The Experts in Branded Content – Nike Football Presents ‘The Switch’ 13th June, 2016

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There is one piece of sponsorship activation everyone at Slingshot has been talking about, Nike Football’s ‘The Switch’.

As part of Nike’s Spark Brilliance campaign, the video features Cristiano Ronaldo as the star, alongside a further 16 professional players including Harry Kane, Anthony Martial and Javier Mascherano. Interestingly it is Adidas, not Nike, that are sponsoring the UEFA Euro 2016 tournament in France, but the video could certainly lead you to think otherwise!

At 5 minutes and 57 seconds, ‘The Switch’ is the longest brand film ever created by Nike Football. The length of the film allows Nike to create a compelling story, rather than a simple advert, which not only captures the imagination, but also promotes Nike Football’s brand in a truly creative way. The film is the perfect example of how to integrate brand ambassadors into activation’s effectively to create unique branded content that resonates with Nike Football’s target audience, once again sparking the debate of Official Sponsorship and its value in today’s market.

Check out the video to see why we can’t stop watching!


Sponsorship, an effective employer branding promotion 9th June, 2016

Attracting top talents is highly crucial for any company. Every brand and company has been struggling to find those highly sought-after top talents, with marketers searching for years to find the right strategy.

In fact, one in three firms in the professional services sector have committed to significantly increase their budget in employee communications in 2016 as competition for talent becomes fiercer. Sponsorship can be the underlying support of this development.

 

How the world perceives you

Simply put, employer branding is all about the way you choose to present your company to the potential employees and the way you want them to see you.

When talking about attracting talents, the focus is on newly graduated students, but they should not be the only target. Those top talents could be the creative marketing director from your fiercest competitor to the new grad who might one day be CEO.

Employer branding also help to strengthen corporate branding (i.e. the way your clients perceive your company). The more you are known as a great place to work, the stronger your position as a great brand. By communicating your employer branding, you are most likely to attract talents that share your vision, making them motivated and efficient, leading to a better performance for your business.

 

Linking sponsorship to employer branding

Sponsorship is a notable way to build an engaging, memorable and unique relationship with your target audience, being customers or employees. This is all the more true since sponsorship holds many options within the marketing mix from mass media use and at event presence to PR and employee engagement.

By creatively activating sponsorship at an event where your targeted talents attend, you create a bond with the potential employee before they even consider your company as a potential employer, the ultimate goal of employer branding. Building a special relationship with the consumer to create the urge, if not the need, to work for the brand.

Sponsorship can provide the company with the opportunity to create a unique tone of voice by distinguishing itself from the competitors in a non – product related way. It is all the more so crucial when we know that top talents are naturally selective about where they want to work. This is especially important in the creative and tech industries where top talents are used to a more relaxed and original environment.

Values are also something not to underestimate. Using your values is an influential way to communicate with your target audience and a powerful tool to choose the events you should attend or the platform to sponsor (university sports/music teams, etc.).

 

Aldi and Nike, two leading brand in sponsoring to attract talents

There is no predetermined way of doing sponsorship to develop or strengthen the employer branding. The choice of what type of sponsorship to use is entirely up to the organisation and what they want to promote the best.

In 2012, Aldi, the global supermarket, agreed to sponsor the Loughborough University’s men’s hockey team, also present at various careers fairs throughout the UK.

Aldi’s strategy was to work with many UK universities to showcase the importance it gives to sporting excellence, achievement and student engagement.

The company has been able to discover and recruit potential graduate top talents for its Area Management programme thanks to its strong and lengthy presence in universities and career fairs, with many of the current Area Managers graduating from sponsored universities.

Another interesting case is the one of Nike, who is sponsoring a huge number of College and Universities in Canada and USA. More than 10 years ago, Nike was the first big apparel brand to make use of sponsorship for brand recognition by being featured in a college football jersey.

