Bose F1 Garage Experience: The Power of Sound

Can the power of sound take you somewhere you’ve always wanted to go?

Can Virtual Reality, without the visual component, be just as immersive?

Bose is convinced that the answer to both of these questions is “yes”. They know that what you hear has a unique power to stimulate your imagination, which is why their latest campaign is all about getting you closer to the things you love.

Bose, the MERCEDES AMG PETRONAS Formula One Team and Synergy were incredibly excited to work together to bring this message to life in a ground-breaking new experiential activation that launched at the US Grand Prix in Austin last week. Using a pair of Bose QuietComfort 35 Noise-Cancelling Wireless headphones, race fans went into one of the most exclusive places in sport: the MERCEDES AMG PETRONAS garage during the final moments before the cars go out onto the track.

The first step for the project team was to capture the actual sounds of the garage during the British Grand Prix at Silverstone, using scores of ambisonic and spatial microphones. The next challenge was to create a playback engine that delivers the appropriate sound depending on where you are in the garage and which direction you are facing. This gives the user the complete freedom to explore the entire garage – listening in on the conversations between the drivers and engineers, hearing the whirring of the wheel gun and feeling the heart-pounding moment when the car leaves the garage – all in immersive, clear 3D sound.

Spatial sound experiences are nothing new – but until now they have all been ‘static’. As a user, you stay fixed in one position and the sound moves around you, creating a binaural effect. Where this experience pushes new boundaries is by creating a full 3D sonic landscape, giving the user the complete freedom to move around and explore it in any way they want. Because of that, the experience will be different every time and no two experiences will ever be the same.

While the project team made sure that sound remained the focal point of the experience, they brought in cues to the other senses to help amplify its impact. Projections visualised the sounds, helping users locate their source and range, while sub bass modules made sure that you could truly ‘feel’ the sound too.Like any great brand experience, it really brought the product’s capabilities to the fore. Flicking the noise-cancelling switch at the beginning of the experience provided the immersive sensation of being transported to your own private world. But the real revelation was the wirelessness. You really noticed and appreciated the freedom there was to wander around the space untethered – no cumbersome kit, no wires; just lightweight, comfortable QC35 headphones.

Nearly 4,000 fans came to the downtown venue in Austin over the course of the week to feel what it was like to be inside the MERCEDES AMG PETRONAS  garage, and the feedback was absolutely brilliant. Even people who spend their whole lives in an F1 garage were blown away by the authenticity of the experience: if Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg think it’s cool, then who are we to argue.For those of you who didn’t make it to Austin last week, check out the digital version, which gives you a small taste of what you missed. And keep your ears to the ground because the experience might just be coming to a place near you soon…

Taking Inspiration from Chelsea…A focus on Event Design

At this time of year the pillars of the quintessential British summer start to come to the fore, beginning with the RHS Chelsea Flower Show. Whilst perhaps previously perceived as archaic and old fashioned, such opinions are gradually being dispelled as the event proves to be one of the jewels of our design year. I’m fascinated by garden design, and believe that my world of events and experiential sits in parallel when looking at how an idea and design is brought to life.
A garden is often designed with a story in mind, whether it be a childhood memory, or replication of a regional landscape that is pulled into the 21st Century through backdrops and planting. One of the most fascinating parts for me is the ability to take a blank canvas and twist the perceptions of what is possible, pushing the boundaries of garden design to give the viewer a new perspective.

Two sponsored gardens, the Cloudy Bay Garden and L’Occitane Gardens, are focused on telling the brand story through garden design. The Cloudy Bay Garden reflects the tasting notes of their wine through the materials visible within their space, and L’Occitane’s garden is a celebration of their 40th year, using the brand’s roots in Provence as their horticultural theme.

As well as gardens giving us great pleasure they can also provide inspiration and spark ideas for other industries. The designer Paul Smith has often referenced how he has taken stimulus from the Chelsea Flower Show, and incorporated rows of colour and textures in his ranges, synonymous with those seen in so many gardens at Chelsea.

