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Pogba + United + adidas – The perfect marketing match?

An announcement under the hashtag #Pogback at 12.30am signalled Paul Pogba’s return to Manchester United after four years at Juventus. The boy who left England with bags of potential has come back as a man to finish what he started with his first senior club.Whilst Jose Mourinho has signed Pogba for purely footballing reasons, it’s clear the club, adidas and the player himself will all benefit commercially from this new partnership. From a marketing perspective it seems to be the perfect match.One of the biggest personalities and most exciting young players in the game has joined the biggest club in the world, which is just starting its second season with kit supplier adidas, for whom Pogba is already a key ambassador.

Signing up Pogba on a £31m 10-year deal earlier this year has helped adidas create a fresh, new look that capitalises on the Frenchman’s unique style, individualism, flamboyant nature and flashy personality. He has been the figurehead of the brand’s #FirstNeverFollows campaign, a brand position that builds on the previous #ThereWillBeHaters activation and mixes football, fashion and music. The aim of this is to appeal to the younger audience, the next wave of potential adidas consumers, and win them over from newer brands like Under Armour and New Balance, who are challenging the more established giants.

Pogba gives adidas a point of difference over its rivals, such as Nike, who were also competing for his signature. He wasn’t signed just as a face to shift trainers, but as a catalyst to help change the nature of adidas’ football marketing…to make his mark on the brand itself.

From United’s viewpoint, Pogba and adidas also help the club reach a younger audience, an audience that may be swaying towards supporting Manchester City, Real Madrid, FC Barcelona or another of Europe’s big clubs.

Pogba will be the face of both United and adidas for years to come. He hasn’t returned to Old Trafford for just one or two seasons; he will surely be there for a significant proportion of his career. He represents the new United, forging a new identity in the post Sir Alex Ferguson, era under the leadership of Mourinho.

Adidas, like other sponsors, do not get a say in the club’s transfer activity (although they may have had a quiet word in Ed Woodward’s ear), but for them shirt sales are clearly critical. Aligning one of their big ambassadors with one of their biggest clubs (alongside Real Madrid) will have been music to the ears of adidas, as the ‘POGBA 6’ United shirts start flying off racks around the world.

One of the reasons adidas teamed up with United in the first place is because the club has a huge fan base in the US and Asia, both target markets for the German sports brand. Pogba will help to gain cut-through in those markets.The French midfielder’s social channels have more than 13m followers. For United, this offers an opportunity a reach a new audience; whilst for Pogba, joining the Red Devils will no doubt see this figure grow and grow, as has happened with other recent arrivals to the club – a win-win. And adidas can utilise this massive reach to push out branded content and messaging to his adoring fans.This branded content played a role in the announcement of Pogba’s capture. Adidas teamed up with UK grime artist Stormzy to record a short piece of music-focused film featuring Pogba that matches the #FirstNeverFollows theme, announcing the player’s arrival at United. We are likely to see more dual-branded content like this appear as adidas and United push Pogba to the front of their marketing activity and his global appeal spirals skyward.

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.

Why Brands Should Take Extreme Sports Seriously

I’m not ashamed to admit that I could watch ski and snowboard films all day. There’s something so alluring about the mountains; people have always loved being close to and at the mercy of nature at its most unpredictable and this has provided the perfect backdrop for a huge number of sports that we know and love.

When you think about the brands that associate themselves with these sports, the most ubiquitous tend to have a literal link, like energy drinks, alongside the relevant equipment and apparel brands. Undeniably Red Bull has become synonymous with extreme sports; it has stuck to its guns, made its presence known and created new events under its brand banner alongside existing ones within the category to truly cement its domination. It’s quite a niche world and one in which there aren’t many rules for traditional broadcast and dissemination of information. Red Bull Media House recently announced a partnership with Reuters to provide extreme sports and lifestyle sports content to their list of international news subscribers around the world, which will bring them a new level of exposure.

With domination of the category I can understand why extreme sports tends to get overlooked for sponsorship in favour of aligning with the tried and tested routes for generating the highest reach possible. You can’t argue with the 4.7bn global viewing figures of the Premier League, but according to ‘The Future of Sports’ report, extreme sports in the US will challenge professional and collegiate team sports for the title of most-watched category of sports content by 2020.And this is despite the fact that these sports are not routinely broadcast on TV, but consumed on YouTube as well as well-known outlets dedicated to their broadcast like Teton Gravity Research and Epic TV.

