Rich Clark Marketing

Opinions from Rich Clark one of the UK's leading Marketing Professionals


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Best Ads at the Moment

Its been a while since I commented on Hot Ads on TV at the moment but a handful that have caught my eye recently.  They are both completely different ads with wildly different production but both have an element of humour, which potentially explains more about me than great advertising.  If there was one common theme between the ads (which in advertising law isn’t good) you could easily miss what is being advertised especially on first view.

Doggy Dentures

This ad, if you haven’t seen it, is for Pedigree Dentastix, chew treats for dogs that apparently help them clean their teeth. This is a ridiculously simple ad but the whole view of the dogs with gleaming white dentures just works.

Volkswagen

This has polarised  opinion in a few quarters, but in my view is a classic ad.  Once again relatively simple in the sense that the boy dressed in his Darth Vadar costume tries to use the force on various objects.  The darkside Star Wars tune plays throughout and at the end the lad genuinely thinks he used the force when the lights flash on his dad’s VW. Brilliant!

Cadburys

The dancing clothes is a great ad.  Complex fance moves and oversized settings are what makes this ad great.  Technically very difficult to master and film but looks ridiculously simple on screen.  However Cadburys have come up with another tune that just works, even resulting in “We Don’t Have to Take Our Clothes Off” being in the charts earlier today.

And the not so good…

Comparethemeerkat

Apologies for all you meerkat fans, but I seem to remember in the very early days when I rated the original ad so highly, that I thought the concept could annoy after a while.  Well I think Alexander hit that stage a while back and is now just plain annoying.  So much so, I think I prefer the GoCompare opera man.


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Impact of Urban Culture on Sports Brands

Once upon a time, a long time ago – people lived nice comfortable middle class lives.  They listened to their lovely music which the whole family enjoyed.  However this changed in the late 70s early 80s when a new culture began to impact on lives.  Initially this was underground culture in the US.  However as it grew bigger in the US and grew from underground to niche it began to migrate to the UK, becoming huge in the 90s.

After reading that opening paragraph you might be wondering what the hell I am talking about.  Well let me explain.

At last the youth of this era had something they could relate to that wasn’t ageing long haired rockers, thrashing their guitars and screaming like banshees.  This was the emergence of urban culture.  The most noted rise at this point was actually in Hop Hop culture with b-boys, breakdancers and of course Hip Hop (Rap) music.  At the same time though was another strand including House.

The main impact happenned when Grandmaster Flash released the seminal piece of Whitelines, noted for its mesmoric tune and catchy chorus this track took to the airwaves.  Granted some radio DJs and music commentators took their time to link to the obvious link to drugs, and maybe that’s the reason for its success.  But this was the start.

The culture wasn’t limited to the music, along with the music came the dance.  Along with the dance came the clothing.  Along with the clothing came a new attitude.  An attitude of change and challenge.  This new urban culture was all about bucking the trend.  This was something adopted very early by youths in the UK, particularly and perhaps understandably by youths of an Afro-Carribean descent.  It gave them a powerful voice, that demanded to be listened to.  Of course it touched and impacted people from all different types of backgrounds.

The culture has evolved a lot through the years and has touched many areas, including film, Spike Lee’s Do The Right Thing was a chilling tell of life in New York at the time.  This sparked a whole genre of films which created new directors and became more challenging Boys In The Hood and New Jack City.  It also created a brand of humour through the likes of House Party and White Men Can’t Jump.

It wasn’t just Hollywood that was challenged.  Spike Lee appeared in a memorable ad for Nike which transformed the brand from very White Middle Class athletic wear to edgy fashion items.  This was carried on by Nike owning the basketball space with launching  Nike Air Jordan in 1984.  More recently areas such as street tournaments have taken off, which really focusses on bring sport to the real street level.

