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VIDEO: The vision of the future

Content. The buzzword of modern-day marketing. Not a day goes by in the office when the word content isn’t mentioned. With all this comes a huge increase in video content, and at a time where one third of online activity is video consumption, brands would be foolish to not ensure that the video content they are producing is engaging, relevant and last, but by no means least, has a purpose.

Yet, with this explosion of online video comes a huge amount of data, which ultimately, is the key to brand success; unlocking audience behaviour, and being informed about what is making an impact. In light of this, I attended an Online Video Data Revolution Talk hosted by Tubular Labs last week where I was able to listen to the success stories and learnings from broadcast and digital experts in their pursuit of doing just that.

Be one of the ‘Lads’

In the room, we learnt tips from the likes of Adam Clyne, COO of The LAD Bible Group, the world's fastest-growing news site for young men. With monthly viewership of 3.7 billion, and ranking second across global media properties (according to Tubular Lab’s August statistics), The LAD Bible is a great example of a brand born out of social media channels, mainly Facebook, which meant the pressure to create engaging video content was vast.

Clyne was quick to acknowledge that the ‘relatability’ of The LAD Bible’s content has been a huge factor in its success. By understanding their audience, the team at The LAD Bible are able to produce video which has the likeability and shareability factor which exponentially increases the likelihood of getting views. Elements like ‘tag a mate’ act as a direct call to action, which often results in a domino effect with audiences’ content participation.

The success of The LAD Bible has also been down to the instantaneous results which they can gauge through social sentiment. Clyne highlighted that more than ever, if the content is wrong for your audience, they are not afraid to comment and call you out on this. This goes for branded content as well, with audiences being savvy enough to acknowledge a brand collaboration when they see it. However, Clyne pointed out that such content shouldn’t be an anomaly within your newsfeed or enable you to “sell your soul” by changing your normal tone for the sake of a brand. Nowadays, it is more important than ever to react to what your audience wants, learn the before and after, and ensure you’re targeting those most engaged with your content.

Leaving Broadcast Behind

With the rise in digital video content, where does this leave broadcasters? Certainly, there is the necessity to keep ahead with the times by creating short-form content which can establish a place on social platforms in its own right. Andy Taylor, co-founder and CEO of LittleDot Studios commended American talk shows such as The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon and The Late Late Show with James Corden for their ability to master an online presence.

A show of hands in the room proved this point when asked who watches The Late Late Show with James Corden versus who had seen James Corden’s Carpool Karaoke ; more often than not, YouTube sees more views of broadcast content than the programme itself. These types of videos tap into the recipe of success which Adam Clyne spoke of, being easily shareable as well as timeless in their existence on YouTube.

What’s next for video

With the surge in demand for online content, Andy Taylor from Little Dot predicted that in five years’ time, Facebook will consist of strictly video content. For broadcasters to succeed in these times, he predicted that we are more likely to see TV and online collaborations. This is something we have already had glimpses of with the recent partnership between National Geographic and The LAD Bible, whereby National Geographic’s Leonardo DiCaprio-led documentary, Before the Flood ( was broadcast simultaneously on TV and via a livestream on The LAD Bible’s Facebook page.

This form of output is establishing a presence online, particularly for sports fans who have shown themselves hugely engaged with digital and social live streaming, which brings massive opportunities for rightholders and broadcasters alike. Just recently, Andy Murray became the first tennis star to stream a major match live on Facebook from his own page, and Moto GP earned more than 7 million views from a clip of Andrea Dovizioso and Valentino Rossi partaking in some ‘epic’ wheelies, demonstrating that the appetite for live sport on social will continue to increase.

Ultimately, it is clear that video content is more important than ever for engaging audiences and creating a loyal fan base for your brand; viewer behaviours are finding new forms of expression all the time, so, more often than not, brands need to adapt quickly and respond. Lastly, it is important to understand that the digital landscape has shifted in such a way that brands are able to reach their consumers without necessarily going through a third party, putting greater emphasis on the brand messages themselves and the way they reach their audience. We’re currently in a shift state, the balance of power for content is moving from broadcast to online, and I for one am excited to see where brands can capitalise from this.

ESports: It’s in the Game

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Brazil 2014 – Synergy’s Sponsorship & Marketing First XI

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

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

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

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

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

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

3. Watch this space

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

4. Gillette missed a sitter

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

5. Cahill’s lucky escape

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

6. All over for Sony?

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

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

7. Will Emirates ever activate?

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

8. A ball became a celebrity

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

9. Nike still rules as an ‘unofficial’ sponsor

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

10. But most Brazilians don’t buy Nike shirts

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

11. Social Media has made #gotgotneed even louder

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

And 3 off the bench…

12. The USA sees the light

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

13. Football saved FIFA. For now.

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

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

14. Messi wins Golden Ball (sponsored by Adidas)

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