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Brand Murray Is Just Beginning

Arguably sport always has been, and always will be, associated with stars. Sportspeople of incredible athletic ability make the impossible appear effortless, creating moments of magic that give fans the chance to utter the phrase “I was there”. For an athlete to be held in this rarefied bracket of superstars can bring global fame and vast financial reward, but also a burden of expectation not just from their own fans, but the sports they bestride.

The Next Stage

An athlete who must surely now be considered within this group is Wimbledon Champion Andy Murray. Three years since his first win, Murray once again captured the title that he covets most, placing him alongside esteemed double Wimbledon winners such as Stefan Edberg and Rafael Nadal. The win also topped off an incredible year for Murray. Marriage to his long-term girlfriend, guiding Great Britain to a Davis Cup win and becoming a father has brought about a slow but noticeable transformation of brand Murray. His growing maturity matched with a change in perception among even the most casual of tennis fans offers him the perfect opportunity to take his brand even further as he moves into the next stage of his career.

Star Power

According to London School of Marketing’s 2015 sport power list, Murray ranked in 16th place. Not bad, but when considered alongside his fellow male players, Rafael Nadal (8th) Novak Djokovic (7th) and Roger Federer (1st), there appears to be some room left to grow. Federer’s continued brilliance away from the court is in contrast to his slowly diminishing powers on it. Without a Grand Slam win for four years, Federer’s ‘RF’ brand remains worn by more than just a few of the paying crowd on centre court. His ability to show a side of his personality that resonates with sponsors without a link to the court has helped prolong his marketability and it’s a path that Murray has already started to tread.

Although he counts Under Armour and Head as his on-court equipment partners, Murray’s partnership with Standard Life represents a deal that looks to work with some of the less athletic aspects of Murray’s character and is undoubtedly contributing to a better understanding of the man behind the racket. Yet it’s imperative that the partnership works both ways, with a set of shared traits that can be projected to a targeted audience for the benefit of both sponsor and athlete.

Careful cultivation of these traits can truly transform reputations and Standard Life’s Master Your Dreams film series is a perfect example of the process at work. The films explore a side of Andy Murray that isn’t well-known, helping the audience to see a new thread in the Murray story and one that Standard Life applies to its own organisation. From the meticulous preparations of Andy’s childhood, to meeting his own sporting heroes, viewers have shown a willingness to engage with the films, sharing their changing perceptions and even thanking Standard Life for providing the opportunity for them do so.

Standard Life’s willingness to look beyond the common narrative and work with a different side of brand Murray not only helps them stand out from the crowd but supports their own story, not something every sponsorship or indeed athlete, has the ability to do. The challenge therefore is two-fold, first to identify an athlete whose own brand, ambitions and athletic performance complements that of a sponsor and secondly (and far more challenging) is to select the the correct aspect of an athlete’s story to tell.

Executed properly the rewards are clear for all to see, both on and off the court.

Bands, Brands & Fans – It’s all about getting closer…

A few years ago, we witnessed the start of some major changes in the music industry, with traditional revenues from record sales taking a big blow due to an increase in piracy. This coincided with the general public’s perceived value of music diminishing with the record labels continuing to exploit their assets with very short term targets in mind, licensing music for the likes of cover-mounts to the media industry, earning income, spiking sales for newspapers and magazines but further reducing the consumer’s perception around the value of music (which was ultimately being offered to them for free).

Some high profile artists benefited from this at the time, including the likes of Prince who released his ‘Planet Earth’ album exclusively via The Mail on Sunday. This earned Prince substantial revenues. It provided marketing for his 21-night performance at The O2, London and sold a lot of newspapers, so many would argue was a big success. It did, however, contribute towards the longer-term psychological perception amongst the consumer that music has been devalued.

It was at this point that I started to understand the fact that it was the job of both artists and the labels surrounding them to start re-thinking about how to add value back to the album format and demonstrate a reason for the consumer to continue purchasing in the future. It feels natural for artists and their labels to start packaging all of their assets into one deliverable (an app) with the aim of connecting with their fans on a deeper level, owning a bigger part of the relationship with them. The depth of relationship between artists and fans for me has always been the key to success.The rise of Spotify, followed by the multitude of other streaming businesses then created a distraction, tackled piracy and actually incentivised consumer spend, albeit reduced. The real value in music today, however, is primarily in the live business (concerts), but there are various attempts taking place to breathe life back into music beyond just experiential.