I caught up with Ortis Deley, presenter on Channel 5s Gadget Show and he summed it up really well for me  “I think the two have become synergistic.  I can’t imagine one without the other.  The eighties have a lot to answer for.”  The 80s for me was the real initial link, back to Public Enemy and Troop.

But why did urban culture adopt sportswear? And importantly what does it actually mean?

Why was sportswear adopted in urban culture?

There is no 100% certain answer to this.  When the adoption first happenned the figures ‘on the streets’ were generally young men.  They played sport both seriously and as a hobby.  As sportswear brands such as Nike, Reebok and Adidas took the lead from niche players such as Troop they developed the styles and fashion of their product.  Increasingly changing ranges meant youths wanted to gain bragging rights by owning the latest trainer.

Technology was increasing as well.  Cushioned platforms in the trainer (that were the preserve of the expensive running shoe) were being put in more trainers, most famously in Nike Air trainers and later with Reebok’s Pump trainers.  Purely and simply this made them the most comfortable footwear around.  Ideal for kicking about “on the street”.

Perhaps the biggest influence however was when Nike got Spike Lee the symbolic figure in urban culture endorsing their brand.  The advert and strong endorsement was seen as a massive step forward, adding the fact that the products appeared by name in the firs t massive hit from Spike Lee “Do the Right Thing” meant that the link was cemented.  All Nike had to do was claim the link between culture and its range and the job was done.

Nike (perhaps) more successfully than any of its rivals did more than that.  They adopted a massive link to possibly the “greatest athlete on earth” at the time Michael Jordan.  The man could do no wrong.  He won everything in his sport and due to his text book style to dunking he (and Nike) created a symbol.  This symbol and Jordan himself became the must have for any youth.

The film tie-ins continued with Nike again associated in one of the biggest ‘urban’ films of the 90s in White Men Can’t Jump’ the comedy that took the link further and actually made a movie about basketball, street culture and music. Making fun of the apparently ‘clutsy white men’ Woody Harrelson, pumping up his trainers, whilst the uber cool Wesley Snipes starred in is Nikes.

What does it actually mean?

Well sports brands that get the link become part of everyday life within street culture.  People often don’t say do you like my trainers, they say do you like my Nikes? Or my Reeboks?  The segement are willing to pay top money for the right product as a lot of the focus is on bragging rights and getting the latest and best.

If a brand can capture the audience, they can make them fiercely loyal.  I remember in my group of friends growing up, peers that would only buy Nike (even after Jordan had finished) – I myself bought a pair of the second generation Jordans when they were re-released.

The culture is very demading though.  Not only do the brands need to keep up its innovation to make the product better than its competitors it also needs to invest in its brands.  This investment needs to be in design and notably also in its endorsements.

Again, Nike is particularly good at this.  The influence of culture from the states has diminished slightly and the super-icons of the football world are now more prominent again.  Nike has the majority of key names in this field including the entire Brazil National Team and did a great job with the likes of Edgar Davids, Ronaldinho and currently Cristiano Ronaldo.  However, Adidas reacted in this space and have their own stable of stars including Lampard and Messi.

The connections have become so interlinked that in some people’s minds this the two have fused together.  I think this is best illustrated by the street tournaments that various brands have organised.  A great example is Usain Bolt racing through the streets courtesy of Puma.

The biggest positive to the whole relationship is that the brands have created genuine role models for people to aspire to.  The likes of Michael Jordan was a great positive example during a time when music was creating role models that parents didn’t want their children to aspire to. Nike has had a great reputation of this using the likes of Tiger Woods (although he managed to harm this), Kobe Bryant and now Puma with Usain Bolt

Whilst this is a lucrative market, because of its demanding nature it is as much about fashion as it is endorsement.

In short, if a brand can crack this area and maintain both its credibility and relevance it is on to a winner.  If it doesn’t it will have no place to play (where are Troop and Fila now?)