A personal highlight for me from this year is the showcase of great interactive design, which is expertly displayed within two art installations.

First is the New Covent Garden Market’s art installation Behind Every Great Florist, which formed the centrepiece of their debut garden. Their 3D image of the Queen created from flowers claimed multiple column inches, as the Queen was captured admiring the design from its centre.

Secondly, The Marble and Granite Centre’s rock installation encouraged consumers to interact with it and look through the strategically placed holes, giving the visitor multiple viewpoints of the garden beyond.
One display at this year’s Chelsea I couldn’t avoid referencing is the Poppy Installation. 300,000 poppies have been sewn together and laid outside the Royal Chelsea Hospital, clearly showcasing the intricacies and detail of design. This was also so visible with the ceramic poppies installed at the Tower of London last year, a living exhibit that truly captured the nation’s imagination.

In the world we work in we are often focused on the brand being central to the event design. One thing I take from Chelsea Flower Show, is that increasingly we should take a step back and pull out finer details of the brand’s make-up, and look to connect the consumer to the brand through the use of textures, colours and materials. It is in our nature when we are planning and producing experiential campaigns to focus on logos and lock ups, but there won’t really be a logo in site at Chelsea. These gardeners use intricate planting, contrasting materials, textures and lighting to tell their story, transforming their space into a garden that stands for something. From an events design perspective, be it in hospitality, experiential or PR, we can learn a lot about how to create the best look and feel for a consumer from these horticultural experts.

Consumers are always looking to share their experiences, and crave photographic details to share on their social networks. However, millennials are becoming more immune to branded activity and yearn for new, cool experiences to showcase those ‘I was there’ moments. At Chelsea all of the installations have never been seen before, so cameras are at the ready and consumers share thousands of images, helping to make the show the famous attraction it is.

As kings of the retail experience, Nike are a great example of a brand who think about the intricacies of their brand when creating experiences. A visit to the Nike FlyKnit experience, or simply a walk through their flagship store, showcases how every detail has been created to deliver an immersive experience for the consumer, exactly like that of a Chelsea garden.

With all of this in mind, when we were challenged by Canterbury to showcase their latest training range, and in particular their Vapodri technology, we wanted to immerse the consumer in a unique, Canterbury-owned experience.

We created a bespoke gym space in a warehouse in Shoreditch, which would make the guests sweat and showcase the product technologies by immersing the consumer in the brand. But we didn’t stop there – we tailored the lighting to evoke the emotion of each area of training, whether it be Speed, Power, Strength or Endurance. The music we used supplemented this and took the consumer on a wave of sub conscious emotions throughout the day. Importantly, our clean space design combined well with the dark environment and sporadic lighting, helping to hero the neon training product.

It is clear the finer details are becoming increasingly important. Using gardens as a platform for inspiration is one thing, but I believe we should be looking to architects and urban designers to help shape our thinking when bringing a brand experience to life. At Chelsea the designers are using many of the latest technologies that we use to create brand experience; personal 3D scanning, touch screens, automated directional lighting and sensory chimes to name but a few. Who knows, next year may see leap motion, VR, holograms and projection mapping!

There is more expectation for brands to become more immersive and focus on a sharable narrative for their followers, therefore budgets need to be used shrewdly to ensure the most engaging creative and design is at the heart of the experience. The traditional notion of removing the ‘nice to have’ branding installations are now the expected norm from consumers as they have become more savvy to standard brand showcases.

Everything we see and interact with builds a picture of design, something that we can all create, but those marginal details and nods to the brand are what separates the great from the good, just like a gold and a silver gilt!

Be Cool, Be First: Does the Quest for Original Activation Concepts Come at the Expense of What’s Right for the Brand?

All marketers are seeking that ‘first’, that innovative use of technology that is going to garner awards and make their brand, their agency, or themselves famous. In this quest for originality, however, there is the danger that new technology in our industry is being used purely for the sake of it – with very little strategic rationale for the brand involved.