It seems the subject matter of how artists and their labels should be pumping value back into their product is heating up. Clearly, deepening the relationship with their fans seems to be becoming more understood amongst artists, with a number of technology players now moving into this space. Until now there has been little focus in the media about this, with most still focused on the battle of the streaming businesses (Spotify, Apple, Google, Deezer, Amazon etc).

If a fan wants to know what Beyoncé wore last night, they check Instagram. If a fan wants to know where Ed Sheeran is performing next, they check Twitter (as long as he’s not decided to take a ‘time out’). If a fan wants to know what Ariana Grande has been up to today, they are likely to watch her Snapchat story. Social Media has brought artists and fans closer together than ever before. It has solidified the artist and fan relationship, offering access never previously seen before. These relationships via social networks offer the ability for artists (and their partners) to promote themselves, sell music, tickets and merchandise. It also provides instant feedback whether it be about newly released music or any other promotional activities. Importantly, it is this relationship, combined with artist-generated content (music, film, games, etc) that can be extremely attractive and powerful.

When Björk launched ‘Biophilia’ a few years ago, she offered her fans an entire suite of content – much more than just music. She successfully continued to build that ever-so-important connection with her fans, giving them much more than they expected, with lots to talk about and engage with.

Since then, a number of artists have attempted to enter this space. A few businesses from the tech world have also moved into the ‘Artist & Fan’ relationship space – their approach being to enhance the overall fan experience, whilst providing insight and learnings about their fans back to the artists and their representatives.

These start-ups include the likes of: Gigrev, Lionshare Media and Disciple Media. BuddyBounce was another great business very much in this space, recently selling to Crowdmix which was due for launch later this year but unfortunately went into administration earlier this month, prior to its official launch. Additionally, Supapass is a new multi-artist platform that has recently come onto the scene, offering not just single artist relationships but the opportunity for fans to engage with a multitude of their favourite artists. An interesting one to watch…

The idea is that fans subscribe to an artist/label channel (costing approx £1 per month). The artists and their rightsholders then earn a substantial % of the revenue share from their fan subscriptions. One generally finds with fan-based marketing that there is always a top-tier core fan who will traditionally spend on artist product and this will specifically appeal to those. By offering multi-artist content, SupaPass are spreading the risk and potentially offering greater impact for the platform. It feels like it makes sense.

It is these artist-to-consumer platforms that will not only ensure continued growth and depth of relationship between artists and their fans, but could also potentially offer a very interesting space for brands to engage. According to the Cassandra Report, Millennials, in particular, expect brands to offer more than just their product or service, and if a brand can be seen to be offering a closer relationship between fans and an artist, the credibility and love for that brand could very easily dramatically improve. Additionally, the learnings and data available could really help not only the artist, but also brands, understand how to interact and behave with these fans, potentially offering a three-way win-win(-win) symbiotic relationship for band, brand and fan.

To conclude, the music industry is continuing to change rapidly. There are no rules and an array of interesting opportunities for brands (as well as artists) to tap into, offering previously impossible access to potentially long-term relationships with fans. The ‘Artist & Fan’ relationship is the ‘Holy Grail’ within the music industry. For a brand to be a critical part of that could be an extremely powerful space to occupy.

Glastonbury Festival: Bands Before Brands?

It’s that time of year again when 135,000 ticket holders stomp their muddy wellies upon Worthy Farm and pray for five days that it won’t rain. Glastonbury Festival, the largest greenfield festival in the world, has been running for 46 years and appears to show no signs of slowing down.

With the world’s best music artists in attendance (depending on your view of Kanye West) a guest-list of celebs which rivals a red carpet event, and a 900-acre site packed with people from all walks of life, there’s an obvious commercial opportunity for brands. Yet, Michael Eavis does a great job of avoiding the inevitable cattle market brand takeover, with the reality being that Glastonbury is very much a ‘rightsholder’ bucking the trend when it comes to brand involvement. So the question is, how does he do it?