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Celebrity Endorsements

With high-profile celebrity status, endorsements, sponsorship and advertising deals generally follow.  However sometimes the celebrity face becomes stronger than the brand itself.  If a brand is to select a celebrity to front their brand then they need to be 100% certain it they will resonate with the target audience and act as a suitable ambassador.

Sadly with some celebrities comes a fair share of controversy.  The likes of Tiger Woods and John Terry have brought shame upon themselves recently and haven’t reflected well on their brands.  The likes of Kerry Katona and David Beckham have also caused their brand associations to become strained over the years.  Some of these celebrities have done minor things which in the grand scheme of things aren’t huge, some of created furore bordering on national disgraces.

So why do brands continue to use celebrities? What are the risks? What are the benefits? And are there alternatives?

Why use celebrities?

Brands that produce or sell luxury goods often use celebrities.  They choose celebrities that they perceive share the same values as their products. Celebrities that offer the glamour, to portray their products as aspirational to the general public.  The perfume and cosmetic industries generally use glamorous or beautiful people to show how effective their products are.  These celebrities have generally been huge celebs from supermodels to hollywood stars.

Another key trick is to pick up on somebody that’s popular or hot at the moment.  Whilst I mentioned in the above post of perfume and cosmetics companies picking über glamour, brands like L’Oreal are experts at hand-picking people “of the moment”, classic examples include Cheryl Cole and at one point footballer David Ginola.  Garnier also pulled off the coup of grabbing a popular celebrity by enrolling Davina McCall.  There are other cases when companies get it wrong, remember Jason McAteer advertising shampoo? More bad decisions later in this post.

The potential

Get the celebrity right and your brand could be off to a flyer.  The endorsement is believable and customers want to be associated with the brand as much as the celebrity.  Get it wrong and the endorsement looks at best paid for and at worse ridiculous.  Of course it isn’t always down to the celebrity, sometimes it is as much the cheesy production of an ad that breaks down the credibility – Jamie Redknapp and Louise Redknapp holiday commercial anybody?  It can also be the innocent and bizzarrely naive actions that undermine the endorsement (David Beckham shaven his head whilst advertising Brylcreem).  Whatever the case brands need to have a plan in place to mitigate poor choices by either their agency or celebrity figurehead.

The potential is also great.  If you can get an up and coming act at the start of their rise you could benefit in two ways.  Ride the crest of their rise to fame and receive some quedos in terms of helping them achieve their goals.  If the tie-up works as it should in your strategy meetings then there is no reason why you can’t succeed.  Nike seem great at this. They consistently select sports stars that embody sporting excellence and in the main shy away from bad news stories.  They also execute their merchandising, promotion and Marketing strategies with clinical expertise.  Michael Jordan was perhaps the best example of this.  Jordan was an NBA superstar, Nike created an image for Jordan and in terms helped him reach World status, perhaps unrivalled by any NBA star either then or now.  They have also successfully used the Brazilian national football team to great effect.  Their ads show the squad performing awe-inspiring tricks whilst maintaining a genuine feel to what is being played out on TV.  However this particular tie has also caused controversy, with concerns over the depth of influence Nike has on the Brazilian national association.

Good tie-ins

So as mentioned previously good tie-ins are ones that match celebrities with the brand.  Maybe they share similar values or appeal to the same audience.  They match has to be believable and resonate with the audience.  Below are my suggestions of good tie-ins.

Nike and Micheal Jordan

For all the reasons highighted previousy, Jordan became bigger than an NBA star, bigger than the man himself.  Jordan became a ridiculously huge commercial engine.  The relationship was part of Nike’s desire to corner sporting excellence with their brand.  Jordan also gave Nike the urban edge, with Nike Air Jordan shoes the choice footwear for Hip Hop stars and fans.

L’Oreal and Cheryl Cole

Cheryl Cole has had her issues in her past, including allegations of racial assault.  However the Girls Aloud star has turned things around since becoming one of the key faces in the band and a judge on X-Factor.  Her showbiz marriage to controversial footballer Ashley Cole also made her a media darling.  With Ashleys alleged extra-marital activities she came from being and aggressor to a strong independent woman.  This mix of defined character and huge success was an instant pull for L’Oreal and despite Cole’s strong North East accent, she fitted the role perfectly.