Historically, the brand has dominated the apparel sponsorship of college football, by sponsoring 79 of the 128 FBS (Football Bowl Subdivision) college football team, 61.7 percent of apparel sponsorship in the FBS. More than that, Nike sponsors almost 90% of the last 17 FBS National Champions.

Nike, by sponsoring winning teams, has gained a reputation associated with the highest performing teams in college football, emphasizing their values of excellence, evolution and winning spirit. Thanks to all of this, Nike is being recognised as an employer capable of inspiring and challenging its employees on a day to day basis.

 

 


Player Power – Athlete Success Impacts on Brand Fortunes 4th September, 2015

Player power is well documented across sports business with demands on endorsement deals, publicity requests and the ability to influence the many across the globe. However rarely has a player’s performance vindicated the price of company stock.

As Serena Williams appears in New York this week with sights set firmly on the US Open & ‘Serena Slam’ (winning all four majors in the calendar year) there will likely be comparisons drawn with Jordan Spieth’s attempts to achieve the same feat in the world of golf this year.

Following an examination of Spieth’s miss on the final hole at the British Open, ultimately ending hopes of the calendar Grand Slam the finance department of Serena’s sponsor Nike might be a little more focused on her success this week than the previous wins.

Recently Under Armour became the principal sponsor of the young athlete, signing a multi-million 10 year deal (read more on a previous Slingshot blog here). Following this Spieth promptly returned faith securing the Masters and US Open titles with Under Armour equipment pride of place.

Next the British Open loomed with hype surrounding Spieth’s opportunity to complete the impossible and collect a third major of the year. Jordan Spieth was in contention until the final hole where a birdie was required to keep the challenge alive for a play-off.

This is where the parallels with Serena might interest Nike’s finance department and shareholders.

As following the missed putt by their star ambassador, Under Armour’s share price dropped falling from a price of $89.46 before the putt to $88.79 minutes afterwards – decreasing the company’s value by almost £90 million.

Whilst the exact nature of this depreciation is unknown, this occurred within the 6 minutes between the putt and missing of the play-off. Sport marketing professionals have cast views on the occurrence with Nigel Currie believing the “share price to have grown due to the accumulation of previous successes and the expectation on further success”, with the drop merely showing a return to a normal level.

Whatever the explanation, Nike shareholders will be wishing Serena success at Flushing Meadows just a few percent more.

 


How Under Armour Delivered a Champion 30th July, 2015

With brands becoming fixated on trialing creative across a plethora of digital channels with mixed engagement success, it is easy to overlook the value of athletes in respect to capturing the consumer. Athlete sponsorship is now as competitive as the sports themselves, with the biggest brands in the world battling to obtain the best athletes – a key reason why athlete sponsorship deals are more lucrative than ever.

During the last decade Nike and Adidas have gained a stronghold on the sporting market utilising established sports stars to endorse their brands. This spend surpasses most other brands requiring them to become more resourceful to obtain the same benefits enjoyed through a high level brand ambassador partnership. Talent acquisition is crucial.

The big success story of 2015 has undeniably been Under Armour and its association with the new golfing sensation, Jordan Spieth. Under Armour originally signed the unknown Spieth to an endorsement deal in 2013. However, Under Armour granted the 21 year old a 10 year contract extension just months before his inaugural Masters win, creating an estimated $34m worth of exposure for the brand.

Whilst this would seem a gamble for the brand to invest a 10 year contract in someone who only had one career victory to his name, from Under Armour’s point of view this was by no means a gamble. The company’s senior professionals had followed Spieth and his career for a number of years, critically evaluating the potential of the player, much like a chief scout would in the professional game.

Following on from the Masters, Spieth has gone on to win the US Open – crediting two majors to his name. Most recently, he narrowly missed out at St. Andrews, which ended the chance of the newly coined ‘Spieth Slam’ but nonetheless delivered incredible exposure for Under Armour, leaving the Nike, Adidas and the rest of the field feeling as if they have missed the cut.

