad money on successful channels. To make Twitch as accessible as possible for brands, however, it has to rely on its predicted growth coming to fruition and provide detailed audience segmentation for brands to tap into.

Unlike traditional sports, whose history lies within live events and then TV or radio broadcast, eSports have grown out of an Internet-connected audience and their users exist almost exclusively online. Where big sporting rightsholders have been catching up with new Internet consumption habits, eSports were moulded by them and will continue to grow because of them. It’s unlikely that those habits are going to break, with Vice President of eSports at Riot Games Dustin Beck describing eSports fans as ‘a generation who aren’t consuming their content on TV’, going on to describe TV as ‘not a goal or a priority’.

These changing habits reflect the wider change in content consumption in the Western world: the same access of high Internet speeds that spawned the success of eSports also created a Netflix generation who watch what they want, when they want and on the platform of their choosing. In the future, as this generation matures, the consumption rates of eSports will continue to grow: it already surpasses the likes of NBA Finals and the MLB World Series in viewing figures.

The average eSports fan consumes 10.5 hours of content a week compared to traditional sports fans who watch 7.5 hours a week. Furthermore according to IHS, eSports video will bring in $300m in online advertising revenue alone in 2017, with consumption of eSports to double in size to 6.5bn.

Whilst the access to and usage of Internet-enabled devices has had a major part in the growth of eSports, so has the public perception of gaming as both a pastime and art form. Corporations such as Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo have helped power a global growth in console gaming, popularising a wealth of highly intelligent and beautifully designed games.

This, in conjunction with the proliferation of home PCs, has helped make gaming, as a mainstream activity, become more socially acceptable. As growth in ownership of powerful devices such as smart phones, tablets and consoles continues, so will the perception of gaming itself. For the masses, eSports still represent a niche corner of the more acceptable scene. As growth continues, however, this is likely to become a more widely accessed sporting event.

Where previously the sponsorship of eSports has been dominated by endemic brands such as Alienware – whose activations have been mostly restricted to logos on apparel and a few sponsored streams – we’re now seeing the likes of Coca-Cola, Red Bull and American Express stepping into the space and bringing their unrivalled sponsorship experience to the fore.

Coca-Cola has a large following on its @CokeESports Twitter account, delivering both a Millennial-focused platform for Coke Zero, alongside a few simple activations such as printing out fans’ League of Legends characters on bottles and cans at tournaments.

Meanwhile, American Express released personalised debit cards for fans, citing the hard to reach Millennial demographic being the exact reason for their sponsorship. ESports for these brands offer unique opportunities to access a global consumer audience, mostly Millennial, who are bypassing traditional advertising routes. For Bautista, these big brands create an entirely new proposition for eSports: ‘The addition of someone like a Coca-Cola, a MasterCard, or Nissan certainly brings a higher level of expectation to an event or team, but it also opens up more doors. The ability of a blue-chip company to create an extensive and innovative interaction between their world-renowned product and their targeted audience is what makes the non-endemic sponsors so exciting.’

It is debatable, however, how both the non-gaming public, Media and Government would welcome heavy brand investment in a move towards more sedentary ‘sporting’ activities. Here in the UK, the Government pushes a number of healthy living initiatives, notably Change4Life which encourages movement, whilst stories about the apparent ‘obesity crisis’ are never far away from the news.

Meanwhile, to the concern of many, sedentary gaming activity appears to be on the rise. A recent study by Nielsen revealed that on average US gamers play for 6.3 hours a week, an increase of over one hour since 2011; moreover a UK Government briefing reported that 55% of English boys play video games for two hours or more every day. Overly heavy brand sponsorship of this sedentary activity, therefore, has a certain risk factor; with the wrong PR and communications angle, it could have a negative impact on the brand’s relationship with both stakeholder groups. The latter especially might lead to a reduction in brand perception metrics, in particular trust.

