Media: Strategy Analysis - Live and official from the World Cup

Brand: TalkSPORT
Client: Calum Macaulay marketing director, talkSPORT
Brief: Use the Fifa 2006 World Cup as a vehicle to change perceptions of
the station and increase its market share
Target audience: Football fans
Budget: £1.5 million

AGENCIES
Media: Just Media
Creative: Lionhouse
PR: In-house and Propeller Communications

STRATEGY

Over recent years, talkSPORT has been one of the UK commercial radio success stories, delivering consistent share and a unique male audience, and growing sales revenues to move into operating profit.

However, research showed that in previous major tournaments, the station's credibility in terms of live coverage was low, owing to a history of un- official commentating.

TalkSPORT had three key objectives. First, to make talkSPORT official, so its com-mentary and analysis could withstand scrutiny. Second, to retain and inform existing listeners while at the same time attracting lapsed and new listeners to the station. Third, to increase ad revenues from agencies and advertisers.

EXECUTION

The station acquired official broadcasting rights from Fifa for the 2006 World Cup before England had qualified for the tournament. This would allow the station to broadcast live commentary from every game.

In the months preceding the World Cup, talkSPORT began its marketing campaign - initially targeted on-air at existing listeners and subsequently through both outdoor and "in-home" media.

A new logo was created to be used across all visual media, and advertising made heavy use of talkSPORT's official broadcaster status.

- Outdoor: More than 500 taxis and 600 48-sheets were bought nationally across major footballing conurbations. All of these were branded with the new talkSPORT logo and the Fifa "licensed broadcaster" logos, with the message: "TalkSPORT radio - bringing the Fifa World Cup home to you." Ads were also placed in motorway service-station male washrooms up and down the country to target motorists who could tune in immediately.

- Press: Newspaper ads were placed in The Times' sports pages, to build on talkSPORT's strength among ABC1 males, with ads placed in Zoo during May and June to target younger males.

- Radio: On-air trails were used to reiterate the fact that talkSPORT would have "live and official commentary from every game". Presenters read these live in and out of breaks, starting six weeks before the tournament kicked off. All 19 UTV radio stations also ran ads for talkSPORT's coverage - if listeners were going to tune out of their local station, they might as well be tuning in to its sister station talkSPORT.

- TV: National TV advertising kicked off during the first week of the tournament, targeting male programming and live televised football World Cup matches. The ads showcased the talkSPORT presenter team broadcasting from Germany, including Rodney Marsh and Micky Quinn.

- Sponsorship: A key part of the commercial strategy was to maximise partner relationships. Curry's sold talkSPORT- branded DAB digital radios, William Hill betting shops were branded using the talkSPORT logo and 37 pubs were transformed into talkSPORT boozers in partnership with Carlsberg. Sponsorship partners were limited to six in order to give the best value for money in a low-clutter environment. TalkSPORT also released a single and album, with the album topping the chart and going gold within four weeks.

- PR: TalkSPORT was broadcast live across Germany for the travelling fans and every England player was given a talkSPORT radio. PR has been generated in the press, including The Guardian, the Daily Mirror and the Daily Star.

RESULTS

Phone calls, first-time callers, SMS texts, online traffic and e-mails to talkSPORT have all increased. Ad revenues have exceeded all commercial revenue targets. The album has been a commercial success and provided additional revenue.

THE VERDICT - Jon Forsyth partner, ODD

I'm not a fanatical football supporter, but, along with millions of other people, I love the World Cup.

So while I'm possibly not the most qualified person to comment, the TV coverage of this year's tournament was a bit rubbish, wasn't it? I'm not going to go off on a tangent, but a lot of the commentary was bland and the distant angles made it look as if the cameramen were positioned outside of the stadium. Most frustratingly, they kept cutting away from the best shots - the on-field scraps.

So I guess if there was a good time to promote an official alternative commentary, this was it, and talkSPORT was the best candidate. A great bit of business planning, impressive Fifa negotiation and a well-timed marketing campaign. But this is where the praise stops. It seems a preoccupation with the business opportunity and World Cup association overtook any consideration of imaginative media planning, creative flair or brand-building.

If Stelios launched "easyMedia", then this is what the output would be: a simple copy-only execution set within block-booked outdoor and print, accompanied by tactical radio, a short burst of pre-tournament TV and only a sprinkling of PR. The World Cup is one of the most all-encompassing, exciting, vibrant and culturally diverse events on earth - if you're going to go anywhere near it, surely you have to do something special?

There are benefits to such a simple approach - a well-timed business strategy with a conventional delivery of a simple proposition relies on word of mouth. And, to be fair, initial results suggest the campaign has generated interactivity among listeners and therefore may drive revenue and encourage new listeners.

However, as there are no hard results until the next Rajar, I am basing my verdict on a very unimaginative media and creative strategy - a missed opportunity, given the effort of securing Fifa rights and association with one of the most powerful communication arenas in marketing.

I hope I haven't offended any ITV/BBC presenters. However, if it's any consolation, I happened to watch England vs Ecuador in the US and listened to the ESPN commentator continually refer to Michael Beckham. Bring on South Africa.

Score: 2 out of 5.