The Under Armour partnership with Jordan Spieth is evidence that innovation can overcome spend when implemented with creative insight.


“Enter At Your Own Peril” : Sponsor Association With Controversial Brand Ambassadors 23rd September, 2013

 

“The role of a brand ambassador – the brand ambassador is a marketing model that employs trusted, credible personalities to promote and give greater visibility to its brand products

It seems, historically, that sport and scandal have gone hand-in-hand. Over the past five years there have been multiple athletes in the upper echelons of their respected fields that have been subject to a public fall from grace. For the sponsor, the usual protocol will be to run for the hills, and withdraw any association with the respected star. However, there are some exceptions, and brands do, in some cases, stick by or re-invest in their asset – but under what circumstance and why?

Level Of Association

If the player is either an integral part of the sponsors make up, or headline star, then it makes the job of getting rid of them, and keeping to your marketing strategy a lot harder. Woods, of course, has been embezzled with the swoosh his entire career, this can also be said of Wayne Rooney. However Ryan Giggs has not been so fortunate, despite being held up as headline moral ambassador for his maturity, the star ended up being shunned by a number of his sponsors for a comparable offense to that of Rooney or Woods.

Bankability

The commercial revenue generated by any ambassador is integral to their credentials, and can play a significant role in the decision making process. In Woods and Rooney’s case, both EA games and Nike had complete product ranges centered on them, and commercially had too much to lose.

Sponsor’s market place

Accenture was Woods’s big loss in the aftermath of the scandal around his affair. The firm could not justify sporting a star whilst marketing themselves as a trusted Business Consultancy. Brands have ambassadors for a multitude of reasons, but they must be able to link their common values and business goals. In contrast, Alex Rodriguez, was still used by Guitar Hero in their adverts even after he admitted to taking banned substances. The business case for this was that Guitar Hero’s product was not affiliated with his sporting attributes, but his public personality.

The Offense

The line with which most brands have consistently taken when suspending contracts, has been when the ambassador’s actions directly affect the relationship they have with the respected brand’s promotional attributes. In the case of Drugs there has been a 100% termination rate in sport. However, in the case of Kate Moss and the fashion industry, the offence was taken very differently. Although she did lose substantial contracts, Moss managed to retain seven, and go on to re-build her career, something which has never been seen on such a scale in sport.

There is no doubt that trust in ambassadors has publically waned, as such, there has been a shift in how brands market their ambassadors. Recent campaigns by brands such as Nike illustrate that the focus is now upon empowering the consumer, rather than showboating the skills of an untouchable star. Even in fashion, couture designers are collaborating with high street fashion chains to bring their products to a consumer level. This shift undoubtedly showcases ambassadors but does much to bring the star or garment to the consumers level, retaining brand loyalty, which is essential in a very fickle market place.

It’s the end product that matters

As the quote above states, ambassadors uphold the values of the product they promote, and being the lucrative tool which they are, brands will do anything to protect them. However no one is bigger than the brand and on a case-by-case basis, the outcome of each offense is dictated by the relationship between the star and the value of the product they endorse.

My Top 3 Digital Sponsorship Campaigns 25th March, 2013

Sponsorship campaigns have always relied on brand synergy and mutually benefitting concepts but now it is imperative to incorporate the partnerships through a digital platform. Here are three of my favourite digital sponsorship campaigns…

Nike and Apple (Nike+)

The Nike+ sponsorship campaign stands out for simply the sheer size of the two brands involved, as corporate logos go, few are as identifiable. For Nike and Apple there was no case of ‘clash of the titans’- merged products (shoes, sensors, kit) allowed joggers to be notified of progress by iPod prompts as well as tracking distance and duration. The data could be uploaded to a Mac or PC, and then on to Nikeplus.com, giving people the chance to record progress, set targets and share results.