Sainsburys and Jamie Oliver

Sainsburys have long battled the likes of Tesco to become a force in the highly competitive supermarket sector.  This has been helped in no small means by TV chef Jamie Oliver.  Jamie was always well liked as a TV personality, however he took a few risks that could have back fired.  Taking on the government and schools to improve school dinners propelled Jamie into the big time.  This good feeling towards Jamie has rubbed off on to Sainsburys.  The tie-in also works due to Jamie being famous for food, which is the staple component of Sainsburys.

Walkers and Gary Lineker

Walkers crisps have gone from another snack food company to the dominant player in UK crisps and snacks.  This incredible journey has gone almost hand-in-hand with taking local star and national hero Gary Lineker.  The ads and concepts have adapted over the years, but Lineker is a constant.  Even off the back of the ex-England stars marriage breakdown, Lineker has remained a popular figure.

Bad tie-ins

The tie-ins here are about as popular as a fart in a lift.  Some due to poor judgement in terms of celebrity, others due to actions after becoming associated to the brand.  Either way, just take a look and squirm or tell me how wrong I am.

Iceland and Kerry Katona

So when Iceland first pulled off the coup of landing Jungle queen Kerry their ad execs must have been rubbing their hands together.  They had one of the nations favourite and a normal down to earth girl made good.  Unfortunately, the public very quickly saw Kerry as a figure to loathe rather than love, not helped by her own misdemeanours.  Since then Katona has come out as having problems with various addictions, debt and failed relationships.  Iceland have since dropped Katona

Accenture and Tiger Woods

Accenture one of the world’s premier consulting firms paid a massive sum to use the image of undoubtedly the world’s best golfer, the Jordan of PGA and all round admired sports star, Tiger Woods.  Tiger has since been found to have a number of extra-marital affairs and has been treated for alleged sex addiction.  Tiger was all over the front pages for all the wrong reasons.  Tiger was promptly dropped by Accenture.

What is the alternative?

So as discussed the potential for a star to gain bad press through either misguided naivity or more worryingly through poor actions that damage their public equity as well as a brands.  So despite all the benefits should you do something else?

Well brands such as Halifax and B&Q have used their own staff to varying degrees of success.  This isnt always the best route as you aren’t guaranteed to find a personality big enough to make an impact or if you do, they could become primadonnas.  This provides equal issue of reliance on a face to lead your brand.

So how about using a character?  Advertising seems to go through cyclical phases where characters become the force and celebrities go into the background.  At the moment some of the most successful ad campaigns feature characters.  Immediate campaigns that spring to mind include Meerkat, Compare the Market, Opera singer, Go Compare and Churchill the nodding dog, Churchill Insurance.  Bizarrely, all of these are finance related.  These factors can be as problematic as celebrities.  With characters you are generally expected to tell a story and improve on one campaign to another.  The non-finance ad that springs to mind is Cillit Bang.  The ad campaign also pushed Barry Scott in to becoming a cult figure, especially within student communities.  However an outburst by the character on social media and the uncovering that Barry was indeed made up has meant to concept has backfired.

Another alternative, which may sound groundbreaking is concentrate on your company, your business and promote what is good or different about it.  Or pick a theme that can create a platform as opposed to a one-off.

Potential future tie-ins

So to sign off, I thought I would suggest a few light hearted tie-ins.

Dolmio and Joe Calzaghe – Dolmio’s animated Italians would be no match for World Champion boxer Calzaghe.  Would his Welsh accent generate credibility issues?

Red Bull and Robbie Williams – Robbie made a particularly highly charged performance on X Factor.  This could easily be the result of a Red Bull marathon.