In my opinion here is a category of sports where all factors point to a large potential for growth, where the challenges provide exciting opportunities to be creative in order to break free from the dominance of Red Bull and reach new and loyal audiences for your brand.

Self-generated content & social media

The age of GoPro and YouTube has allowed us all to be film-makers, athletes included. Okay, so we may not be able to make ski films like Teton Gravity Research have been for years, but we can strap a camera to our heads whilst skiing through the trees or bouldering a technical route and the very nature of these activities makes our own curated outdoor content inherently more watchable.

Athletes have to generate large followings on social media to attract sponsors and increase the reach of these sports to the mainstream. This makes innovation and social media essential for the survival of these sports; the engaged audience has existed for years, but the wider audience opens up more possibilities for brands, participation and funding. Brands have a fundamental role to play here: they have the creativity and technology to take these sports to new audiences, whilst making the most of the influence you can have on the athlete’s own audiences using their heroism/heroinism to tell your story.

Cross-pollination of audiences

Skaters and surfers can appreciate ski and snowboard films (and vice versa) because they often emulate a similar vibe that resonates across audiences; for example, these skiers making use of the streets in Boston covered in snow will have taken inspiration from street skating. If you sign up to partner with one sport in the ‘extreme’ category, your audience is immediately wider than these seemingly niche sports would indicate.

There are opportunities here for brands to speak to audiences across sports. Luxury brands have started to do this particularly well; this short film that we made for luxury whisky brand Royal Salute blended polo and surfing in Hawaii. The strategy was to demonstrate polo as a lifestyle that brings people together; the comparison of the unpredictable nature of horses and the ocean gives both sports new dimensions and, therefore, an appreciation from new audiences. Tag Heuer’s free riding series is similar and highlights the technique, power and fearlessness of free diving, trail running and mountain bike free riding. It’s about finding amazing people with incredible untold stories and telling them through a brand or campaign filter, e.g. Tag Heuer’s #dontcrackunderpressure.

Participation

Sports that we may class as extreme at the professional level are characteristically lifestyles at their grassroots. For the average person activities and hobbies like skiing and snowboarding, scuba diving, surfing, climbing, skate boarding, etc. transcends sport as a leisure activity. They can deliver on skill and competition, but they also provide a platform to feel connected to something greater and ultimately get closer to nature.

Snowboarding essentially didn’t exist 30 years ago and now boasts 5 million participants worldwide, whilst skateboarding started a style craze. It could be a specific lifestyle that leads you to one of these sports or just our obsession with the extremes of human experience – you don’t necessarily need to get involved at school. There are opportunities here for representatives of these sports as a way of life to get involved as brand ambassadors, particularly if you are looking to channel the ethos of one of these sports to make them more humanly accessible. Indeed many of these athletes are not international superstars and so are arguably more accessible as inspirational and aspirational figures.

CSR

The great outdoors is irrevocably changing. Whether you notice it or not, snow in the Alps is gradually becoming a more finite entity. For any sports that depend upon the way that we treat the planet, there are inevitable worthy and high profile initiatives that present opportunities for partners and sponsors to support. Ben + Jerry’s alongside New Belgium Brewing have teamed up with Protect our Winters (POW) with new products that pledge a donation to the cause. The point here is that brands who choose to invest in these sports and the issues they face will buy stronger and deeper loyalty and advocacy amongst participants and fans of extreme sports than you could ever imagine.

With extreme sports there are obvious superficial barriers to entry: there is risk attached and the entire genre seems to be completely owned by Red Bull. The former can be managed by a controlled and measured approach, the latter is pure perception; their association is dominant, but this does not mean that there is not enough room for ownership and a different approach. With extreme sports, despite its niche nature, the opportunities are infinite and the fans endlessly supportive, grateful and loyal.

Making the Most of the eSports Opportunity

From left to right: James Dean from ESL UK, Jonathan Hall from Gfinity & Chris Mead from Twitch

This year’s The Telegraph Business in Sport gave a significant share of the agenda and discussion to the rise of eSports and how brands, agencies and rightsholders can make sense of the commercial opportunities it is creating.