For Apple, the sponsorship allowed them to target consumers from a different angle and created a much more fulfilling exercise experience thanks to their technology. For Nike, the sponsorship helped them shift their brand image away from bad press concerning labour ethics and high-profile court cases previous to 2006. Aligning to Apple, which had a very clean reputation at the time, aimed to help add credibility to some of the promotional tags that Nike were trying to shed.

Vice and Intel

Vice is brash, incisive and radical, which is exactly why Intel bit, their aim was to diversify their brand image. John Galvin, director of Intel’s partner marketing group, admitted that “if we give music fans the opportunity to have this amazing experience, maybe they will think about Intel differently, becausewithout our technology, this wouldn’t be possible.”

Having Intel as a sponsor not only associates Vice to a global brand but it also acts as a service for their multiple digital ventures. Intel has now partnered with Vice on two of their most impressive subsidiaries, The Creators Project and Noisey. The collaboration has a real sense of synergy – Vice finds fresh talent and creative pioneers in order to distribute the content and footage while Intel supply cutting edge ways for fans to engage digitally.

Kopparberg and Spotify

Independent cider brewer, Kopparberg partnered with Spotify and Last.fm in 2012 to create the Kopparberg Festival Player, which helps UK festival-goers plan their schedule of bands they want to watch over the summer based on Spotify playlists, the app featured playlist sharing and chances to win tickets to the most sought-after festivals in the UK.

The appeal of this campaign is Kopparberg’s chance to connect with fans through music, rather than direct, brash marketing which festival-goers tend to disapprove of. Furthermore, the partnerships drives awareness of the brand and drinking Kopparberg before they even get to event, which cuts out the competition and resonates with the customer. With their involvement at more than 15 UK festivals and major events in 2012, this became a key reason for their sales success.

Michael Jordan: The Original Brand Ambassador! 25th February, 2013

On February 17th 2013 Michael Jordan, one of sport’s great personalities, turned 50. Not only is ‘Mike’ a sports legend but also the face of arguably the most successful brand endorsement deal of all time. Due to the recent headlines involving sports stars such as Oscar Pistorius and Lance Armstrong the value of brand ambassadors is being questioned more than ever (see Mark Mylam’s blog). Michael Jordan’s sponsorship deal with Nike however, proves what kind of positive impact such an agreement can have for both the brand and the celebrity. Let’s recap this incomparable success story:

“The 1984 Olympics was Michael Jordan’s coming out party” describes his agent David Falk. Up until this point Michael Jordan had not even played a single game in the NBA and yet at the time top three major basketball shoe brands Adidas, Converse and Nike were after him. Before his NBA career even started Jordan already knew who he wanted to partner with – Adidas. The German sports brand and Converse were the leading shoe suppliers for the NBA stars in the mid and late 80’s. Michael Jordan himself had never worn any Nike basketball shoes before and was convinced by the quality of Adidas’ products but the first brand that Michael Jordan met with was Converse. During this pitch Jordan mentioned his worries about the endorsement deals that Converse already had in place with superstars like Magic Johnson or Larry Bird and asked: “With all these stars, where do I fit into the conversation?” John O’Neil, the president of Converse, took that question and replied: “We’ll treat you like all our other superstars.” This is obviously not the answer that the upcoming star wanted to hear and the $100,000 per year that Converse offered him could not change his mind either.

The next invitation that Michael Jordan received was from Nike, however he was not interested in what they had to tell him and declined this invitation at first. In the end it was Jordan’s mother who convinced him to at least listen to what Nike had to offer so he took the plane and the rest, as they say, is history. Nike  decided to spend all of its marketing budget on Jordan and offered him a five-year deal worth $500,000 annually plus royalties; five times as much as any other NBA superstar was receiving at the time. It wasn’t only the sound of the money that made Nike suddenly attractive to Jordan: Nike offered Jordan his own signature shoe line. This is the kind of special treatment that Converse didn’t offer Michael and as a result they were out of the running.