At Synergy, we are of course tracking with interest the evolution of this technology, but the challenge we face week in, week out is to ensure that we are creating both innovative and effective sponsorship campaigns. We therefore recognise the importance of continuing to offer original thinking, but are keen to discourage the ‘it’s been done before (and is therefore not appropriate)’ attitude than can be prevalent in the industry.

We believe that it is not necessarily about winning the race to use any new technology – but instead ensuring that this tech is used appropriately to make sponsorship activations as authentic and impactful as possible.

So why are we so interested in correctly handling this balance between utilising new technology at both the right time – and also for the right reasons – in the first place? As sponsors increasingly look to reach Millennials, we know that these digital natives fully expect their interactions with brands to be grounded in technology, and are eager to try out new things (even if they can’t yet envisage how these forthcoming devices are going to influence their lives). The onus therefore lies with brands to attract and then engage with this audience through digital activity that makes their experiences both memorable and sharable. Clearly, for things to be memorable for Millennials, activations need to feel fresh and different, and this audience is less likely to share something that is starting to feel old hat – so timing remains a crucial consideration. The Fall/Winter 2014 Cassandra Report from Engine Group agency The Intelligence Group reiterates this: Millennials ‘want to be the first to do or share something, [and] they admire brands that take this approach too’.

To ensure that we are creating original activation concepts for the right reasons, two key questions need to be answered:

Does the technology being used…

• …play an authentic role for the brand?

• …make the experience better or solve a problem?

If the answer is yes, then our thoughts can turn to how we can create impactful and engaging experiences that are seamlessly grounded in this tech.

We wanted to share some examples of brands using emerging technology in the recent past in truly authentic and innovative ways (whilst not necessarily being first to leverage them) that have helped set the benchmark for the future.

3D PrintingCoca-Cola & EKOCYCLE Cube

Coca-Cola, in collaboration with will.i.am, have invented a 3D printer that uses a cartridge made in part from recycled plastic bottles, to create an array of lifestyle products – with the aim of bringing 3D printing to the masses. This initiative clearly fits as part of Coca-Cola’s commitment to sustainability and also has the potential to make recycling relevant to a younger audience. It will be interesting to see, however, whether The Cube’s retail price of $1,199 really helps lead to the democratisation of 3D printing.

According to Cassandra, 72% of trendsetters have heard of 3D printing and are interested in this, and as this technology begins to reach the masses, it could provide a great solution for a sponsor looking to give away bespoke, branded merchandise to fans at sporting events, for example.

Internet of EverythingOptus Clever Buoy

Optus, the telecommunications company, wanted to show the breadth of their network coverage and solve a genuine problem in Australia – creating the world’s first shark-detecting ocean buoy. Sensing their movement using sonar, the buoys then send instant alerts to lifeguards via Optus satellites. ‘The Internet of Things’ has been widely discussed in recent years, but this is one of the best examples of a brand using this connected technology to solve a long-standing, real-world issue, as well as to highlight one of the company’s key infrastructure strengths.

From a sponsorship perspective, this technology could be naturally used by Optus or organisers in surfing competitions, alerting surfers (via smartwatches) of any hidden dangers in the deep.

It will be interesting to see if rightsholders and sponsors will begin to find a role for innovative examples of NPD such as this. Saracens, a leading Aviva Premiership rugby club, plans to assess real-time data around the impact of big hits on the rugby field, which is a great example of a rightsholder using new technology to address a genuine challenge facing their sport.

3D ScanningJohn Lewis and Monty’s Magical Toy Machine

John Lewis teamed up with Microsoft Advertising UK to produce an effective and emotive in-store activation that quite literally brought to life their Christmas 2014 TV ad. Using advanced 3D mapping technology, they gave children the chance to bring in their own soft toys and then watch them come to life in front of their very eyes, just as Monty the Penguin did. With this, John Lewis creatively connected an otherwise unrelated technology to deliver a genuine moment of wonder for children and parents alike.

50% of trendsetters have heard of image or facial recognition technology* and we have already seen a few nice examples of this technology being used by brands. Wouldn’t it be great to see this in a sporting experiential arena – anyone fancy shadow boxing with Floyd Mayweather?