Miles Jacobson of Sports Interactive (creator of the Football Manager franchise) moderated a panel of eSports heavy-hitters.

It was an animated (pun intended) discussion with three key themes at its core:

1. Community

The belief that typical eSports fans are ‘nerdy’ and antisocial is a misconception. The eSports audience is inherently social. They are Millenials. They are digitally native. They are fluent in communicating via digital channels.

Community lies at the heart of eSports. Players and fans typically play one or two games – key titles include Counterstrike, League of Legends and DOTA 2 – and form tight-knit communities based on both playing and watching these games. Fans also come together to consume eSports via streaming sites such as Twitch, a platform which attracts more than 100 million viewers a month, and participate in discussion with like-minded fans in real-time.

Community has played a huge part in building professional eSports teams, identifying elite players and bringing them together to compete as a team. The size of that eSports community has helped fund the lucrative cash prizes on offer at international tournaments around the world. As an example, last year’s The International 2 tournament offered an incredible $18m as part of the prize pool on offer to the best DOTA 2 players.

2. Awareness & Commercialisation

The commercialisation of eSports is helping the sport become increasingly mainstream.

Sports clubs have begun to sponsor individual players and eSports teams. West Ham recently became the first UK sports club to sponsor an eSports player, while Besiktas and Schalke each have their own League of Legends team.

The live experience is also proving popular among eSports fans, with League of Legends tournaments selling out huge venues such as The SSE Wembley Arena and the Staples Center.

Mainstream broadcasters have been begun embracing eSports too. In March, Sky Sports became the first channel to air an eSports tournament by showing this season’s FIFA Interactive World Cup.

3. The Challenge for Sponsors

The current sponsorship landscape is dominated by ‘endemic’ brands that provide the peripherals and hardware that the games are played on.

Brands such as Corsair and Razer are well-established brands that have a long legacy in eSports with numerous successful teams around the world.

For non-endemic brands, gaining an understanding of the relatively new world of eSports is not without its challenges.

But these challenges present opportunities.

Despite the rapid ascent of eSports into mainstream consciousness and huge audiences, the category is yet to sculpt a clear commercial proposition for potential sponsors. Given the fragmented marketplace, comprising multiple publishers, games, events and so on, brands new to the game would have to work hard to understand and then profit from eSports sponsorship. But, if they do, this complexity could also give that sponsor more leeway to carve out a unique eSports proposition.

eSports as an industry will only continue to grow and the opportunities for a brave brand to make their mark are plentiful. If a brand wants to make the most of the opportunities that eSports have to offer, it is vitally important that they go into any partnership with their eyes open. As awarenesss and knowledge of eSports continues to grow. I am in no doubt that it will become a major category in the sponsorship marketplace. Which brands will be first to take advantage?

Watch this Space: Jersey Sponsorship in the US

In this year’s NBA All Stars game in Toronto, there was one towering difference on the court. It had nothing to do with what the players were doing with the ball, but everything to do with what they were wearing. On their jerseys, for the first time, there was a brand logo – Kia.
Let’s put this in proportion: at 3.25 inches by 1.6 inches it’s barely noticeable in comparison with the logos on MLS or European sports jerseys, but it’s the barrier it crosses that’s significant. There can be no doubt that this is the NBA putting feelers out for what Commissioner Adam Silver talked about back in 2014 when he said: “We know what the value is to advertisers…to be able to show fans in-game branding.”

The math is simple – the average MLS jersey goes for around $3–3.5m dollars a year, but for commercial departments from the leading “big four league” teams in the US, I would imagine that there have been some envious glances across the pond to Manchester United’s deal with American car company Chevrolet at $75m a year.

Whilst the NBA have been joined by the NHL (whose Commissioner described jersey sponsorship as “coming and happening”), the MLB and NFL have been certainly more lukewarm. There are obvious logistical issues around it.

First, with a league’s collective bargaining agreements there needs to be consensus and balance as to whether it’s sold centrally or as per the European sports model, team by team. And secondly, the objection of broadcasters concerned about potential conflict and lost revenue.

