Australia is a sporting country. Where a race stops the nation. Whose Prime Ministers wear green and gold tracksuits, lead the Sharks’ song in the locker room, and declare that any boss who sacks someone for not turning up after winning the American Cup is a bum. In this opinion piece, Redengine SCC associate planner Michael Waddups explains how brands can get the most from a sporting partnership.
Partnering with sports organisations, whether that be at a code, competition or club level, is a great way to connect your brand with an established and engaged audience.
The best partnerships work when there is a clear intersection of audience, of values and of consumption. Finding that overlap between your brand and a sporting entity is the first step to a good sponsorship. The second, is making sure you get as much value as you can from it.
Sure, you can stick a Steggles’ logo on to a Roosters’ jersey and you’ll sell some chicken. But since you’ve paid for the privilege (or in my biased Brisbane Broncos opinion, the dishonour) of partnering with the Eastern Suburbs Football Club – you’d want to get some content that can live on after the game is over and the fans have gone home.
To help marketers, media partners and mascots give their 110 per cent, I’ve had a look at some of the best sports partnerships from across Australia and come up with a simple philosophy to ensure you’re getting the most ‘bang for your buck’ from your sponsorships.
I’m calling it: ‘right place, right time, right person, right message’.
What do you mean it’s a thing already?
I’m not talking about geo-targeted media placements bought in real-time, targeting audience segments with personalised messaging. This is different. This is about creating content that connects. This is about sports and stuff.
Step into the ring. Leave it all in the pool. The MCG is hallowed turf, Tiger town and a Giant graveyard all in one.
Sports are events that operate in stadiums, courses, open water and steel cages. Even eSports competitions, which take place in virtual worlds and where brands are relatively new (for now), are being played in giant stadiums rather than dark basements.
Not only do you want your logo, your activation and your free box tickets to be in this setting – this is also the best place to capture your content. The UberEats Australian Open takeover is a great example. By filming their ads ‘in’ tennis matches, UberEats is leveraging the attention the audience has on the tennis court.
It may seem obvious, but setting your ads in the places associated with your sports partner is an easy way to trigger that connection in the mind of your audience and make them sit up and take notice.
It’s a game of two halves. Every second counts. The last weekend in September. Where history is written.
Sports are moments in time. Moments that can’t be missed or easily forgotten. It’s in these moments that your content should be present and promoted. It’s why brands spend millions of media dollars to put their ads in the Super Bowl or in Australia, in Melbourne Cup Day coverage.
But owning the moment doesn’t just have to mean buying a TVC spot. In 2016, Gatorade leveraged the buzz of the AFL grand final by creating a custom Snapchat lens of the famous Gatorade dunk.
The Thorpedo. Australia’s tennis bad boy. King Wally. Tayla Harris. Steve Sandpaper Smith. Cathy Freeman in a swift suit. Leo Barry you star.
Sports are nothing without their players, coaches, volunteers, umpires and commentators. There are champions and chumps. Cult heroes and despised villains. Powerhouses and underdogs. They’re more than just participants, they’re the very reason we watch, cheer, cry and boo.
They’re also the very people that need to be the star of your content. Again, this is not news. But the trick here lies in picking the right person. Choose wrongly and the face of your campaign may quickly fade from the spotlight or worse – be in it for all of the wrong reasons.
So how do you decide? Look to your audience. Find the person that best represents what your consumer and brand stand for. What they want to be seen as. For VB, that was a hard-working family man and a no-frills bloke who represents modern Australia. For Bundaberg, it was a guy from country Queensland, a club icon and a responsible member of the team.
Sometimes the biggest stars aren’t the best people for the job. Especially in Australia, where a love for the underdog and a serious case of tall poppy syndrome means we don’t hold our leaders in the same esteem as countries like America. As content creators, this can be a positive. It means we can look past the obvious stars to find the perfect champion for your brand.
Mack Horton takes a stand. Adam Goodes celebrates with a war cry. The Waratahs sack Israel Folau. The A-League expands.
Sports are full of storylines. The comebacks, the upsets, the scandals and the successes. Attaching your brand to one of these stories, or in Google’s case – lots of them, is a great way to land your message. Again, the challenge is identifying the sport story that supports the brand story.
One of my favourite campaigns every year is NAB’s Mini Legends. It ticks all the boxes – right place (footy field), right time (runs during the season), right person (recognisable and diverse stars) and right message. But what is the message? At face value it’s just a cute ad, right? There’s no denying it’s bloody cute. And it’s cute because it plays on the classic sporting storyline of growing up wanting to be a sports star. The line at the end of the TVC gives it away – “supporting footballers from NAB AFL Auskick to the big time”. This speaks to NAB’s involvement in AFL grassroots, as well as delivering a bigger message. Here’s a quote from their website to show you what I mean – “we’re there from the beginning to support them through every stage of the business lifecycle.”
The top-level of sport in Australia is all about entertainment. When you partner with a sporting organisation, you should be looking to add to this entertainment. So when it comes time to bring your partnership to life just remember – right place, right time, right person, right message*.
*Can also be used for media strategy. I guess.
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