Wearable TechVB Cricket Watch

Another great example from Australia – with Victoria Bitter using their sponsorship of the Australian cricket team to offer fans the world’s first ‘cricket watch’, a wearable timepiece that delivers live scores from the Aussie matches by pairing with a compatible smartphone. Supported by an on-pack consumer promotion and a multi-platform campaign, this is a really nice example of a sponsor improving the fan experience (and we all know how much the Aussies love their cricket) through the appropriate use of new technology and also generating widespread PR through this ‘first’.

Only 18% of trendsetters have currently heard of smartwatches and tried them out (The Cassandra Report Digital Fall/ Winter 2014), so this is a great example of a brand using technology first, but in a relevant and engaging way.

There is a school of thought that brands are taking a risk by using the latest technology before their target audience can fully appreciate it. Whilst this approach can bring the obvious benefit of a completely novel and fresh experience, it does raise the possibility that consumers will only associate certain technology with marketing campaigns, which in turn could bring a degree of cynicism.

We know that Millennials don’t like being ‘sold to’ and therefore, if new technology isn’t being used to genuinely improve an experience (or worse, seen as a poorly thought out gimmick), then this approach risks damaging both the brand and the tech in question. This is a criticism that has been levelled by some at the Oculus Rift headset – and despite a few interesting activations involving this specific hardware – it is fair to say that we’re yet to see a game-changing execution using this equipment. With the big money purchase of the company by Facebook and the news that they are to launch a consumer product this year, however, it’s likely to be a case of when, rather than if.

There’s no question that the pace of technological innovation will continue to create new opportunities for sponsors – but rather than racing to be first, the marketing challenge for brands remains as it always has been: to reach their target audience with key messages in a relevant and authentic way.

The challenge for how sponsors use new technology should mirror how they approach key strategic considerations: it’s not just about white space, but right space; not just real time, but right time – in terms of tech, think less first-mover and more right-mover advantage.

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

Valuing Rugby World Cup 2015 Sponsorship: A 5-Step Guide to Sponsorship Event Measurement

It's not long now until Rugby World Cup 2015 kicks-off and sponsors start to see a significant return on investment...

…at least that's what they hope.

If you already know whether their event sponsorship endeavors will be likened to a World Cup win or group-stage knockout then you can stop reading now. Otherwise, this 5-step guide to sponsorship event measurement should help you understand how to deliver, measure and evaluate a high-ROI event sponsorship of any scale.

RWC Image 2

So, using Rugby World Cup 2015 as a case study, let’s outline an approach which could help…

RWC Partners Image

By the way, this guide brings to bear much of the thinking already shared in the Synergy Decisions white paper.

Step 1: Understand the Pathways to Value

In the context of event sponsorship and Rugby World Cup 2015, this means understanding that the event could deliver value through different Pathways. Brands like Canterbury and Heineken will have similar rights, but will be using them to deliver different objectives. The rights will drive different levels of value accordingly.

That said, let’s consider some of the Pathways through which Heineken could drive value:

  1. B2C Brand Awareness (e.g.pitch-side branding to reach a global audience via extensive TV coverage)
  2. B2B Hospitality (e.g. hosting and building relationships with trade contacts to increase listings in the on and off trade)
  3. Data Capture (e.g. recording fan contact details through at-event activations)
  4. Experiential (e.g. campaigns to connect with fans at the stadium)
  5. Pouring rights (e.g. increased sales at all 48 matches at the expense of competitors such as Guinness)

Heineken Experience

Step 2: Identify the Value Drivers for Each Pathway

This is crucial. Rugby World Cup 2015 sponsors must know which metrics influence how much value is being created within each specific pathway. Sponsors should ask whether their value drivers are, for example:

