Events present a huge
opportunity for connecting with an audience, and the sporting arena
holds particular appeal for brands seeking to engage current and
potential customers in the most relevant way, at scale
According to PwC's 2011 'Changing the
Game' report, global revenue from sports sponsorships will increase
from $35bn in 2010 to $45.3bn in 2015. Not surprising when you
consider that Coca-Cola set aside an additional $400m in marketing
budget to ramp up its advertising around the 2014 FIFA World
So why are sporting events so key for
brands in this interconnected world, and who is best placed to
advise marketers on global campaigns around sporting fixtures?
I recently caught up with MediaCom
Sport's director of partnerships and brands, Misha
Sher, for his take on the significance of sporting events from
the perspective of a major figure at a leading global media-buying
Recognising that sports sponsorships
are of growing importance for clients, MediaCom created a special
division to cater to this critical element of communications - and
in-house expertise has been vital to creating such a comprehensive
strategy. The division focuses on delivery, acquisition, activation
and measurements for clients such as Shell, Audi, Subway and
Procter & Gamble to maximise their investments in sports
In addition, Sher manages talent
rights and works with sporting and humanitarian figures such as
Pelé, as well as one of the biggest stars in football today, Neymar
Jr. MediaCom aims to develop authentic brand partnerships that
allow brands to elevate their marketing initiatives, which is
particularly relevant around events such as football's World Cup
and the Olympic Games.
Why are sporting events
so important for brands?
Misha Sher The media landscape has
evolved and there are many more touchpoints in the consumer journey
than ever before. It's clear that sport is playing a big part in
that evolution, particularly when it comes to major fixtures.
Increasingly, brands are turning to
events to engage their customers, and prominent sporting
competitions have the potential to do this on a big scale. The way
in which technology has evolved and the way consumers engage with
tournaments such as the World Cup has changed, an evolution that is
down to both the adoption of technology and the increasing use of
It's very rare to have such a big
audience, one that is so engaged and potentially open to
communication. This is why it's no surprise that brands are very
active in this space and are taking full advantage of these
opportunities. Consumers are watching the game live, as well as
following what is happening via their 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. This interconnected
approach 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.
Has the planning and execution of global campaigns become
more complex today?
MS The number of touchpoints in the
consumer journey has grown exponentially, which has made planning
global campaigns considerably more complicated. Again, the reasons
for this growth are the adoption of technology and the use of
social media. Technology has evolved to become a central part of
our lives and more people are using it, with increased access to
the internet, although adoption does vary from market to
Brands need to adapt in real time and
maintain a two-way dialogue with consumers, across all
Which brands do you feel have had success in sporting
activation and why?
MS Traditionally, brands such as
Coca-Cola and Nike have been at the forefront of sports marketing,
although many others are becoming more sophisticated in this area.
The successful ones tend to be those that understand their
audience better than others and are able to activate their assets
in a way that engages consumers.
We experienced this first-hand when we
worked with Coca-Cola across various markets, building on a
partnership with Pelé to maximise media impact and engagement
across multiple touchpoints. In a campaign to launch Copa Coca-Cola
[an international youth soccer tournament] in the Middle East and
North Africa region, the client used Pelé to engage with consumers,
strategic stakeholders and employees by activating the partnership
across all available channels.
By putting content and engagement at
the heart of its strategy, Coca-Cola was able to connect with
consumers wherever they were, giving everyone the opportunity to
connect with the brand. Similar initiatives were introduced in
Algeria, France and Chile, where Pelé provided Coca-Cola with a
unique asset around which it could build meaningful connections
What do brands need to bear in mind when activating global
MS One of the challenges with such
campaigns is activating them on a global level while also 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. Also, brands need to have something
to add to the conversation that consumers will appreciate in their
The way in which consumers make
purchasing decisions, as well as the customer journey, varies
across different regions. For example, when planning for the World
Cup, we knew that Brazil was an incredibly socially connected
country. Across its population of around 200m, there are more than
280m mobile devices. This means that in Brazil it is natural to
lean heavily on mobile content.
Sher also noted the importance of an
agency having a system in place to carry out day-to-day business
across all media channels. Co-ordination between various
specialist divisions, as well as other agencies involved in
execution, is critical to ensure that clients gain maximum impact
from their campaigns. Last, but not least, it's important to share
best practice across markets so that successful ideas can be
replicated where appropriate.
There are several key lessons we can
learn from Sher's experience. Agencies are constantly looking for
new ways in which to compete and get ahead in the ever-changing
global marketplace, and brands themselves are challenging their
agencies to become more connected, co-ordinated and efficient so
that maximum impact on campaigns can be achieved.
The same is being asked of technology
vendors - the ability to seamlessly connect and provide 'joined-up'
data is essential to keep up with the technology available to the
consumer, and to truly be able to plan and track their path to
Stuart Smith is Vice-president, client service
UK and Ireland, Mediaocean
First published by Marketing Magazine on 24 November