Specsavers and Arsene Wenger – The Arsenal manager is well known for saying, “I didn’t see anything” – maybe Specsavers could set the Frenchman’s sight back to 20:20.

Kalms and Naomi Campbell – World renowned laid back super model Campbell would be the perfect ambassador for Kalms.  She could even undertake roadshows highlighting to the public how to avoid conflict.

Disney Channel and Amy Winehouse – A match made in heaven.  The world’s cleanest and happiest TV channel with, um, err, Amy Winehouse.


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Do us a Flavour

Walkers – Do us a flavour

So in the first of the case studies to illustrate my 5 F’s theory, comes Walkers and “Do us a flavour”.

The Context

Walkers has always enjoyed a special closeness with the British public.  A relationship that has brought them huge commercial success and an almost dominant position in the crisp market.  Unlike most dominant players in their sector, there seems relatively little animosity towards Walkers.

Part of this has been down to product development but this significant position has also been achieved through great marketing.  Picking up on the status of national hero Gary Lineker was a masterstroke, and it is a relationship that still lives on today.  Walkers are responsible for creating some magic moments with some of the in-demand public profiles.  The classic example of this was when Walkers created a football execution involving Gary Lineker and a tearful Gazza (Paul Gascoigne).  Other celebrities such as Charlotte Church and more recently Cat Deeley have appeared.

Rather than develop the same theme and just extend it, Walkers created a real point of difference.

The campaign

In 2008, Walkers “Do us a flavour” campaign moved their advertising on by taking participation to a whole new level.  Capturing the mass love of social media and User-Generated-Content (UGC), Walkers created a campaign that involved the public and created a genuine national debate.  The beauty of the campaign was that it didn’t live in one space or develop through one-channel it almost became part of the British way of life.  The campaign obviously lived online.  However it also crossed TV ads, in-store, outdoor, radio,  mobile and even IVR (Interactive Voice Response).

The fact that the public suggested over 1.2m flavours (that equates to 2% of the UK population submitting a flavour) and over 1m votes on the final shortlist, proves what a storm the campaign created.

The campaign essentially became the first large-scale initiative to put the British public in control.  The election process was clear and straightforward.  Crowd sourcing at its best.  In hindsight this was a masterstroke as the campaign was also live when realtiy TV was at its peak.  All shows that centre on the population (viewers) being in control.

On top of all these factors, Walkers didn’t throw away the heritage and familiarity of its previous campaigns, Gary Lineker remained a focal point of the campaign.

So why did it work?

Well, partly down to the fact that Walkers spent a hell of a lot of cash on the campaign.  However, you could argue that this was no more than they would have spent on a standard campaign.  So Fortune was a factor in terms of spend.

For me the F’s that really made the difference were Fame.  The chance that “normal” people could get a massive amount of coverage regardless of whether they won.  Their creations, designs or concepts would reach hundreds of thousands of people, very few opportunities like that exist, unless you have an immense Talent (then maybe you could get on X-Factor).  The second success factor was Fortune (not the campaign spend).  The winner secured a huge £50,000 prize.  If that wasn’t enough, they also got 1% share of the revenue for all future sales, in theory, thats the pension sorted.

In my view the combination of social media nuances, putting the people in control and a massive fortune to the winner was a sure fire hit.  Yes the campaign spend did help.

And the winner is…

I suppose after waxing lyrical about the campaign it is only fair to reference the winning flavour – its was of course – Builder’s Breakfast.


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Ad of the decade?

Ad of the decade

I recently found myself watching inane television, sometimes it just has to be done.  In between wrapping Christmas presents along came a show on ITV called Ads of the Decade.  As a Marketing professional how could I not watch this?  I began mentally preparing a list in my head Cadburys Gorilla, Meerkat, Bud, Honda Choir, Honda Cog, Levis twisty jeans, Honda Hate Something – sparking some great online activity  (in fact Honda come out quite a lot) maybe even the Coke Happiness Factory.

