Opinion

An opportunity to do something great – or not at all


Men chasing a pig’s bladder about for 90+ minutes gets huge international coverage. Can you leverage some of the passion for your brand? Or, more to the point, should you?

OK, let me declare my position straight off the bat (to mix sporting metaphors): I’m no football fan. Yes, a kick-around with a BBQ, fine. But I can’t abide watching it. I don’t follow any teams, I’m not interested in last night’s score, who got sent off or who should have been substituted. I’m more interested in watching live darts – at least it tests my mental arithmetic…The reason I’m stating this now is that I’m fully aware that my position could lead to value judgements being made about the advertising and marketing activity that surrounds events like the World Cup.

The idea for this particular post was sparked by the leader in Marketing Week, the latest edition of which is a World Cup special, containing all sorts of useful information about how to leverage your brand during the forthcoming competition. An interesting read undoubtedly, but it did make me wonder about the worth of some of the coming activity.

So let’s look at the issue dispassionately, starting with five plus points in favour of designing your latest campaign to tie in with the football fever which is sure to grip the nation.

1)Lots of people will be watching the games. Lots of people will be talking about the games. The nation’s psyche will be primed to drink up everything related to the matches, from live coverage to post-match analysis and sports-related clothing.
2)There will be lots of coverage of the matches. They will be screened on the TV, discussed in the press (probably in ROP rather than just in the sports pages at the back), radio hosts will go on about them. Without a penny spent on advertising, the profile will be high.
3)People are passionate about football and the World Cup will attract even those who only take a passing interest for three years out of four. Individuals who normally need to be reached through other channels will come into line with the large majority of the nation.
4)The competition is global and so your campaign has a potential reach in the tens/hundreds of millions.
5)It’s a fairly easy campaign to execute (unless you go for something either outlandish or terrifically unusual across a variety of platforms). Football is football is football – the pitch will never be round, there will never be a square ball and the rules don’t change that often. You won’t find that you design a campaign only to have the goalposts moved just after you sign off the creative.

And now for the downsides…

A)It’s an easy idea, and this prompts a raft of dull, unimaginative advertising campaigns, whose creators seem to believe that, just by jumping on the World Cup bandwagon, they can suddenly activate all of these new potential consumers who they’ve been missing up to now.
B)It’s a global competition. For many companies in the UK at least, their core consumer market isn’t global. It’s local or regional at best. Sure, the big transnationals are always going to benefit by leveraging the World Cup, but then they can afford to buy the required volume of media space to ensure decent visibility and retention metrics. To prove this point, read the (excellently written) piece in Marketing Week which focuses on six strategies to get the most out of the World Cup – and concentrate on the brands mentioned. Global advertising campaigns tend to overshadow local ones.
C)Some people aren’t passionate about football and are very good at screening anything to do with football out.
D)Match coverage is often in places where only the ‘big players’ can afford to buy media space, thus cutting out any company without suitably deep pockets. Of course, one of the golden rules of marketing is positioning – so if your company can’t afford to buy an ad on ITV/Sky, a billboard outside a ground or space within national print media (guaranteeing that your ad will be next to the coverage, of course), where does this leave your campaign? How are you going to effectively access the hype and coverage?
E)There’s a lot of noise out there at the best of times, and especially around something like the World Cup where a majority of advertisers – from chocolate bars to recruitment agencies, carpet fitters to anti-drink-drive campaigns – are jumping on the bandwagon. It’s hard enough to get a campaign noticed anyway, but when so many brands are doing essentially the same thing, it’s even more difficult. What’s the potential pay-off for your brand/company? Are you prepared to run with the herd to chase down a few extra activations or could you get a better result by concentrating on your core activity and refining that still further? Are you just making a few football references for the sake of it or are you genuinely convinced that it’s right for your brand?

(A quick note on point E: difficult is worth doing and there have been some great creative campaigns out there centred around previous World Cups.)

So, where does that leave all of the impending activity, or activity for future events come to that?

It all comes back to strategy and execution. If the campaign doesn’t fit firmly into a business’ strategy, is it really worth spending the time and the effort on?
My answer would be no. One must also consider audience applicability as well. If a football theme isn’t right for the core audience, is it worth spending time and money on developing World Cup related activity to gain a few new fringe customers? Will their spend over the next four years bring in more than the costs you incurred getting them?

And the execution has to be brilliant to cut through all of the noise that’s out there. This applies equally to small businesses or transnational corporations. There’s just so much activity that rolls out at times like these it can be like trying to spot a snowflake in a blizzard (unless you’ve got a budget of millions and own the snow-machine in the first place). Cut-through executions needn’t be expensive, but they have to be good – or at least founded on a dazzling idea.

I think that the campaigns surrounding this year’s World Cup will be interesting to watch. Yes, I’m expecting 85-90% drivel and pointless brand over-extension, but I think that there will be some genuine moments of brilliance that use the entire media spectrum to tap into the pitch-side/sofa-side passions that will sweep the country (hopefully some really decent XM as well to bring it into the public arena rather than just on a billboard/magazine ad etc). And there will be a few campaigns targeting people like me, who wait until the match starts before heading to the supermarket (it’s so much quieter and more civilised).

What I really hope for, however, is to see some small businesses without budgets of millions coming up with creative, appropriate campaigns that help them to get the best out of the passion while keeping true to their strategy and core markets.

We shall have to wait and see.

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One thought on “An opportunity to do something great – or not at all

  1. Pingback: I don’t want to sound like I’m gloating but… « Interacter's Blog

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