FORCE FOR CHANGE

Since day dot (the ’70s), Glastonbury Festival has always attributed itself to being a positive force for change. With the likes of Water Aid, Greenpeace and Oxfam as partners, the underlining message of the festival is to protect the environment, often in alternative ways. This year will be another first for Greenpeace, with a virtual reality dome where you can experience David Attenborough’s spectacular visit to the Great Barrier Reef, to highlight how it’s under threat through climate change.

Although these ‘showpiece’ elements from such ‘not for profits’ definitely resonate with the festival’s values at large, if you look further into the other brands involved with the festival, they may have more in common with each other than you might think.

Having attended Glastonbury for the past three years, it’s only now when I sit and think about it, that a few brands stand out. Upon arrival, if you can still manage to muster a smile having trekked miles with your temporary home on your back, there are people offering you a mapped guide to the festival, in a Yeo Valley canvas bag. That canvas bag becomes a part of your body, and as a result, free marketing for Yeo Valley, as you march from field to field carrying around your tinnies.

This is  a great example of subtle yet practical branding, with no sign of yogurts or dairy products being pushed in ‘Yeo’ face! Notably, Yeo Valley are actually a local brand (being from Somerset), which demonstrates another element of Glastonbury’s ethos – to support local businesses.

CHAMPION THE LOCALS

I asked my fellow festival-goer housemate what brands have stood out to her, if any, when she’s been at Glastonbury. Her immediate reaction was Thatchers Cider, which probably says more about her own festival experience, but a great example nonetheless. Thatchers recently agreed a deal which extends their prominence as the ‘Official Cider of Glastonbury Festival’ for the next five years.

Again, Glastonbury succeeds in associating itself with a local, family-run business, supporting them in becoming accessible to thousands of international festival junkies. Yet, I can’t help but wonder – especially at a festival when food and drink is permitted from outside festival boundaries – whether Thatchers need to offer something more… An experience, perhaps, that says a little more about them to potential customers than just pitching up a series of bars across the grounds.

CREATE AN UNFORGETTABLE EXPERIENCE

One brand defiant in demonstrating their prominence at the festival is mobile network EE, who are truly living up to their name of ‘Everything Everywhere’. EE became Glastonbury’s Official Technology partner in 2014, and have certainly made themselves a brand that’s in demand by adding to the experience of festival goers.

Initially introducing the ‘recharge bar’, they gave revelers, and more so, millennials, the chance to become the envy of their friends by having instant access to social media throughout the festival with WiFi hotspots available across the site.

This, in turn, is of huge benefit to the festival itself, with Glastonbury being the talk of the town (or more so the country) across social media channels, as well as being a great success for EE. In fact, in their first year of sponsorship, they signed up nearly 900,000 users to the network between January and March, well on their way to the target of six million 4G customers by the end of the year.

This year, EE have taken it one step further by creating the ‘EE Festival Essentials Pack’, which has the addition of a waterproof phone case and a poncho, showing that not only do they know how to please potential customers, but also that they understand the British summertime! Although they’re somewhat of an outsider when it comes to fitting with the festival’s core values, they’re making their presence at the festival invaluable. By engaging with the festival audience, and allowing seamless social media sharing for customers they’re offering the advantage of free-marketing for Mr Eavis in the process.

IT’S NOT ALL FLOWER CROWNS & DANCING

Although Glastonbury Festival has appeared to strike a positive balance between brand and consumers, it doesn’t always work out for everyone. In 2008, Reading and Leeds called time on their partnership with Carling, who had a 10-year sponsorship with the rock festival series, after failing to connect suitably with audiences.

Carling took over in 1998, and rebranded the two festivals as the ‘Carling Weekend’ – although perhaps the fact that this didn’t catch on may have been a tell-tale sign of what was to come. The title sponsorship was fairly limited in what it brought to the party – merely making Carling available at festival sites wasn’t quit connecting suitably with consumers.