1 - Talking to business customers – If so, how many do we need in our hospitality suite at each match? Of the business clients who join, what share do we want to be “high” value? Of those who are “high” value, how many do we need to convert into sales?
2 - Data capture – If so, how many details do we need to collect at each match? How many are attending each match? What is the likelihood that a new contact converts to a sale? What is the value of that sale? How quickly do we need to follow up?
3 - Maximizing at-event sales – If so, how many sales do we need to make? Where can we sell at the ground and how many sales staff can we deploy? At what cost?
4 - Etc. … (In the interest of time I’ll refrain from listing the 30+ different Value Drivers we’ve worked on at Synergy over the last year, but you get the idea!)
The earlier brands map out these questions, the easier it’ll be to:

• find where and how value could be created pre-campaign
• change course and track progress during-campaign
• evaluate performance post-campaign

Step 3: Build a Model

Having successfully navigated Step 2, it’s time to enter Excel and use the value drivers to create a model which helps us understand the value created within each Pathway. Let’s say that Heineken, for example, is trying to understand the Data Capture Pathway. The global beer brand’s model could be structured to make calculations using inputs like:

• # matches at which we have experiential rights
• # attendees (by match)
• % attendees engaged in experiential
• % attendees engaged who share data / contact details
• % post-match contacts converted to sale
• £ lifetime value of average contact converted to sale

Step 4: Find the Best Possible Inputs and Assumptions

With a strong Step 1, Step 2 and Step 3 in support, finding and measuring the metrics that matter should feel less like a scrum and more like a kick from under the posts. Whether it be through consumer surveys, brand trackers, data records on the ground, web analytics, or a combination of all of the above, the key to sponsorship measurement is inputs and assumptions you can adjust but believe in.

Dan Carter

With our Heineken / Data Capture example in mind, imagine that they have one pop-up activation per match. Heineken could then track performance through, for example, conducting consumer surveys at each of the 48 Rugby World Cup 2015 matches.

Step 5: Interrogate the Model

Once the detail is done and dusted, better decisions can be made more easily with the help of a user-friendly dashboard, which could look something like:

Dashboard2

As any Rugby World Cup-winning team will tell you, most of the hard work is done before the main event. Tough questions are asked, different tactics tested and weights lifted before the Final event itself.Likewise, sponsorship event measurement must be grounded in strategic analysis ahead of time, and a commitment made to analyse and gather the necessary data to find scenarios, sensitivities and breakeven points. With a clear sense of how to drive maximum value, CMOs and Sponsorship Managers alike can send staff out onto the marketing field-of-play confident their team will perform.

 

I hope you’ve enjoyed this quick guide on how to take a more structured approach to understanding the value of event sponsorship. If you’d like to talk in more detail feel free to email Synergy at tom.gladstone@synergy-sponsorship.com

Will this be Rugby’s Perfect Moment?

Back in September 2014, a year out from Rugby World Cup 2015, Synergy gathered a panel of experts at the top of The Shard, with an audience of sports sponsorship glitterati, to debate whether the upcoming tournament would be ‘Rugby’s Perfect Moment’. Could this be the year for rugby to break free from the pack to establish itself as the number two UK sport? Could 2015 be a catalyst to super-charge rugby’s international expansion?

With a panel including Brett Gosper, CEO of World Rugby; Damian Hopley, CEO of the Rugby Players’ Association; and Rose Beaumont, Senior Vice President and Group Head of Communications of Rugby World Cup Worldwide Partner MasterCard, it may come as no surprise that the debate was how, not if, this year would be ‘Rugby’s Perfect Moment’. But what underpins such confidence that 2015 could step change rugby’s profile, in the UK and beyond?

A Solid Set Piece

As a globally relevant spectacle, the Rugby World Cup (RWC) is on an upward trajectory, with each tournament surpassing its previous incarnation. The 2011 tournament in New Zealand may have been less commercially lucrative, with small stadia forcing ticket sales down 40% on 2007 and some pretty unfriendly match scheduling as far as European broadcasters were concerned, but it didn’t stop World Rugby continuing to tout their showpiece event as the world’s 3rd biggest tournament. There is no debate on the top two – the Olympic Games and FIFA World Cup are pre-eminent in terms of interest and media coverage – but many a rightsholder makes claim to the final podium position.