The real question here is not whether this will indeed happen in the USA (I believe it’s inevitable over the next few years in NBA and NHL, at the very least), but rather whether it will impact negatively for consumers. And moreover, will brands here in America learn the lessons from the decades of good, bad and ugly jersey sponsorships in the past to influence the future?

So do consumers care…and, in particular, the Millennial consumer?

At Synergy, we’ve long been frustrated by the lack of real understanding and insight on the way Millennials engage with and view sports – both now and in the future. There are countless myths that have been built across the demographic, some of which are wrong and many of which can skew the way brands and rightsholders build campaigns. At the end of 2015, we undertook a bespoke and comprehensive piece of research with our sister agency, The Intelligence Group, around both Millennial and Generation X attitudes towards sports, sponsors and the future of sports engagement, with findings featured throughout Now, New & Next 2016.

The survey (3,145 consumers in America with 66% 18–34-year-olds and 34% 35–54-year-olds) specifically examined the potential impact of jersey sponsorship among the audience.

In short – they don’t see it as an issue. The rise of European soccer, MLS and WNBA has made jersey logos a more acceptable part of the viewing experience for the Millennial sports fan. The research highlights that 27% of Millennials think jersey sponsorship is “very appropriate” (higher than Gen Xers), whilst, tellingly, more Gen Xers than Millennials think it’s better for brands to be in the ad break or break bumpers.

History also shows that team success soon overcomes fans’ commercial objections. FC Barcelona – whose motto is famously “More than a Club” – held out for decades against commercial shirt sponsorship by featuring Unicef on the front of their jersey (at no charge), before replacing the global charity with sponsorship from the Qatar Foundation for a then record $40m a year.

Whilst there was a clear media backlash, it didn’t last long when a team with significantly increased resources went on to lift the UEFA Champions League. So if it helps your team produce a great spectacle, most fans soon overlook the logo.

Critically, fans soon discover that a brand appearing on their shirt will not affect their “fanship.” Indeed, more than being just a benign presence, fans may even come to see a jersey sponsor as a positive force for good, with the brand actively enhancing this very fanship. Another reason why this front-and-center asset can be so powerful.

As a jersey sponsor you have a responsibility, since your logo becomes part of the history of the team. Famous jerseys down the ages of European sports are identifiable due to the brand logo on the front of them – the brand locked forever, in the very midst of that trophy-lifting moment. The same applied off the pitch, where through the replica shirt market, fans of all ages wear your brand on a daily basis.

You cannot be edited out – be that in the live moment, or the subsequent media coverage: your brand is indelibly stencilled into that moment of history (for good or bad).

This responsibility means that you must understand and tap into the players, the fans, the culture and the tone of the team.

Lessons Learned for the Future

So what lessons can brands considering jersey sponsorship here in the US learn to ensure this doesn’t become just a glorified media buy?

1 UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL
Jersey sponsorship has always been the closest you can get to being in the action as a brand. New tech can only help this to literally get up close and personal with your team and your favourite players. At the 2016 CES Sports Forum, virtual reality was talked about by one team owner as “what TV was to radio” – imagine the creative capacity for VR technology being able to take fans into the action courtesy of the jersey sponsor.

2 IN-GAME, EVERYWHERE
Being at the heart of the action means being at the heart of the live moment, and research shows that Millennials notice brands in-game more than anywhere else. As a jersey sponsor you need to ensure you contractually own the live moment by having access to your team’s official social media feeds in order to feed the consumers’ desire for in-play, shareable content that can enhance their fanship.

3 CONNECT WITH THE PLAYERS TO RESONATE RICHLY
Get the players onside and fast, as they’re the living embodiment and running billboard for your brand. This is what can make the activation of a shirt sponsorship both easy (as you don’t need to shoehorn your brand into the situation) but also dangerous (you may not want your brand involved in certain off-court exchanges).

Again, with players controlling their own IP and the restrictive contracts they can have with teams in the US on its usage, brands need to be savvy enough to work in harmony with the players. Additional agreements with them are a must, especially in relation to their social feeds. Take, for example, the starting line-up for the Cleveland Cavaliers, which has a combined Twitter and Facebook following of 58m, versus the team’s official feeds of just over 5m.