Admittedly it is true that major sporting events, such as the FIFA World Cup or the Olympics, are often watched in sedentary (and arguably unhealthy) environments at homes and pubs. However, the key difference is that these traditional events have the potential to inspire movement (in children especially); Coca-Cola GB, for example gave away one million footballs during the 2014 FIFA World Cup, and McDonald’s, as a sponsor of the Home Nation FAs, are heavily involved in the grassroots game. ESports, on the other hand, lacks an obvious link to promote physical activity, over just simply inspiring more consumption of gaming and sedentary spectating. Sponsors, therefore, will have to work hard to come up with creative solutions if they are to fully justify their sponsorship with some important stakeholders.

Another point for consideration for brands must also be the perceived danger of video games on the psyche of young people. Over the past few years there has been a great deal of debate over the link between violent video gaming and real life aggression. Although Twitch users have to be aged 13+, and there are barriers (such as age gates and profanity filters) to underage consumption of adult-themed material and language, this is by no means foolproof. While the argument hasn’t been proved, the perception alone could damage a brand’s image; especially if the brand involved directly appeals to children and teens in other areas of their marketing.

(Source: Newzoo)

ESports are the future, the next big sporting phenomenon set to eclipse some traditional properties in the coming years. 2015 has the potential to mark a dramatic shift in the sponsorship landscape, which provides a ripe opportunity for global brands to speak to millions of young people worldwide. It is a truly global platform that levels the playing field by taking no account of geo-political sensitivities.

Already, some big players are getting involved – Amazon’s purchase of Twitch TV is a sign of things to come – and more are sure to join the party in 2015. Now is the time, if done both sensitively and with due regard given to the dangers of encouraging sedentary behaviour, for brands to become synonymous with eSports before the wave crests.

Christian’s blog comes from Synergy’s Now, New & Next sponsorship outlook for 2015, which can be viewed in full here.

By on February 26th, 2015

Tags: Default, Gaming, Innovation, Olympic sports, Red Bull, Sponsorship consultancy, Sport, Television audiences, YouTube

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Brazil 2014 – Synergy’s Sponsorship & Marketing First XI

Germany’s victory against Argentina on Sunday evening signaled the end of what many are referring to as the greatest World Cup in living memory. The attacking football on show led to matches of the highest quality, with many of the world’s top players rising to the occasion and creating magical moments. However, the action on the pitch was not the only source of interest, with the marketing of the event inevitably leading to a number of worldwide talking points. As part of our Synergy team on the ground in Brazil, Reema Babakhan picked out her highlights:

1. Social media showed just how global the World Cup is 

In particular, Twitter demonstrated this like never before during this summer’s tournament. Germany’s demolition of Brazil in the Semi-Finals broke the world record for the number of tweets about a single sport event, with 35.6 million tweets sent about the match, while 618,725 tweets were posted in just one minute following the final whistle of Sunday’s showpiece. And the conversation really is global, as neatly illustrated by this Twitter heat map from the Germany v Brazil match.

Away from Twitter, the World Cup Final became the most discussed event ever on Facebook with 280 million interactions during the game, dwarfing the 245 million set by the Super Bowl last year.

2. Suarez’s bite was the ‘Oreo Moment’

Suarez provided brands with a prime opportunity for some tongue-in-cheek real-time marketing. But, as we wrote on the Synergy blog, no brand managed to own the incident like Oreo at the Super Bowl.

3. Watch this space

Hublot’s huge new watch-style subs boards were a real coup, and they became one of the talking points of the tournament. It also highlighted a trend of World Cup sponsors’ unique activations becoming more and more visible with other examples including Bud’s Man of The Match, Coke’s Happiness Flag and McDonald’s Player Escorts. Food for thought for the IOC?

4. Gillette missed a sitter

We like Goal Line Technology, but we loved the free kick spray and, more importantly, we all talked about it. It also spawned hundreds of Twitter virals almost immediately, so why did Gillette take a week to capitalise on it?