What is Rugby World Cup’s argument over the likes of the F1 Championship, the Champions League, the European Football Championship, the Ryder Cup and the NFL? ‘It is the third biggest global event of an international flavour,’ claims Gosper, citing the number of participating unions, the TV footprint, cumulative TV audience of 4bn, and ticket sales. While many observers, including Synergy’s CEO Tim Crow, have raised eyebrows at such pronouncements, there is no doubt that the platform for growth is strong. RWC 2015 will produce an estimated 20,000 hours of coverage, broadcast in over 200 territories, to over 800 million homes. A return to the commercial epicentre of global rugby means the 2015 edition is set to be the biggest yet.

An Expansive Game Plan

From such a proven set-piece, rugby has the opportunity to reach hitherto untouched communities and audiences. From a UK perspective, the challenge for tournament organisers England Rugby 2015 (ER2015), and longer-term for the RFU, is to help rugby expand from the traditional heartlands and engage a new audience, who will not only be captivated during the tournament, but will stick with the sport once the big show has packed up and moved on, destination Japan 2019. The dreaded L-word: legacy.

But first the nation needs to be in thrall to tournament itself. And if you want a playbook for capturing the public imagination, it doesn’t get much more compelling than London 2012. Who better to implement that blueprint than the LOCOG team – including Chief Executive Debbie Jevans and Director of Comms Jo Manning-Cooper – who have been parachuted into the ER2015 organising committee? From ‘The Pack’ of 6,000 volunteers (RWC’s ‘Games Makers’) to the 100-day Domestic Trophy Tour (there is no Torch to ‘relay’ when it comes to rugby), the London 2012 tactics are being redeployed to give the tournament more geographic and demographic reach.

Arguably the RWC has an in-built advantage. Whereas the Olympics and Paralympics were London (or at least South-East) specific, each over within a couple of weeks, RWC 2015 is a six-week tournament, played out across 13 venues in 11 cities nationwide. Not only will host cities share the 48 matches, their staging agreements include commitments to deliver Fanzones, where the ticket-less can watch matches on big screens, participate in various rugby experiences and sponsor activations, and feel part of the tournament.

The intention is clear: a genuinely inclusive and national tournament. As Gosper comments, ‘London enhanced the Olympic brand. I’m hoping the same will be true of England 2015 for the RWC brand.’ ER2015’s stated ambition to make the UK a ‘rugby nation’ in 2015 – seemingly shared by Visit England – began with Stuart Lancaster starting Newcastle’s firework display and unveiling a RWC 2015 logo on the Tyne Bridge, and will continue through Olympic-esque countdown milestones, such as ‘100 days to go’ and the launch of the Domestic Trophy tour on June 10th.

A Big Scrum

The ER2015 marketing approach is clear, but what about the consumer appetite? With over five million ticket applications during the first 17-day sales window – the highest demand for any RWC to date – and approaching two million tickets sold, initial signs are good. While ER2015 are still ‘expecting’ complete sell-outs across all matches, the over-supply of Millennium Stadium matches looks to be a minor miscalculation. It remains to be seen whether the frenzy for tickets – aptly echoed in ER2015’s ‘world’s largest scrum’ PR stunt to launch the ticket drive – has brought in a new audience. Regardless of the ultimate make-up and volume of tournament spectators, that prerequisite for successful sporting competitions – packed stadia – is guaranteed, and RWC 2015 will be the most attended RWC ever.

Bums on seats are essential not just for the spectator experience, but also for how the spectacle translates to pubs and homes across the nation via ITV’s coverage. RWC is a lucrative asset for the broadcaster. A 30-second TV ad spot in an England pool match is likely to set you back £100,000, with the price escalating the further Stuart Lancaster’s men progress in the tournament. ITV will be hoping the host nation advance to the latter stages, so audiences are closer to the 15.8m who tuned in for the England v South Africa Final in 2007, than the 7.6m who watched the England v France Quarter-Final in 2011 – both England’s final (and most watched) games in the respective tournaments.

