Interconnected: Sporting chance: how to engage with fans

Events present a huge opportunity for connecting with an audience, and the sporting arena holds particular appeal for brands seeking to engage customers in relevant ways at scale

Smith…brands ­can activate global campaigns around high-profile sports fixtures
Smith…brands ­can activate global campaigns around high-profile sports fixtures

According to PwC’s 2011 Changing The Game report, global revenue from sports sponsorships will increase from $35 billion in 2010 to $45.3 billion in 2015. Not surprising, when you consider that Coca-Cola set aside an additional $400 million of marketing budget to ramp up its advertising around the 2014 Fifa World Cup.

So why are sporting events so key for brands and how can marketers ­activate global campaigns around the world’s most-recognised and well-­regarded sporting fixtures?

I recently caught up with MediaCom Sport’s director of partnerships and brands, Misha Sher, to
learn about the sig­nificance of sporting events from the perspective of a major figure at a leading global media agency.

How does MediaCom work with brands on sporting events?

Misha Sher: MediaCom set up a specialist sports division a couple of years ago, ­recognising that sponsorship was ­becoming a critical component in the communication strategies of our ­clients. The advisory part of the ­business focuses on areas of strategy, acquisition, activation and measurement, helping clients such as Shell, Audi, Subway and Procter & Gamble maximise their investments in sport.

The other part of the business is representation of unique rights, ­particularly talent, which is the area I manage. Working with a sporting and humanitarian figure such as Pelé, as well as one of the biggest football stars of today, Neymar, we aim to develop authentic brand partnerships that allow brands to elevate their marketing initiatives. This is particularly relevant around international events such as the World Cup and the Olympic Games.
 
Why are sporting events so important for brands?

MS: Increasingly, brands are turning to events to engage customers, and prominent sporting competitions have the potential to do this on a big scale. The way that technology has evolved and the way that consumers engage with tournaments such as the World Cup has changed. This ­evolution is down to both the ­adoption of technology and the ­increasing use of social media.

It is very rare to have such a large ­audience, and one that is so engaged and potentially open to communication. It’s no surprise, therefore, that brands are very active in this space and are taking full advantage of  these ­opportunities. Consumers are watching the game – as well as ­following what is happening on ­mobile devices – and they are very ­receptive to brand messaging.

Where do you start in the planning stage?

MS: The key is to have a thorough understanding of the client’s objectives and to develop a close working relationship with all other agencies, from creative to PR, to ensure that there is seamless execution. Co-ordination is crucial for every campaign, and being able to pull everything together in real time is absolutely vital. Many of our teams use Mediaocean’s systems for this very purpose.

Which brands have had success in sporting activation and why?

MS: Those that are successful tend to ­understand their audience better than others and can activate their assets in a way that engages ­consumers. 

We experienced this first-hand when working with Coca-Cola across ­various markets, leveraging a partnership with Pelé to maximise media impact and engagement across ­multiple touchpoints. In a campaign to launch Copa Coca-Cola in the Middle East and North  Africa, the client utilised Pelé to engage with consumers, strategic stakeholders and employees by activating the partnership across all available channels.

What do brands need to bear in mind when activating global campaigns?

MS: One challenge with worldwide campaigns is activation on a global level while making them relevant to each territory. Brands need to understand how individuals consume content in different territories and the tools they use for this engagement.

For example, when planning for the World Cup, we knew Brazil was an incredibly socially connected country. For its population of about 200 million, there are more than 280 million mobile devices. This means that in Brazil it is natural to lean ­heavily on mobile content.

Another challenge is to create ­content that is genuinely relevant for each territory. Brands need to have something to add to the conversation that consumers will appreciate in their specific region.

Any advice or tips you can share on running a global campaign?

MS: From an agency perspective, it is ­essential to have a system to carry out day-to-day business across all media channels. Co-ordination between specialist divisions, as well as other agencies involved in execution, is ­critical to ensure our clients maximise the impact of their campaigns. Last, but not least, it is ­important to share best practice across markets so that successful ideas can be replicated where appropriate.

Stuart Smith is the vice-president, client service, UK and Ireland, of Mediaocean

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