COVER STORY CONFECTIONARY: Nestle targets football fans with cash quiz - Nestle is exploiting the game of the moment with an instant prize push fronted by Terry Venables. But is the link between chocolate and football credible enough to drive sales?

With football celebrity Terry Venables fronting the current Nestle confectionery campaign, supported by the strapline, 'Know your football, know your chocolate', you'd be forgiven for thinking that this is yet another World Cup 2002 campaign.

But Nestle category marketing manager Owen McCabe is keen to point out that this push exploits the current all-pervasive presence of football rather than linking specifically to the tournament itself. "The timing (from now until the end of June) spans the period of domestic football events such as the FA Cup, Scottish FA Cup final, and the last weeks of the Premiership. All of these events are coming to a head, as the World Cup excitement builds, he says.

Football fever

McCabe does concede that Nestle is capitalising on the fact the World Cup is just around the corner. "Of course we're aware that the World Cup is happening and that it's a huge event, but we're not an official sponsor.

What we've tried to do is to make the promotion reflect the spirit of the times, he says.

The campaign, through Billington Cartmell, runs across 15 variants of five different Nestle brands. Apart from the strap line and Venables imagery, there are footballing facts printed inside each promotional pack, and the radio, newspaper and television campaigns all follow the footballing theme through. Packs carrying the activity are Yorkie Milk, Honeycomb, Raisin & Biscuit and Kingsize; Aero Milk Medium, Peppermint Medium, White Medium, Aero Milk Chunky, Aero Honeycomb; Rolo and Rolo Giant; Kit Kat four-finger, Chunky and Kingsize; and Toffee Crisp.

The campaign gives consumers the chance to receive a telephone call from El Tel himself and win up to £10,000. There are ten winning wrappers to be found for the top cash prize, across 55 million packs. The win or lose message is flagged up inside the wrappers, and consumers finding the winning packs will be called by Venables, who will ask them two easy questions, one on football and one on chocolate. Each question answered correctly wins £5,000. In addition, there are thousands of £10 instant-win cash prizes to be claimed.

The activity is being supported by local press in four major cities - Manchester, Birmingham, Newcastle and London. Five local Galaxy radio stations are running a competition with a box of chocolate bars big enough for the average office size up for grabs to entrants who correctly answer the football-themed questions.

There are also two bursts of television adverts, created by Roose and featuring Venables. One airs from 3 May for a week, and the second will be shown at the beginning of June. The ad shows a group of friends keyed up for Terry's call. He calls and the contestant knows her football and her chocalate facts, so she wins £10,000. She then jumps across the screen and covers Terry with kisses as he munches on the chocolate.

It may seem a slick execution now, but the conceptual stages of the push were a tad less sophisticated. McCabe joined Nestle in September, just after the initial brief for the campaign had been put together. "The first brief was promotional, whereas with the second we added an above-the-line push. The original brief was very much a standard on-pack theme, and one of the key lessons I have learnt is that many on-packs struggle to rise above the industry noise and the clutter of the shop front. What we try to do is communicate what is on the pack."

He points to the back of one of the promotional packs, with the small print detailing the promotion's rules, how to enter, and other facts.

"There's a huge amount of information for a consumer to get through, and although we don't propose to get all of it across in our above-the-line activity, you should still get the general excitement of it, and that's going some way towards encouraging people into the shops to buy the brands."

In fact, Nestle hasn't supported a promotional campaign with above-the-line since 1998. Karen Galloway, Nestle's senior planner, points out: "Some companies have excellent delivery in terms of creative, design, and POP for example, and all of that push stuff is fine. And of course we depend a lot on people making a choice directly in store, but creating that bit of extra demand in the lounges and sitting rooms of the UK with the television campaign is a key factor here."

Having decided that a through-the-line brief was most appropriate, Nestle chose its agency through an open tender among its roster of promotional agencies. Three pitched, with a total of 16 creative ideas.

"Involvement and participation is key to Nestle, particularly because we had to co-ordinate all the different brand managers for the products and make sure they were all happy and knew what was going on, says Nestle category planner, Janet Moor.

Standing out from the crowd

After a two-week turnaround for the agencies to pitch, Billington Cartmell was handed the job. "Finding an agency competent at implementing a through-the-line campaign is not as straight-forward as other disciplines, but Billington Cartmell in conjunction with Roose, one of our above-the-line roster agencies, have really come through," observes McCabe.