Which ad would win it though? A whole lot of advertising thought leadership and creative development ready to be audited, reviewed and ranked.

The list (in alphabetical order)

1. Barclaycard: Waterslide
2. Budweiser: True / Wassup
3. Cadburys: Drumming Gorilla
4. Cadburys: Eyebrows
5. Carlsberg: Old Lions
6. Citroen C4: Transformer
7. Compare the Market: Compare the Meerkat
8. Guinness: Tipping Point
9. Halifax: Howard
10. Honda: Cog
11. Hovis : Go On Lad
12. John Smiths Bitter: Various ft. Peter Kay
13. John West Salmon: Bear
14. PG Tips – Monkey
15. Skoda: Bake
16. Sony Bravia: Balls
17. Sony Bravia: Paint
18. Sure for Men: Stunt City
19. T Mobile: Dance
20. Volkswagen: Singing in the Rain

And the winner is…

There were some great ads in the top 20 list.  Some real outstanding examples and some not so great ones on the roster.  So who would seem the most obvious?  Honda’s are really creative, T-Mobile brought Flash-Mob to the mainstream, Monkey was both creatively good but also really funny and Cadburys Gorilla created such a buzz in both pub and online conversations.  Howard…?  Well enough said.

The Sony Bravia ads were brilliantly produced and I am amazed the paint execution didn’t rank higher.  That being said the winner was the Hovis ad directed by Ridley Scott and when it first aired was the longest ever advert on British TV, some 122 seconds long.  Obviously symbolic of the fact the first Hovis loaf was sold some 122 years ago.

I love the ad and it is a great representation of Britain through the years.  The production values are outstanding and the story is executed in a good manner.  Is it the best ad of the decade?  I am not entirely sure, although I can understand why people would vote it.

Whatever your view, the list represented a diverse mix of ads with different types of executions.  It shows that there are streams of creative excellence still strong in the UK advertising industry.

The future

So when we reach the ends of the teens and 2019 draws to a close, will we be talking about a list of TV ads or will it be some completely different medium.  Maybe internet, apps or a channel that has yet to emerge.  One thing is certain, as marketeers we will need to think of ever increasingly creative ways to communicate with our audiences.  We will also need to consider how our audience will want to consume our messages or even lead us.


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Product Placement back on UK TV

Regulation U-Turn

Simon Cowell PhotoAs terrestrial commercial TV revenue streams continue to struggle in these difficult financial times, the government have agreed in principal to lift the ban on product placement on TV.  However this isn’t an even playing field as the ban is still likely to effect productions made for the BBC.

In theory the lifting of the ban could produce a decent level of secondary advertising income for programmes such as Coronation SCheryl Cole Photo from X Factortreet or Hollyoaks, however I would question the actual volume revenue unless we get into placements on the scale of those seen in 80s American blockbusters such as Superman.  I can picture X-Factor now, Simon Cowell and Cheryl Cole drinking from very well branded Coca Cola glasses.  The introduction really needs to have some clear parameters.  The move is rumoured to be worth c. £100m to the commercial broadcasters, something that would be welcomed in these troubled times.  Contrary to some of the critics, I don’t see such a big issue as long as programme writers and producers can keep their editorial integrity in place.

The benefit of this U-turn does provide an improvement to the ambience of the sets in drama series.  Rather than some bizarre made-up lager in the Woolpack we will actually see genuine brands, making it more realistic.  Why should Eastenders be any different though?

If advertisers can get their products in the right placements and done in a non-intrusive way it could really support their brand.  Association with popular programmes or characters could help support their brand credentials.  However association with programmes such as reality shows could provide as many issues as benefits.  I would imagine that Big Brother would have made a significant amount of money from product placement.  Imagine the likesPhoto of Big Brother 10 Winner Sophie of Craig from the original series drinking a can of Carlsberg.  Or this years Big Brother winner Sophie tucking into Cadburys Dairy Milk.