It appears that ITV’s money men are planning for success. As a barometer of consumer interest, the reports that RWC will bump X-Factor from its sacred Saturday night slot suggest change is in the air. This is reinforced by Repucom analysis, which suggests that the proportion of people in the UK interested in rugby is set to jump from 35% to over 46% in 2015. That would translate to an extra five million rugby fans in the UK. Quite a surge in interest, and a mouth-watering opportunity for rugby sponsors.

Forward Drive

Back to the ‘L’ word, and rugby’s chances of harnessing the heightened consumer interest to create a sustainable, long-term increase in followers and participants. The RFU palpably failed to capitalise on England’s RWC triumph in 2003, so what should they do differently this time? Perhaps best not to follow the Olympic blueprint on this one, according to Tim Crow: ‘The London 2012 Olympic legacy ultimately became a toxic subject. People never fully understood why the money was being spent. We want the aftermath for the Rugby World Cup to be really impactful. And I’m not sure we’re completely there yet on explaining what the event’s legacy is meant to be.’

The RFU is talking a good game. Planning started three years out, focused on building capacity and increasing participation: £10m to be invested in facilities; over £1m in newly qualified coaches and referees; £500,000 in recruiting lapsed players. Perhaps the most interesting initiatives are those spreading the gospel to new audiences – the All Schools programme aiming to bring rugby union into 750 state schools by 2019, and investment in touch rugby as a more accessible entry point to the game. The money and programmes are there, but much depends on England’s on-pitch performance providing the requisite inspiration for a new generation. Failure to emerge from the group of death could have huge ramifications on the future of the game in England.

Foreign Muscle

Beyond the UK, the Rugby World Cup Trophy Tour – a global procession of the Webb Ellis Cup delivered in partnership with RWC Worldwide partners Land Rover and DHL – is helping to foster international anticipation. In 2014 it made its way across 10 countries, from the core rugby nations of Australia, Fiji, Argentina, and South Africa to burgeoning rugby hotspots such as China and the UAE. The sport is already breaking free of its heartlands and growing at a significant rate. In the US, while participation in baseball and basketball fell between 2008 and 2013 (14.5% and 9.3% respectively), rugby participation grew 81%, more than any other sport, according to the Sports & Fitness Industry Association. Indeed, in 2008 the top 10 countries in terms of rugby participation were the usual suspects – the RBS 6 Nations and Rugby Championship nations. By 2010, the top 10 included the United States, plus Japan and Sri Lanka.

The RWC is the commercial catalyst for the game globally, and World Rugby’s profits from each tournament are invested in the growth of the game through initiatives such as their ‘Get Into Rugby’ programme. But a very different dynamic, and slightly different sport, are responsible for creating a ‘perfect moment’ for rugby globally. The biggest surge in participation materialised when the International Olympic Committee voted to add Rugby Sevens for the 2016 and 2020 Summer Games. A shorter format, more accessible for new fans and players alike, and with a greater chance of success for smaller, less affluent rugby federations such as Fiji and Kenya. The growth of Sevens, and its involvement at Rio 2016, are arguably the most significant factors in rugby’s international development. It remains to be seen how compatible the two forms of the game remain. The tension between Test Match cricket and T20 could well be replicated in rugby as players become short-form specialists and younger fans gravitate to the festival nature of a Sevens event. For the time being, rugby’s global icons will remain in the 15-a-side game, with RWC its pinnacle.

A Deft Sidestep

RWC 2015 is on track to be a record-breaking tournament on every measure. Commercial success is all but guaranteed, and the tournament organisers have 2015 largely to themselves as they look to build anticipation. The Ashes will take the limelight for a while, but will also help to stoke the fire of traditional England–Aussie rivalry, ahead of the Pool A showdown at Twickenham on October 3rd. The global game is in rude health, fuelled by Olympic dreams, and will continue its expansion east with Japan 2019 on the horizon. But the real test will be whether RWC 2015 grabs hold of a new audience and pulls them into rugby’s embrace for good. Sponsors have a massive role to play in taking the rugby message beyond traditional audiences. Brand activation around the 2011 tournament was relatively underwhelming, and it will be interesting to see how many RWC and National team sponsors step up to the plate this year.