LeBron’s Twitter following alone is nearly as big as that of all the other teams in the league combined.

4 DISRUPTIVE THINKING PAYS
Don’t be afraid to innovate or have fun with it – when Intel signed a jersey deal with FC Barcelona they literally turned the traditional model inside out by putting their Intel branding on the inside of the jersey. Some brands have handed over the space to a charity that they back for key matches – something that usually attracts positive sentiment.

5 THINK LOCAL AND ACT GLOBAL
The geographic activation restrictions of most US league deals ensure that the jersey sponsor would need to keep home fences mended, but the real potential for the leading teams would be the global potential. It’s no accident that leading UK soccer clubs Manchester United, Liverpool and Chelsea are sponsored by Chevrolet, Standard Chartered and Yokohama respectively – all brands targeting a global audience. Chevrolet don’t even sell vehicles in the UK.

Jersey sponsorship will happen here in the US, and fans will accept it. Leagues and brands, however, must look past the jersey as simply prime estate, instead seeing it as a chance to help share the very beating heart of the team.

Respect this, enhance it and tap into the fan culture, and it’s among the most powerful assets in a sponsorship arsenal. Get it wrong and it’s an expensive – and very public – mistake.

This blog comes from Synergy’s Now, New & Next sponsorship and entertainment outlook for 2016, which can be viewed in full here.

Millennials’ no.2 passion point is music… So why are you making an ad?

We spend more of our time listening to music than we do watching TV. So why are marketers still so reliant on TV and so few using music as a marketing platform?

Whilst there’s a lot of negative press about the ‘decline’ and ‘downturn’ of the music industry, with artists and labels witnessing a fall in revenue, behind the headlines it’s anything but bad news. The introduction of streaming and the shift of artists’ focus from record sales to live means that more music is being consumed than ever before.

IFPI (which represents the global recording industry) recently published their annual report outlining a total growth of 3.2% to $15.0 billion for recorded music, partly due to a 45% streaming growth with subscription revenue (excluding revenue from some services’ free tiers) jumping $58.9 million to $2 billion, with subscribers growing 66% to 68 million.

The Album Equivalent Sales (AES) industry metric, which measures the volume of music sales combined with streamed audio continues to rise – from the last numbers released, these are up 3.7% from 117.2m albums in 2014 to 121.6m in 2015 in the UK. And the retail value of the UK recorded music market is up 3.5% to £1.06bn in 2015, from the previous year’s £1.02bn.

Whilst we’re always-on, always-connected, we’ve also never been more into the visceral, immersive, analogue experience of a live show. QED: LiveNation, the largest live entertainment company in the world, just posted a record year in 2015, with revenues up 11% to $7.6 billion.

The Nielsen annual Music 360° report shows that 93% of the American population listens to music, spending more than 25 hours each week ‘jamming out’ to their favourite tunes. In fact, 75% of Americans say they actively choose to listen to music, which is more than they claim to actively choose to watch TV (73%). According to The Cassandra Report (from our Engine Group sister agency, Deep Focus), what U.S. Millennials aged 14-34 share online are: 1) Pictures 57%, 2) Music 43%, 3) Videos 43%, 4) Status updates 38%, 5) Jokes 32%, 6) News articles 28%, 7) Memes 25%, 8) GIFs 21%. Clearly the reason why Facebook recently introduced ‘Music Stories’ its music sharing capability, is to deal with the #2 most shared commodity – Music.

So we spend more of our time listening to music than we do watching TV and share more music than videos. So why are marketers still so addicted to TV ads, when it’s way more likely that their target market is listening to music – especially the world’s two billion Millennials, for whom music is one of the main passion points?

Having personally spent many years talking to senior marketers across many blue-chip brands of the world, one tends to hear similar needs from them all – usually including the need for passion, emotion, connectivity with a demographic and, of course, shareable/viral content. Music is content and comes pre-loaded with all of the above. The lyrics are storytelling and the melody engaging on an emotional level – music can make you laugh and cry…and everything in between.