5. Cahill’s lucky escape

Some activity is only seen in certain territories. Gary Cahill will be forever thankful to his agent for ensuring that Premier League fans were spared this cracker from Budweiser that aired hourly in Brazil:

6. All over for Sony?

Although no official announcement has been made, rumours are rife that this will be Sony’s last as a World Cup sponsor. A contributing factor to this decision may well have been how well they were ambushed by Beats by Dre, a move that caused such alarm that the headphones were explicitly banned by FIFA. Despite this, and Sony sending every player a pair of their headphones, some of the most talked about players from this summer’s tournament, including Neymar, Luis Suarez and Mario Balotelli, continued to be pictured wearing their Beats away from the stadiums.

The ad for Beats, filmed in Brazil, features the aforementioned players as well as Bastian Schweinsteiger, Daniel Sturridge, Mario Götze and Robin van Persie, and has had more than 22 million views on YouTube. Following Germany’s victory at the Final, it was announced that the full squad would receive a set of 24 carat gold-dipped special edition headphones.

7. Will Emirates ever activate?

One film, Pele in a polo shirt and their hostesses at the Final. Is that it?

8. A ball became a celebrity

The activation of @brazuca by Adidas was probably the sponsor coup of the tournament. With its irreverent posts, the official match ball became one of the must followed accounts of this year’s World Cup, with Zinedine Zidane, Samuel L Jackson and Pope Francis amongst the 3 million people to hit the follow button. Not only that, but the brand sponsors both the German and Argentinian kit, resulting in the first all Adidas final since 1990.


9. Nike still rules as an ‘unofficial’ sponsor

The #riskeverything campaign received unanimous nods of approval, a certain Mr Gotze is a Nike man and they still own the most iconic shirt in football, the yellow of Brazil.

10. But most Brazilians don’t buy Nike shirts

Up and down the bars at Copacabana, on the streets of Sao Paulo, on the beaches of Recife, the yellow shirt is worn, which sounds great for Nike, but it’s rarely the genuine article. The price is prohibitive for many Brazilians, costing almost 1/3 of their monthly salary. In response, some outlets reverted to reducing the costs to combat the endless fakes sold openly on the streets.

11. Social Media has made #gotgotneed even louder

In every school playground and classroom, the ‘got, got, need’ mantra has been spoken for years. This year, that mantra became louder as nostalgic adults also got involved like never before. Social media became a giant global playground for dedicated collectors of the famed Panini stickers. It’s likely this will be a world record year for Panini, especially with Brazil as its biggest market (8 million albums are currently being filled by the host nation alone).

And 3 off the bench…

12. The USA sees the light

Has the US finally fallen in love with soccer? The performance of USMNT certainly galvanised the US audiences, and it is clear that 2014 was the year that Americans finally learnt to fully embrace the spectacle of the World Cup. President Obama was amongst a host of high-profile USMNT supporters to articulate their support for the team through social media. Others included Justin Timberlake, Fergie, Kobe Bryant and Hulk Hogan.

 13. Football saved FIFA. For now. 

It was all doom and gloom in the weeks and months leading up to the World Cup. The infrastructure was not going be ready, the tournament would grind to a halt, there would be violent protests, and England would struggle to get past the round of 16. The predictions were (almost all) wrong.

Football won. It was so good that FIFA, and even Sepp Blatter, were given a break from the corruption allegations surrounding the Qatar World Cup. It remains to be seen how long that will last.

14. Messi wins Golden Ball (sponsored by Adidas)

Messi also happens to be Adidas’s most high profile ambassador. Coincidence? Perhaps, but the general consensus is that Messi didn’t do anywhere near enough to claim the plaudits this time.


By on July 15th, 2014

Tags: Blogging, Brand marketing, Branded content, Brazil, Brazil 2014, Brazil 2014 Sponsorship, Communications, Content, Creative, Default, Experiential marketing, Football, Football Sponsorship, PR, Product placement, Public relations, Real Time Marketing, Sponsorship, Sponsorship Activation, Sport, Synergy, World Cup, World Cup Sponsorship, YouTube

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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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Lighting the Way with SSE

To mark the launch of SSE’s Floodlight Reward scheme, Synergy signed up England stars Billy Twelvetrees and Alex Goode who braved the December cold for a game of urban floodlit rugby in East London.