INFLUENCE FROM THE INSIDE, OUT

This lends itself nicely to the last and final way, I believe, that brands who aren’t directly sponsors of the festival are able to succeed. It’s no secret that celebrities hold the key to giving your brand a boost, and with greater access to social media allowing fast and efficient product promotion, it’s a winning formula. Over recent years, much like its successful counterparts such as Coachella and Burning Man, Glastonbury Festival has become a celebrity hot spot, that plays host to a pool of influencer consumers, delivering brand opportunities in abundance.

The first brand success of its kind came in the form of British supermodel Kate Moss, who famously wore Hunter wellies to Glastonbury Festival in 2005 , which, much to the delight of Hunter, practically rescued the company from imminent administration. It is unreported as to whether this was merely a stroke of luck or genius, but nonetheless the trend has been picked up across the years from celebs attending the festival, with consumers naturally assigning Hunter to the festival itself.

Despite the potential celebrity endorsement takeover within Glastonbury Festival, this type of marketing has huge appeal for millennials due to their unbounded enthusiasm for Instagram trend-spotting and the like. This does its job of ticking the box of ‘creating a better brand experience’ for those in attendance. It is something which brands wishing to associate themselves with Glastonbury should have at the forefront of their minds, for not only the punters, but for the artists attending too.

What we’ve seen is that brands can succeed in adding value to the festival experience – which is, after all, the sign of great sponsorship in action. It’s clear that the sponsors that share Glastonbury’s ‘Love Worthy Farm, Leave No Trace’ ethos resonate well with their audience, creating a positive relationship between the festival, brand and potential customers.

The challenge for Glastonbury Festival for the future is to retain the balance of independence and positive brand involvement without getting stuck in the mud.

Why winning the Premier League is more than just priceless to fans

Leicester City are three points from writing their own happy ending to one of the greatest sporting stories of modern times. What’s more, their closest rivals to claiming the coveted silverware are not one of the traditional ‘Big Four’, but Tottenham Hotspur. An unlikely pairing and an unlikely tale for the richest football league in the world.

With a new name set to be engraved on the trophy, an exciting new avenue of commercial opportunities is set to be opened up, but who’s set to benefit from this?

THE CLUBS

Put simply, the club will make more money. Considerable amounts of money.

Let’s start with the basics – the winners of the Premier League will not only take home the trophy, but will also bank a £24.7m cheque for their efforts. Plus, with UEFA Champions League revenues to come for both clubs next season, they can look forward to anything between £10m to £55m of additional income. To put these figures into perspective, Leicester City’s commercial and sponsorship income in 2012 was just £5.2m.

The financial impact goes beyond just prize money – the real commercial win comes through an expanded fan base, both at home, and, more lucratively, abroad. The recent trend has seen Premier League clubs spend their pre-season on money-making tours in the Far East and America – emerging markets where they can capitalise on both fan engagement and brand investment.

Winning the Premier League will undoubtedly gain Leicester an army of new fans across the globe (their story has already won them hearts on home shores). If you don’t believe it, just look at the differences between the Twitter exchanges – both in terms of language and pure numbers – when Leicester announced they were safe from relegation in last season, to when they announced they had made the Champions League this season.

A global fan base can lend itself to a new approach to sponsorship – dividing up regions and sponsor categories to allow for the monetisation of countless deals. Manchester United claim an ‘Official Casual Footwear Partner for South Korea’, Chelsea boast an ‘Official Whiskey Partner in Myanmar’, while Arsenal have an ‘Official Telecommunications Partner in Indonesia’. Could we soon see these types of deals for Leicester?

In terms of adding fans, there isn’t just a global benefit, but a local one too. Leicester’s average attendance in the League two seasons ago was 24,990, which is close to 10,000 fans below stadium capacity. This season, you can’t get a ticket for love nor money at the King Power Stadium, with reports that touts are selling tickets to Leicester’s final game of the season for £15,000. The demand to watch the Foxes live – and be a part of the fairytale – is greater than ever.

Leicester don’t just become more attractive to potential sponsors because of the additional reach and bigger fan base. The authentic money-can’t-buy narrative will have brands falling over themselves to be part of it. In sport, the greater the odds of success, the greater the story, and the odds have never been greater in the Premier League. A Cinderella rags-to-riches story that provides a welcome relief from past rhetoric of wealth that surrounds the likes of Manchester City and Chelsea.