Music is one of the most shared and recommended commodities online. It’s the most spoken about social conversation, and it fuels the biggest social media sites out there. It simply isn’t being used efficiently and effectively by most brands. Nor is it fully understood. The issue brands have is that active involvement in music is perceived to be both complex and costly – not helped by the traditional historical approach of the music industry, who have seen brands as a cash-cow.

Many brands have had painful experiences and traditionally ROI has been low due to the tactical, one-off approach many brands have adopted. Additionally, with the array of rostered agencies surrounding brands, there has often not been a custodian of the brand in place responsible for controlling the ‘sound of the brand’. The ad agency creating a film for an ad is generally tasked with thinking about what piece of music might bring the film they create to life from a creative standpoint, not always with planning at the heart. Putting it in a brand campaign is only one tiny part of how a brand can use music, yet this is still what many brand marketers consider as ‘being involved in music’. For what really being ‘involved in music’ should look like, brands should take a leaf out of the sports marketers’ playbook – a playbook that at its best eschews tactical one-offs in favour of long-term partnerships with events, teams and athletes.

What is so different in music? Why is there is there so little long-term, platform-based planning going into music and entertainment? Take Red Bull as an example. Dietrich Mateschitz’s love and belief for extreme sports has led the business to truly ‘own’ that space, to the point of becoming a major owner of extreme sports content. Why not take Red Bull’s best practice approach to sports and apply it to music? When will marketers talking about ‘content being king’ start taking music on-board on a more serious basis as part of their content strategy?

Brands that get this right will find themselves embedded at a deeper, emotive and instinctual level with their audiences. Surely music to any marketing director’s ears…

We discussed Millennials and the power of music as part of brands’ marketing strategy at our Synergy Entertainment event, ‘Talkin’ About A Revolution’, which was held at Spotify HQ, London in April. Our panel included Emmy Lovell (VP Digital, Warner Music), Joey Swarbrick (Manager Rizzle Kicks), Lisa Buchan (Director Music & Culture at Monster Energy), Mark Sutherland (Editor of Music Week), Simon Burke-Kennedy (Manager of Professor Green) and Tom Kitchen (Spotify). The event was a huge success and edits from the panel will be posted shortly.

For any further information about Synergy Entertainment and how we help brands navigate and deliver solutions in music, please contact: arnon.woolfson@synergy.global

Standard Life Investments and The Lions: the big cat is out of the bag!

The big cat is out of the bag: on January 11 Synergy helped Standard Life Investments announce their agreement to become the Principal Partner of the 2017 British & Irish Lions tour to New Zealand.

After months of hard work, initially in supporting Standard Life Investments negotiate the partnership, then into campaign planning, the launch featured five legendary Lions as brand ambassadors, whose stature reflected Standard Life Investments’ world class positioning.

The launch was staged at The Gherkin, the iconic London base of Standard Life Investments, and generated impressive results:

As part of the launch we produced this spine-tingling film evoking the Lions’ unique heritage and highlighting the shared values and ambitions of the two new partners – enjoy.

To complement the Lions partnership, Standard Life Investments’ is also a Worldwide Partner of the Ryder Cup – a unique, prestigious and highly effective combination that delivers powerfully and precisely to the needs of the business and the brand.

Roll on Hazeltine 2016 and and New Zealand 2017!

Success & Scandal: The Inspiring Early History Of Women’s Football

Goodison Park was packed to the rafters as 53,000 fans watched Alice Kell – captain of Dick, Kerr’s Ladies – score a hat trick in her team’s 4-0 win over St Helens Ladies. By all accounts, the 14,000 supporters turned away from the stadium missed a great game of football. The day was Boxing Day; the year, 1920.For the best part of a century this game stood as the record attendance for the women’s game. It wasn’t till London 2012 when 70,584 saw England beat Brazil 1-0 that this dusty record was broken. In recent years – and especially in the wake of the England’s heroics at the 2015 World Cup – women’s football has been experiencing an extraordinary rise in popularity. England’s semi-final against Japan peaked at 2.4m viewers on BBC 1 and Round 7 of The FA WSL in July 2015 experienced record crowds. Moreover, the Women’s FA Cup – boosted by SSE’s historic title sponsorship – drew 30,000 to Wembley.A challenge for the game’s champions and sponsors is to consolidate and grow this fanbase ahead of the European Championships in 2017.

