Sporting events have traditionally been ideal vehicles for field marketing activities and next summer will offer a particularly high concentration of such opportunities. Between June and September, the London 2012 Olympics and Paralympics will run alongside highlights such as Wimbledon and the British Grand Prix, while football's Euro 2012 tournament and the European Athletics Championships take place further afield.
Field marketing opportunities will also extend beyond sporting events. Next year, the Queen's diamond jubilee will be celebrated in June and the Cultural Olympiad, the biggest cultural celebration in the history of the modern Olympic and Paralympic Games, will take place in the lead-up to the Olympics, culminating in the London 2012 Festival. It is set to attract artists from all over the world, in what is being promoted as the UK's biggest ever festival.
Agency CJ Services is already working with Coca-Cola, a worldwide Olympic partner, on maximising this opportunity. It started field marketing activity 18 months ago, installing Olympic countdown units in 19 of Coca-Cola's offices across the UK.
'An event on the scale of the Olympics illustrates the need for field marketing agencies to be able to get in-store to completely relay the look for the event,' says Rona Moroney, marketing manager at CJ Services. 'The challenge is to provide everything from installers, merchandisers and brand ambassadors to sales people to maximise the impact of the occasion.'
So, while major attractions such as the Olympics will provide a chance for brands to reach their target market to a greater degree and capitalise on the 'feelgood factor' of UK-wide events, and big marketing stunts may make it into the headlines, the field marketing sector is already hard at work, making sure that brands have a substantial presence on the ground.
'Key to success will be the ability to mobilise high-quality, profiled teams to execute promotions and events on specific dates to maximise the impact across channels and drive the greatest ROI,' says David Norbury, chief executive of agency REL. 'Mobilising large teams is often a challenge in terms of delivering both quantity and quality. We have developed a number of propositions to maximise the opportunity for brands in 2012. For example, we now have the ability to reach every grocery multiple in the UK on one day with experienced and profiled teams.'
He adds that this capacity has been augmented with live reporting and photo capability via mobile apps, enabling closer tracking of campaign progress.
Moreover, brands have the chance to use field marketing in more sophisticated ways than ever before.
'Next year will present some great opportunities for field marketing agencies,' says Gary Mac Manus, managing director of agency Reach, which will be carrying out activity around the Olympics for Nintendo, Electronic Arts and Vodafone. 'There are so many media vying for consumers' attention that field marketing is the one way consumers can get the experience of a product at an event on the scale of the Olympics.'
Sally Alington, managing director of Blackjack Promotions, says that, due to the global attraction these high-profile events create, many people will be visiting the Olympic sites from across the world, bringing with them varying expectations. She contends that agencies and brands can promote and use new technologies at the events to create a global brand experience.
'QR codes will replace leafleting - (the) information will all be kept in a digital chip that consumers pick up at the entrance to the Olympics,' she predicts.
With a greater number of agencies looking to use the Olympics to showcase such technology, Alington also says this is likely to drive up the cost from previous years.
Field marketing campaigns are becoming more closely tied to social media, too, a trend that brands will be looking to exploit further at events relating to the Games.
'An integrated approach to the consumer brand experience will be essential,' says Karen Evans, managing director of agency BEcause. 'One-off, face-to-face encounters can kick-start conversations between brands and consumers, but long-term relationships need careful nurturing through regular contact and welcome surprises. Social media is an excellent complementary conversation channel.'
Peter Cole, sales and marketing director at agency Cosine, which is managing field marketing activity for three of the main Olympic sponsors, believes there will be greater use of social marketing to recruit staff, give live updates to field team briefs and provide live reporting to clients.
Many of the brands for which it works, including BT and Sainsbury's, benefit from Cosine's use of cloud-based technology platforms. This is helping the agency to create integrated campaigns efficiently, using social media to provide brands and field teams with a continuous dialogue of activity highlights and actions.
Sustainability will also be a major issue for field marketing agencies and the brands they are working with, with the organisers of London 2012 pledging it will be the greenest Games to date. BP and UPS are leading the charge for sustainability.
'Partner brands are being pushed to adopt new levels of sustainable practice,' says Simon White, managing director of Momentum London, which is working with UPS on its sponsorship. 'Brands are passing this responsibility on to their agencies and we'll see innovations around carbon offsetting, for example.'
Field marketing agency Gekko, which worked with Freeview on April's royal wedding (see case study, page 30), has developed a document download app that enables the paperless deployment of field teams, all of whom are equipped with low-emission or hybrid vehicles, to provide cost savings and environmental benefits for brands and employees.
Brands and agencies will also need to ensure they don't fall foul of legislation brought in to protect the official sponsors of the Games.
'If you are a key sponsor, there are specific guidelines (about what you can do in relation to the Olympics); however, LOCOG has, to date, not announced any opportunities that lend themselves to field marketing activity,' says Daniel Todaro, managing director at Gekko. 'Let's wait and see - the weather is a big factor.'
It's likely that hot spots such as Trafalgar Square will become key sites and attractions in their own right during the Games, and some may offer good opportunities for brands if they do not fall within LOCOG's purview, says Evans. 'But aside from the potential controls, it could be hard for brands to stand out in such a busy, competitive space, so we expect sampling and brand activity in bars to be very busy.'
Brands investing in field marketing will have to strike a balance between using events on this grand scale to their advantage while focusing on the products and consumers' needs, at the same time as ensuring that they steer clear of anything that falls foul of Olympic legislation.
CASE STUDY: ROYAL WEDDING BOOSTS SALES OF FREEVIEW+ HD
The wedding of Prince William to Kate Middleton on 29 April has been the biggest media event of 2011 to date and was the first national event of its kind to be broadcast in high definition. It presented businesses with an opportunity to drive awareness of their brands and products, as well as sales.
Analysts predicted that live coverage of the wedding would draw the biggest TV audience for many years, with estimates of the global audience ranging from 300m to 2bn people, while 25m were expected to watch in the UK.
Field marketing agency Gekko was briefed to use the event to generate interest and awareness in Freeview's HD service and demonstrate and increase sales of Freeview+ HD digital TV (DTV) recorders in key retailers including Asda, Currys, Comet and John Lewis. Freeview also wanted to encourage existing users to upgrade from the standard service to the HD version.
Store staff were briefed on product features to help close sales and, as part of the integrated nature of the campaign, a Freeview royal wedding microsite and Freeview YouTube page highlighted the in-store activity and directed consumers to retailers in which demonstrators were in place. The agency also handled a prize draw offering a royal wedding hamper to help winners kick-start their own party.
There were 470 entries to the hamper competition and during the period of the activity, 32% of Freeview purchasers converted from a standard Freeview set-top box to HD DTVs. Freeview+ HD brand-awareness surveys conducted before and after the campaign indicated an 11% increase among shoppers following the activity.
'The in-store work was a key element of our royal wedding campaign,' says Owen Jenkinson, head of marketing at Freeview. 'Gekko ensured excellent planning and execution across retail and did a great job in promoting and selling the Freeview+ HD service.