THE PREMIER LEAGUE

The Premier League will be delighted at how the season has played out. Now, they can rightly claim back their title of being the most exciting league in the world. In Spain, just three different teams have won the title over the past decade, with FC Barcelona dominating with six wins in the past 10 seasons. In Italy, again it’s just three teams, with Inter Milan and Juventus splitting the success between them, and AC Milan winning once.

This season, by contrast, the Premier League has been entirely unpredictable. The likelihood of Leicester finishing top of the table was almost impossible in August, and only a fool would have placed any money on their starting odds of 5000/1 to win the league. Don’t we all wish we were fools…?

And that £5bn the Premier League sold the broadcast rights for? It increasingly looks like better value for the broadcasters that shelled out. This exciting season has captured the imagination of fans around the world and will have re-inforced the unique appeal of English football..

As the Premier League seeks global domination in search of more riches, stories like that of Leicester City can only help. Historically viewed as the flashiest, most commercial, most money-obsessed league (both in terms of wages and ticket prices), this season has turned this stereotype on its head. Riyad Mahrez and Jamie Vardy cost the Foxes less than £1.5m combined. In fact, Claudio Ranieri’s entire squad cost a total of £54.4m – one eighth of big spending Man City, and still one third of their nearest title rivals Tottenham Hotspur.

A huge PR win for the Premier league, and let’s face it, you can’t buy coverage like this…

Yes, that’s Leicester City Football Club, on the front cover of the Wall Street Journal – heady times for the club.

THE PLAYERS

Where once Wayne Rooney, Didier Drogba, Sergio Aguero and Luis Suárez were the darlings of sponsors, these household names may soon be replaced by younger, fresher names like Alli, Kane, Kanté, Vardy and Mahrez. Players catapulted from relative obscurity into the limelight, not burdened by huge deals and with the ability to make the most cynical football fan appreciate their talent. It’s reasonable to assume that they will soon be boosting their earning power exponentially through personal sponsorship deals. As an example, Rooney is estimated to be making around £5m a year from private endorsements alone.

And it doesn’t stop there. Vardy’s meteoric rise from Non-League to Premier League has been likened to that of a Hollywood script…and media reports suggest that this could actually happen. When you consider the only other movies in recent times about football careers were about the Class of ’92 – charting the most successful team in English history – and Cristiano Ronaldo, it highlights how enraptured the public are with Vardy’s story.

ENGLAND

Most of the ‘Golden Generation’ have retired, having disappointed fans with their underachievement for over a decade. There has been a noticeable lack of excitement and enthusiasm for the national team…until this season.

Leicester City and Tottenham Hotspur boast English talent like Harry Kane, Dele Alli, Jamie Vardy, Eric Dier, Danny Rose and Danny Drinkwater. These new names have revived a nation’s hope and expectation with their young, fresh approach to the game (and beating Germany in their own backyard didn’t hurt).

This fresh crop of England players, not tainted or weighed down with past failures, will shift shirts in huge numbers before EURO 2016, which is great news for Nike. Fans have once again been drawn back towards the national team and it’s these players’ names that will grace the back of England shirts up and down the country – even Rooney’s kids want Vardy on theirs.

Mars, Vauxhall, Lidl and other England sponsors will also benefit – they have seen much of the cynicism around their prize assets disappear this season, transformed into newfound hope and positivity around the team.

QUIDS IN

It’s clear that pound signs will be flashing in the eyes of the winning club, the Premier League, the players, the FA and sponsors. The big question is whether this is a one-season wonder or the start of a new order. Can Leicester build on this and become truly dominant forces on the pitch in England and Europe, and around the world commercially?

Even Spurs, should they finish second, will have stepped out of the shadow of the dominant clubs in the Premier League and stand to gain financially off the pitch. One thing’s for certain: if Leicester and Spurs manage to continue their charge in the UEFA Champions League next season, the Big Four could start to shift uncomfortably in their boardroom chairs.