Given compelling stories celebrating brands’ pasts are often the backbone to strong campaigns, (see Johnnie Walker and Lloyds), perhaps the same strategy could be applied to women’s football, given its fascinating and tumultuous history…

In 1894, feminist Nettie Honeyball founded an unprecedented entity – the British Ladies Football Club – with the aim, she said, of “proving to the world that women are not the ornamental and useless creatures men have pictured”. It was a radical idea and led to the first official recorded game of football between two women’s teams. This took place in 1895 when a collection of players from North London took on their Southern counterparts.

A “huge throng of ten thousand” travelled to Crouch End to witness the spectacle. There followed a series of games, raising money for charity, around the country. Some reporters were sneering, “the laughter was easy, and the amusement was rather coarse” (Jarrow Express); whilst others were supportive, “I don’t think the lady footballer is to be snuffed out by a number of leading articles written by old men” (The Sporting Man). However, by the time the year was over, crowds – apparently blasé to the novelty – had petered out and the women’s game disappeared.

Twenty years later, with World War I raging on the Western Front, The FA suspended the Football League as players joined the ranks in the trenches. Meanwhile, 900,000 women were sent to work in munitions factories, where kicking a ball around at lunch breaks was a welcome respite from their dangerous job. From these kick-abouts, ‘Munitionette’ teams from various Northern factories were formed.

The most famous and successful of these was from Dick, Kerr’s & Co. in Preston. The team’s first match drew a crowd of 10,000 but this success was unlike the short-lived successes of 1895. Dick, Kerr’s Ladies went on to play numerous matches, raising £70,000 (£14m in today’s money) for charities supporting ex-servicemen and other causes. True, there were mutterings of the game’s unsuitability for women but the crowds continued to pour in even after the war ended – 35,000, for instance, saw Alice Kell’s team play Newcastle United Ladies at St James’ Park in 1919.

Alongside Alice Kell, Lily Parr was Dick, Kerr’s Ladies star player. One local newspaper wrote that there was “probably no greater football prodigy in the whole country” and it is said her shot was so hard it once broke the arm of a professional male goalkeeper. Parr’s 31 year playing career saw her score over 1,000 goals, 34 in her first season in 1920… not bad for a 14-year-old.

1920-21 represented the peak of Dick, Kerr’s success. In 1920 they represented England, beating the French women’s team on both sides of the Channel and finished the year at Goodison Park in front of 53,000 fans (by comparison 50,018 attended the men’s FA Cup Final that year). Meanwhile, 1921 was packed with 67 fixtures in front of a cumulative audience of 900,000. Yet, 1921 was also the year of the second downfall of the women’s game, courtesy of a directive from The FA banning female teams from all FA affiliated stadiums and grounds.

The perennial complaint against women’s football – and the excuse used by The FA – was that it was harmful to female health. In 1895 the British Medical Journal had declared “We can in no way sanction the reckless exposure to violence, of organs which the common experience of women had led them in every way to protect.” Now in the ’20s, Harley Street’s Dr Mary Scharlieb wrote, “I consider it a most unsuitable game, too much for a women’s physical frame”.

However, one might argue that these medical opinions were merely a pseudo-justification for The FA’s real fear that women’s football represented an uncomfortable shift in society’s hierarchy. Now the war was over, here you had female teams – “in knickers [shorts] so scanty as would be frowned upon” – attracting more fans than many men’s games being played on the same day.

What’s more, the women’s football matches, which had raised thousands for charity, were now supporting the struggling families of miners during the 1921 Miners Lock Out – a politically charged dispute where miners were had been banned from working in the coalfields, having refused significant wage reductions.It was a lethal combination: Women flouting the role dictated to them by social convention to play a scandalous sport that drew bigger audiences than their male counterparts, whilst raising funds in support of anti-establishment trade unions.

The FA’s ban effectively squeezed the sport into obscurity. Whilst teams such as Dick, Kerr’s continued to play, their banishment to nondescript playing fields meant that never again would they be cheered on by thousands in Goodison Park or St James’s. Years in the wilderness followed until the FA ban was finally lifted half a century later, allowing the game to begin its slow recovery. Although that’s another story for another time…

Back in 2016, with the women’s game reaching the popularity levels of the 1920s, the challenge is to maintain its upward trajectory ahead of, and beyond, forthcoming major Tournaments. The stories, characters and controversy from women’s football’s intriguing past are potentially a real starting point from which to catalyse powerful campaigns around the sport.