However Adidas was still in the race – Jordan’s “favourite shoe”. If Adidas could have matched what Nike put on the table then Michael would have teamed up with the German brand. However Adidas missed out on this opportunity and this mistake became known as one of the worst business decisions in the last 50 years. “They didn’t feel it was worth it,” said Jordan. “Which in hindsight is perfect for me, because it made my decision much easier. And I ended up with Nike, and it became a great relationship.”

The Jordan brand was born (with the jumpman logo appearing in 1987). Since 1984 Nike’s subsidiary coproduced 27 basketball shoes with Michael Jordan. Last year, the U.S. Jordan Brand sneaker business alone had $1.25 billion in wholesale revenue. Although Michael Jordan himself isn’t playing anymore there are still active NBA players (Carmelo Anthony, Blake Griffin, Chris Paul etc.) acting as Air Jordan ambassadors and supporting the brand’s huge success within the basketball industry. Whereas in the mid and late 80’s Converse and adidas were dominating the U.S. basketball shoe market, 30 years later it is the Jordan brand that is controlling 58% of it, followed by its parent company Nike (34%), adidas (5.5%), Reebok (1.6%) and Under Armour (0.6%).

Michael Jordan himself is still earning more than $80 million per year through corporate sponsorship deals and the majority of this income is related to his partnership with Nike. The current details of this deal are a well kept secret but royalties now generate more than $60 million annually for MJ, according to a Forbes article.

You can buy yourself a lot of nice Birthday presents with that amount of money – Congratulations Michael! But also, congratulations Nike!

Is Innovation No Longer Innovative? 28th November, 2012

In a recent article, Proctor & Gamble stated that they wish to triple their rate of innovation.  Such a drive towards innovation is motivated by the belief that it will ‘lead to significant share increases, category growth and competitive advantage.’  The term innovation is now used more than ever, with many companies citing ‘innovation’ as a main focus point for profit and growth.  Indeed, the current economic climate has left brands, rights-holders and agencies to re-assess their strategies, with many recognising the need to deliver creative strategies and activations that stand out, or are considered ‘innovative.’

The Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) surveyed more than 1,200 UK marketers, 40% of which expect their organisations to embrace more risk and ambition over the next 12 months. This is also emphasised through P&G who, along with the company’s strive towards innovation, has stated that they will cut back on traditional marketing campaigns and focus time and money on high impact based strategies.  In light of P & G’s strategic developments, and the current influx of the term ‘innovation,’ I want to gain a better understanding of what innovation really is.

I want to understand what makes something truly innovative against a strategy or activation that is high in impact or creative.  (I do this in the hope to find a new term that has similar connotations, but is tailored to Slingshot’s own values.)

The problem with defining Innovation

One of the main difficulties when discussing innovation in relation to brands and agencies is finding a consistent definition as innovation varies when discussed between individuals, agencies and industries alike.  Innovation comes from the Latin term innovatus meaning ‘renewal or change.’  As a term, however, innovation has developed to offer a wide range of values brands and agencies want to be associated with.  Innovation implies an amalgamation of creativity, risk taking, the breaking of boundaries.  It refers to changing how an industry works, how an agency works, how individuals conduct their lives or changes what they perceive as normality; innovation implies creativity in an otherwise saturated market.

Whatever the definition, what is most important is that in many cases, agencies and brands that claim to innovate are not innovating and this is diluting the value of the term itself.  A while ago, Synergy asked individuals to vote on their no. 1 sporting innovation of all time.  In the running was the signing of IMG between McCormack and Palmer, with the birth of modern sport marketing.  The overall winner was the signing of Michael Jordan to Nike and the subsequent creation of the Air Jordan.