The next step was to work out how to create stand-out in a crowded and competitive sector - McCabe says Nestle has a market share equal to both Cadbury's and Mars, both of which are extremely strong brands. Finding the right strategy required extensive research into both the consumer and trade marketplaces.

"We carried out eight different focus groups, says Moor. "We looked at ages ranging from 16 to 34 years, and also talked to a wide variety of people who had a different level of interest in football - from fanatics to those who only show their support when the World Cup or a big tournament is on. We also talked to both men and women to ensure it wasn't just a male orientated campaign. Everything we got back from them helped us optimise the POP, prize structure, mechanic and even to fine tune the scripts, she adds

The focus groups were given six different scripts to read, ranging from the football-intensive to one with football as an incidental part of the creative. "These degrees of nuance are extremely important, says McCabe.

"The challenge for us was to create something with cut-through, and which will be easy to pick up on. We could have gone for something very gimmicky and World Cup-related, backed up with merchandise such as pens and referees' whistles, for example, but we wanted to make it credible."

This credibility takes shape in the form of Venables, whom both agency and brand team say is a recognisable footballing celebrity who crosses all sectors of the footballing world - from player to manager to football pundit.

"We considered two options for the person fronting the campaign. We could have gone down the player route and looked into using the likes of Beckham, but we also looked at choosing someone who would attract a much broader audience. Luckily enough, he's not only got the right image but his favourite chocolate bar is Kit Kat, says Kim Hamilton, account director at Billington Cartmell. "Using a player has associated risks - look at what's happened to Beckham, and the initial worries over Michael Owen, she adds.

Cash tops the bill

The research determined not only what the most effective script would be, and who was the best personality to front the campaign, but also what incentive would motivate people in store. It came as no surprise that cash topped the bill as a motivator, as well as holidays and cars, while instant wins came through as the driving mechanic.

"We know that cash is one of the big motivators, but we were looking for a way to make it seem more exciting and get some extra cut-through.

Having interaction from a celebrity adds value to the cash prize and makes it more of an 'event', giving the promotion an edge too, Hamilton emphasises.

On the trade side, Galloway admits that persuading stores to carry promotions is becoming harder. "It is getting more difficult because they often have their own promotional agendas. But we've been involved in football promotions before so we have credibility in the field, although this campaign is seen as a real development from previous pushes."

The development from past activity is further explained by McCabe. "First and foremost there's a general 'traffic jam' in Nestles' promotional calendar.

We have 38 brands and 13 periods with primary, secondary and tertiary focuses, and different priorities have to be given to different brands.

We need to find synergy across different brands, and all of those for this campaign overlap nicely. We've mixed and matched the packs to maximise the appeal cross-section."

The lure of winning £10,000 could prove to be key in a marketing season with such a strong football focus. But synergies between football and chocolate are tenuous compared with the more traditional football-oriented products such as beer. For Nestle then, the question remains as to whether Mr Footie Fan will be as eager to reach for a chocolate bar as he is to reach for his pint.

IN MY VIEW

7 - 10

The scenario is straightforward and affects many brands this summer: the biggest sporting event to affect your customers this year - World Cup 2002 - is about to happen and you need to be involved. You're not a sponsor, so the only way to get associated is, as Nestle's marketing manager says, to reflect the mood of the times.

To do this with credibility, you must connect with the target audience and this promotion has the basic ingredients to do just that.

Nestle is using cash as the incentive for its on-pack push and I am sure its prize fund allows for lots of £10 winners. Word of mouth is powerful and ideally, everyone should know someone who knows someone who has won.

Celebrity endorsement too is all-powerful, and never more so than when it is by a credible and recognisable celebrity rather than a B-list soap star. Finally, instant win is still a key driver when supported well.

To deliver the kind of awareness the campaign needs, Nestle needs to use its clout to secure good in-store locations for a powerful line-end boost supported by first class displays.

So, I cannot argue with what Nestle has done, because at heart, this is a solid, safe promotion and the sum of all its parts will make it work. But I can't help feeling that it is a little too safe and lacking in any real innovation.

The general problem with instant win is that there are always more losers than winners. Given that Nestle has Venables on board, it should have taken into account more opportunities for customers to be involved. For example, an interactive game on the telephone, or a question and answer SMS campaign with rewards, or even a video-streamed "What happened next? e-mail campaign. These would all have presented great opportunities for exploiting Venables' association as well as getting the target audience involved and connected.

I certainly believe that big brands should do big promotions and this campaign has the ability to be big. But with a little more innovation, it could have been much bigger.

Hugh Bishop is chairman of Meteorite.

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