The players, who were both part of England’s successful Autumn Internationals campaign, led out teams made up of local amateur players and went head-to-head in a touch rugby match against the backdrop of London’s former industrial heartland.

The match was filmed and the content will be used to promote the SSE Floodlight Reward scheme which offers clubs across the country the opportunity to win the latest energy-efficient floodlight for their club. Worth £10,000, the portable floodlight will enable the winning club to keep training throughout the dark winter evenings.

The setting of East London’s Docklands bathed in the luminescent glow of the portable floodlights provided a unique environment for the players to train in and helped bring the content to life. The venue also helped reinforce the message that winning the portable floodlight gives Rugby clubs the flexibility to train and play anytime, anywhere.

The video will be seeded to key national sport and rugby specific media to promote the competition, whilst social media channels will be used to support the push, with Billy and Alex tweeting the video out to their 30,000+ combined followers.

To help drive further awareness, time was allocated for media interviews on the night with The Times,  Mail Online, BT Rugby Tonight and Sportsbeat all invited down to speak with Billy and Alex. Targeting a mix of national, regional and broadcast media  allowed us to tell our story to as wide an audience as possible and encourage sign-ups to the competition.

There is still time to enter your club at with the competition closing at midnight on Wednesday 22nd January 2013. Best of luck to all the clubs involved!

By on December 18th, 2013

Tags: community, Content, grass roots sport, Media, Rugby, Sponsorship, Sponsorship Activation, Synergy, YouTube

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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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Content Collaborators not Content Consumers

There is a danger that we (as marketers) get so caught up in the race to create bigger and better content, that we lose sight of the principles that started the social media revolution in the first place.

In the very beginning – at social media genesis – the thing that changed marketing as we know it was not a new form of media space, but conversation. For the first time, consumers and brands could genuinely interact on a personal level in a public space. This was, and still is, the point of social media marketing. The reason it changed everything.

In the last two years, social channels have monetised dramatically and since the pressure on brands to be content creators has also grown, social platforms increasingly resemble traditional media channels, where brands pay to talk and consumers listen.

The evolutionary line is warping into an arc which, if we are not careful, could form a complete circle. To re-embrace social in this new content-dominated world, we need to stop seeing our audience as consumers, and instead see them as collaborators.

In a world where consumer attention spans are rapidly decreasing it may seem far-fetched to talk about content collaboration, but brands aren’t the only ones who have realised that ‘Content is King’. The modern consumer does have the appetite to create their own content; and crucially it has never been easier for them to do so. A Smartphone is now a production agency in a pocket. It allows users to shoot with filters and techniques that were previously the closely-guarded secrets of pros. We’ve seen the passion for mobile photo content, but with the emergence of Vine and the evolution of Instagram, user-generated video content is going to be increasingly important. Brands and consumers are both creating and broadcasting content. The challenge for brands is how they can make use of that.

Content collaboration isn’t a crowd-sourcing gimmick to get PR traction, it is the way to interact and connect with consumers in the current social space. Through collaboration, brands can harness a range of creative talent beyond any organisation or agency. Nissan created their latest Versa Note TV ad entirely through their customers’ Vines, Mercedes-Benz partnered with five top US Instagrammers for their CLA Take the Wheel campaign, Blackberry’s Project Green Screen saw consumers shoot a missing scene in Robert Rodriguez’s short film and last year Ford filmed the Focus ST TV spot entirely on consumers’ mobile phones with amazing results.

All of these projects had a level of creativity that would have been impossible without collaboration. Every day there are more examples coming out and as consumers become increasingly adept at creating content these executions will only get bigger and bolder.

Content collaboration is more important than just creating great content however, it shows that a brand is capable of (and willing to) listen. Content is not just a source of entertainment it is a form of expression and consumers will increasingly use it to communicate on social media. To be truly social, and not just a media channel, brands need to find ways to turn content consumers into content collaborators.