So, Rugby’s Perfect Moment? Well, as Stephen Jones, The Sunday Times’ rugby correspondent, pointed out at the top of the Shard, if rugby was meant to be perfect they would be using a round ball. Imperfect maybe, given how much rests on the shoulders of a team scuppered at the previous tournament by mystery blondes and dwarf tossing, but undoubtedly Rugby’s Biggest Moment.

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

Why ‘Top-Down’ Is Better Than ‘Bottom-Up’ For Sponsorship Activation

Most brands know sponsorship is a great way to connect their brand to their target audience. Most brands strive to deliver great campaigns and activation programmes. Most brands take a ‘bottom-up’ approach to campaign activation.

Most brands get activation wrong.

But why is this the case? More importantly, what can brands do about it?

In simple terms, a ‘bottom-up’ approach to campaign activation mean brands (in this order);

1. assess the sponsorship rights at their disposal

2. devise the activation programme to leverage those rights

3. articulate a campaign idea to connect the activation programme to the brand

Successful brands take a ‘top-down’ approach to campaign activation, meaning they start from the top with the campaign idea itself. Only once the blue sky thinking has been done do thoughts shift towards grounding the central thought that connects the brand, asset and target audience to an activation programme and sponsorship rights. Implementing a ‘top-down’ approach is the only way to ensure the brand tells a rich, compelling and coherent  campaign story.

P&G’s “Proud Sponsor of Mums” tagline has proven fertile ground for rich campaign ideas to connect brand, target audience and asset. The brand’s global sponsorship agreement with the International Olympic Committee enables the company to take the Olympic Games to the 4 billion consumers worldwide served by P&G brands. For the London 2012 Olympic Games, the consumer goods company created the Nearest & Dearest platform, which supported the friends and family of all the athletes in the lead up to and during the Games. Rights were also put to use in “The Hardest Job is the Best Job - Raising an Olympian” campaign, which brought to life the dedication of mums across the world in helping their kids to achieve their dreams. First channelled through digital and social media platforms 100 days before the Opening Ceremony, P&G leveraged every asset available to maximise the sponsorship.

Capital One’s overarching campaign idea to 'Support the Supporters' has been brilliantly brought to life through their sponsorship of the Football League Cup, better known as the Capital One Cup.

Stepping in to help Shrewsbury Town FC increase stadium capacity ahead of their Round 4 tie against Chelsea is a good example of an activation linked to a great campaign idea.

By its very nature, the League Cup presents Capital One with the opportunity to activate at each round of the competition, helping the brand uphold its commitment to supporting the supporters through great activation.

In another example from this season, Capital One gave Nottingham Forest FC fans the chance to unite and pay their respects to Forest legend Brian Clough. The Nottingham-based credit card company handed out over 1,000 iconic green jumpers, synonymous with ‘Cloughie’, to all Forest fans who travelled on the official supporters’ coaches to White Hart Lane for the tie against Tottenham Hotspur in September. The gesture struck the right chord amongst players, fans and media alike, helping reinforce Capital One’s commitment to the territory of ‘Support’.

BMW’s “Drive Your Team” campaign and branded content at the 2014 Ryder Cup also stood out for all the right reasons. Not only did it represent the brand and product values, it gave fans high-quality, emotive and selective content to help them get behind their team by using the #DriveYourTeam hashtag.

BMW has a rich heritage in golf, sponsoring the Ryder Cup and other golfing tournaments, and kicked off their 2014 Ryder Cup campaign with an integrated social activity, including a full BMW Twitter profile takeover, followed up with a fan competition (for Ryder Cup tickets), live content and finally rounded off the activation with a series of celebratory images.

Brands that put first things first and implement a ‘top-down’ approach will continue to create the showcase campaigns of tomorrow. Ultimately, brands which go ‘bottom-up’ may risk ending up at bottom of the pile…