What is it that makes these examples so special? Well, IMG created one of the largest and lucrative industries in the world; and the launch of the Air Jordan marked the beginning of sports stars as worldwide brand ambassadors, and also defined the way that Nike brand today.  If we go back to the original Latin translation, these examples are true innovations as they both changed the industry.  Of course these examples are on a very large scale, and it can be stated that true innovations such as these occur very rarely, but I believe that the term innovation should be saved for instances that truly change the way people look and think about brands/agencies/industries.

What is important to recognise is that with the advancement of technology, there are so many avenues for brands and agencies to explore new ways to engage with the consumer.  If you look at Outlook Festival’s want for 3D visual artists, architects and designers to get involved to create unique stage experiences for festival goers.  Indeed, human experience is of the utmost importance when assessing sponsorship activations; and new technologies are taking human experiences to a new level.  There is no doubt that over the next decade at least, the industry will be looking for creative and exciting activations; it will be looking for ‘innovation.’  I believe that there are so many regions to explore, and all of the connotations associated with innovation are positive, we just need to find a new word.

Are Brand Ambassadors Really Worth It? 25th October, 2012

This month we’ve witnessed an end to one of the longest running and high-profile brand endorsements of all time –Nike’s sponsorship of Lance Armstrong, the shamed cyclist and denounced Livestrong founder. Inevitably there’s been a flurry of media activity since Nike unceremoniously ditched Armstrong; some quarters questioning Nike’s moral integrity (having stood by Woods, Vick and Bryant in the past); others praising the sportswear giant’s knack of only sticking by those with ‘come-back-ability’; and one journalist even going as far to put the drop in Nike’s share price down to the whole debacle.

My questions is – given the recent controversy surrounding  brand ambassadors like Armstrong and John Terry – are these egotistical mega-stars really worth the investment from a sponsor’s perspective?

The answer, in my opinion, lies with the sponsor’s brand values.  As long as the respective sportsman or sportswoman is representing the brand and its values correctly, then there can be little complaint.  For ease, let’s take Nike, whose principal reason for spending almost $800 million dollars per annum on individual endorsements is to associate the Nike Swoosh with the sporting elite; whose success has been achieved through years of hard work, dedication and natural talent.  Essentially, as long as its ambassadors are excelling in their chosen discipline, be that on the pitch, on the golf-course or on the track, they are promoting the Nike brand how they are supposed to.   Tiger Woods cheated on his wife; Michael Vick held pitbull-fights at his home (!?) and Kobe Bryant has a long list of offences that most would agree are far worse than doping, yet none of these wrongdoings directly impacted on their ability to drive a golf ball 350 yards, run a 50 yard touchdown or score 80+ points per game respectively.  For all of their wrongdoings they still represented Nike’s brand values.

In contrast, Armstrong’s doping completely shattered the illusion that he was this super-human machine whose achievements were entirely down to his dedication and intense training. As Laura Ries, an Atlanta-based marketing consultant says, “Nike is about ‘just doing it’ and that doesn’t mean drugs. It means hard work and ethics. And this flew in the face of it.”  Furthermore, his doping charge removed any thought that the clothing and equipment supplied by Nike had any impact on Armstrong’s competitive edge – we have been left with no false impressions as to what gave Lance his competitive advantage.

Whilst Nike will continue to represent the cream of the sporting elite (Rory McIlroy has reportedly been offered a ten-year £15 million per annum deal to replace Armstrong), it’s likely that certain brands will follow Red Bull in focussing on less famous athletes and increasing spend on activation. The energy drink has been hugely successful over the years in getting great market exposure and engagement through lesser known sportsmen and women – whether that be through taking BMXing to the next level, hosting the world cliff-diving championships or throwing the previously unheard of Felix Baumgartner towards earth from space.  Obviously these types of endorsements tend to suit the more extreme brands, but perhaps the Armstrong incident will encourage sponsors to see if their money might be better spent on endorsing the Felix Baumgartner’s of the sporting world, acting as the bridge for success from grass roots level to the pinnacle of their ambassadors’ careers.