By on August 27th, 2013

Tags: Branded content, Consultancy, Content, Digital marketing, Facebook, Media, Real Time Marketing, Social Media, Synergy, Twitter, YouTube

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Advertising in Football: Back of the Net, or Back of the Class?

It’s now less than a year until the world’s biggest football tournament kicks off in Brazil. Okay, so football may not be coming home (and won’t be doing so for the foreseeable future), but in 2014 it’s going to spend the summer at its flamboyant South American penpal’s place.

Ahead of the inevitable slew of campaigns from FIFA sponsors, partners of the competing national teams, World Cup ambushers and those brands simply exploiting the global obsession with all things ball-kicky, we thought it an appropriate time to put the question to the floor: what’s the best football commercial of all time?

There’s almost inevitably a knee-jerk shortlist this question generates, with the words “Nike Airport” passing most people’s lips in our office, but I’m keen that we think deeper to see whether this TVC really does stand head and shoulders above the rest of the field. It might be an official sponsor like Visa (FIFA) or Carlsberg (England), a connected ambush play from Pepsi, or just a brilliant use of football’s innate humour and connection to the national psyche (potentially totally unrelated to a tournament such as the World Cup), like John Smith’s Peter Kay Have It ad.

Of course, defining the best inevitably draws attention to the worst examples: the shoddy nemeses that help highlight everything that’s right about the really good executions. These polar opposites demonstrate that it’s not as easy as putting a ball, a fan or a famous player into a scenario to relevantly connect with an audience – after all, football fans are a cynical lot, aren’t they?

Here’s an initial taster of some of the best and worst ads out there – the would-be champions versus the relegation candidates, if you like.

Three of the Best:

Official Sponsor: Coca-Cola Rivalidades

Tournament Ambush: Nike Take it to the Next Level

Using Football: John Smith’s Have It

Three of the Worst:

Official Sponsor: Mars Work Rest Play Your Part for England

Ambush: Pringles Pringooooals

Using Football: TJ Hughes Wayne Rooney’s Brother

So, what do you think? Send us your Top and Bottom 3 examples of football TVCs, either by dropping their YouTube links in the comments section below, or by tweeting them to @yonnex101, using the hashtags #BestFootyAds or #WorstFootyAds, respectively.

Again, they don’t necessarily need to be World Cup-related: what about the big partnership launches (Vauxhall and England), Champions League executions (like Mastercard or Heineken), or just amazing examples of footballers or the sport itself being used to help turn fans into customers…for better or for worse. And don’t be restricted to UK examples – some of the best examples of creativity have come from emerging markets, for whom the passion for the sport is equally as strong.

We’ll publish the walls of fame and shame here later in the year. Who makes your starting XI, and which brand’s behaviour has put them on the transfer list? All will be revealed…

By on June 12th, 2013

Tags: Advertising, Ambush campaign, Ambush Marketing, Brand marketing, Brazil 2014, Broadcast sponsorship, Default, Football, Football Sponsorship, Sponsorship, World Cup, World Cup Sponsorship, YouTube


The New 4 Ps of Sponsorship: Key Themes from IEG 2013

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”.

1. Partnership

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.

2. Purpose

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, Growshowing 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.

3. Production

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.

4. Participation

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.

By on May 1st, 2013

Tags: Advertising, Brand marketing, Branded content, Communications, Consultancy, Mobile, Social Media, Sponsorship, Sponsorship Activation, Sponsorship consultants, Sport, Synergy, Synopsis, Twitter, YouTube


I Finally Made The FROW!

Who knew London fashion week was first held in 1984? Well I for one didn’t…I thought it started in 1964. Despite getting this question wrong, I still received the Guardian fashion seal of approval: ‘You’ve won a seat on the front row of fashion week wisdom. Mwah. You look fabulous!’

YES fashion quiz, take that! What a sigh of relief I passed. What did this mean? Absolutely nothing, it turned out. Instead, I experienced AW13 London Fashion Week on the FROW of social media.