SOURCES:
Shelley Alexander, ‘Trail-Blazers who Pioneered Women’s Football’ (BBC)
John Simkin, ‘British Ladies Football Club’ (Spartacus Educational)
John Simkin, ‘History of Women’s Football’ (Spartacus Educational)
‘The History of Chelsea’s Stamford Bridge’ (The Guardian)
‘WW1: Why was women’s football banned in 1921?’ (BBC)

What Can UK Sponsors Learn From US Sports and a Physicist and Astronomer?

Synergy’s recent launch in the US got me wondering whether sports marketers closer to home could learn from America’s love for stats. My search for an answer unveiled some unexpected sources of inspiration and insight. This blog shares them and, in doing so, shows the answer to my question is a resounding YES.
Say the word “statistics” and memories of miserable maths lessons are what flood back for most of us. Yet today, US sports fans and coaches LOVE data. Broadcasters ESPN, Fox Sports, CBS Sports and NBC Sports are feeding fans, via their websites, with a constant flow of facts and figures in every American sport going. The traditional Big Four – NBA, NFL, NHL and MLB – are perhaps the most stat-heavy sports on the planet.

So why are US sports fans and coaches today so hungry for data? Perhaps the answer can be traced back to the US in 1950, when physicist and astronomer Professor Arpad E. Elo introduced a system to rank the world's chess players. Elo’s approach has since been adopted and adapted by sports organisations, especially in the US. FiveThirtyEight, for example, use it to predict future NFL performance. In brief, using analysis of past performance and a bit of maths, his system has been used and adapted to estimate and rank the future performance of players and teams, and in doing so has come to the attention of sports fans globally.

The power and popularity of Elo’s approach among fans lies in how it can arm them with data to help win debates with fellow fans, and potentially even cold hard cash through betting. DraftKings, which gives gamers (gamblers?) sports research before they ‘play’ is both enormously popular and controversial in the US. Whatever you think of it, it may not be long before DraftKings is the latest US to UK import. Subjectivity and gut instinct no longer rule fantasy transfer decisions and heated half-time debates. The popularity of FiveThirtyEight’s NFL Elo Rankings is just one example of how the appetite for data among US sports fans is being met. Closer to home, @AccentureRugby’s analysis of the RBS 6 Nations is an equally compelling case of how data is changing sport.

Snapshot from FiveThirtyEight’s NFL Elo Rankings 

Player turned manager Billy Beane attracted criticism when he started using sabermetrics to make decisions on trades, rosters and the like at Oakland Athletics baseball team. Success ensued on the pitch to such an extent that in 2009 Sports Illustrated placed Beane in their Top 10 sporting GMs/Executives of the Decade, and in 2011, Moneyball, with Brad Pitt playing Beane, hit the screens to critical acclaim. Whether it be sabermetrics in baseball or mathematical modelling at Brentford FC or FC Midtjyjlland, data in coaching decisions is here to stay. Data has become integral to decision-making and debate. Why? In sport, data helps you win.Data is integral to decision-making in business too. How many CEOs and CMOs do you think invest in multi-million £ or $ campaigns with no view on expected return on investment (ROI) vs. viable investment alternatives? To prove the point with data (I couldn’t help myself!), recent research from Millward Brown Vermeer’s Insights 2020 showed 51% of over-performing companies said “Insights & Analytics Leads the Business” vs. a 27% for global average. In business, data helps you win.

The lesson for sports marketers? Yes, you guessed it – data can help you win. Sports fans and coaches realised long ago data can deliver success. The title of sports marketing’s answer to Billy Beane is still open to applications but – with such high financial gains to be made – it’s only a matter of time until the vacancy is filled.

 

If you want to chat about ROI in sponsorship or anything to do with sponsorship measurement and evaluation, please do send Synergy an email at tom.gladstone@synergy-sponsorship.com and, if you haven’t already, take a look at how Synergy think about sponsorship value in our white paper here.

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.