After the success of last year’s partnership with Facebook, the British High St giant Topshop continued to push the boundaries of the digital space, which saw them collaborate with Google +. Together they successfully developed products to allow customers to experience the show as if they were there. I wasn’t alone in being made to feel like I was part of the FROW (or the ‘model’ walking the catwalk…or the fashion ‘buyer’), over 4 million people clearly did too. The clever products Google + produced created an intimate, engaging and personal experience for people watching online.

My second FROW experience came from the luxury brand, Burberry. Live streamed through their website, the show experience was captivating, alluring and intimate. Content is King when it comes to Burberry, and they didn’t disappoint. The British fashion label gave viewers the chance to click to buy from the catwalk, the opportunity to personalise their purchases, go backstage with the models and share their Burberry experience on social media platforms. Whether you’re a regular customer or a fan like me, Burberry offered innovative ways to interact socially, leaving your Facebook friends wondering: did you actually attend?

The new video app from Twitter, Vine, caught on with the fashion set in a big way, as Paul Smith, Burberry, Matthew Williamson, Topshop, Jonathan Saunders and journalists were noticeable Vine advocates. The British designer, Paul Smith, partnered with London-based artist Kate Moross, who shot a series of imaginative six-second clips in the run-up to Paul Smith’s London Fashion Week show.

Established designer Matthew Williamson collaborated with esteemed photographer Sean Cunningham, who exclusively shot the designers collection using Vine and posted his own six-second clips just before the ensemble hit the catwalk.  The idea was to give Williamson fans the ultimate FROW experience, focusing on the intricate craftsmanship and detail of each garment in the collection – often overlooked by regular FROWers. Fans were able to follow the Vines on Twitter through #MatthewMagnifield and on Facebook. Like Burberry, Williamson also released his catwalk soundtrack on Spotify.

Fashion socialite and acclaimed designer Henry Holland (of House of Holland) developed a capsule collection exclusively for with all proceeds from items sold on the auction site during London Fashion Week going to Cancer Research UK.

Sponsor of London Fashion Week, American Express launched ‘Fashion Insiders’ based at Somerset House. Their purpose was to assist, navigate and advise fashion week guests when needed. Sporting the latest colour block trend, American Express exclusively partnered with new gen designer Jonathan Saunders to ensure the ‘Fashion Insiders’ were suitably dressed for the occasion. The brand also partnered with fashion blogger, Disney Roll, who created a series of sponsored posts for the brand.

The British Fashion Council (BCF) made a strong statement that 2013 would be the start of the digital revolution for fashion in this country and London Fashion Week AW13 would be the starting place. For the first time ever the BFC partnered with You Tube to live-stream 21 of the on-schedule catwalk shows through the LFW channel. The BFC continues to lead British Fashion in the right direction, showing our fashion counterparts that pioneering new technologies need to be integrated into Fashion Week and remain at the forefront of the global fashion industry for the future.

Finally, it’s hard to mention LFW without a nod to the biggest talk of the town, model Cara Delevingne, the coolest girl in the world right now. Opposed to the quieter Kate Moss, Cara is a social media addict and posts her journey through life across all social media sites such as Instagam, Google +, Tumblr, Twitter and You Tube. Out with the model talk on weight issues and in with social buzz of this new, fresh-faced exciting British talent, who doesn’t take herself too seriously, is everyone’s best friend and loves to eat McDonald’s.

Which brand wouldn’t want her as the face of their campaign? #modelbehaviour

Noticeably this season, London Fashion Week was dominated by the designers’ innovative desire to give their fans and customers the most intimate experience possible. Where traditionally big sponsors of the event may have capitalised on their dominant position, designers and models have re-emerged, laying claim on digital innovation and consumer engagement.

So, whether you want to dress up, invite your friends over or even don a pair of sunglasses for the occasion, fashion has a new set of FROWers, the ‘Socialistas.’

By on February 26th, 2013

Tags: Celebrity, Communications, Content, Default, Digital marketing, Facebook, Fashion, Media, Music, Public relations, Social Media, Sponsorship, Synergy, Twitter, YouTube

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