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Football Sponsorship in the changing climate

Is the backdrop for sponsorship changing?

There is a lot of talk in both the marketing and sports arenas that the climate for sponsorship is changing.  Sponsorship in football isn’t new.  During the 1920s Lillywhites negotiated exclusive rights to publish FA fixture lists.  In the 30s the top players of the time such as Sir Stanley Matthews, were seen to endorse and advertise a range of products from cigarettes to mens cosmetics.  So David Beckham was beaten in his endorsements by some 70 years.david beckham england

In the 70s football was in the midst of a mini economic crisis, crowds were falling and players’ wages increasing.  The Football League decided to create some (short-lived) tournaments such as the Texaco Cup and the Watney Cup (won by Bristol Rovers).  However it was the Football League Cup that secured the first major sponsorship deal in 1982, the Milk Cup was formed.  Most of the major tournaments have since secured sponsorship deals, either associate or title sponsorship.

The combined factors of the economic downturn and the rise of online for more than just purely acquisitional methods of promoting your brand, has helped to create this perception.  Examples of the changing commercial climate in football were cited, when the likes of Setanta failed to make their rights to major football pay.  The collapse of Setanta in the UK despite rights to Premier League football and Scottish Premiership and several other high profile sporting occassions could be perceived as the end of the commercial euphoria that has changed the English game.

Never has the English game been under this kinf of pressure since ITV Digital collapse put a number of English clubs at risk.  The increase of clubs entering administration in the game at the lower levels also adds fuel to the fire.  The current decline of the pound against  the Euro (combined with 50% tax rate) is also resulting in some top players such as Ronaldo moving abroad or considering the move.

All doom and gloom?

However, there is still an influx of cash from (in the main) overseas backers, meaning football at all levels is still getting investment.  This isn’t just top flight any more, the likes of Southampton and Notts County are also being pushed.  The fact that Setanta had their rights replaced so promptly by the likes of ESPN also helped ease some of the concerns.

There are also some key sponsorship deals that have been signed recently including Chelsea‘s deal with Samsung.

A new approach

Obviously it isn’t always possible to rely on investment from overseas billionaires.  For every Chelsea and Abrahmovic there are 50 not so fortunate clubs.  So how do they survive?  Well frankly, some don’t, however others have discovered more creative approaches to their sponsorship.

Some of the clubs have benefited from giving away naming rights.  For example when Arsenal moved from their long-term Highbury home to their new stadium, Emirates Airways secured a reported 10 year muli-million pound deal to create the Emirates Stadium.   A number of traditional supporters think this is a step too far, however most accept that this is the current trend and the only way to stay competitive.  So stadiums have been sponsored, shirts don logos, individual players have become commodities, the only thing left is the club itself, steeped in tradition and part of the community.  Not for too long.  Whilst accepted overseas with the likes of Eindhoven being name PSV (Philips) and Salzburg (FC Red Bull Salzburg) bringing corporate life to the centre of their existence.  Now financially troubled Stirling Albion are looking to go the same route and offer naming rights on a five year deal.  Whilst it will undoubtedly annoy the real traditional football followers it is better to keep the club going.

Whilst other lower league clubs continue to grapple with the current climate not all are going down the extreme route of auctioning their identity.  Bristol Rovers took the creative route to gain revenue by raffling its shirt sponsorship.  The club claim to have come up with the idea as they feared their sponsorship revenue would decrease if they managed to secure one at all.  The raffle is estimated to have generated double the revenue that they would have expected for sponsorship in a growing economy.  It also created a lot of buzz around the community and generated some good PR.

Whatever happens to the economy overall, the British game will continue and will without a shadow of doubt continue to generate revenue, either from wealthy investors, major sponsorship tie-ups or the inventive methods shown by smaller clubs such as Stirling Albion and Bristol Rovers.

What about the sponsors?

Never has the need for sponsors to connect to the recipients of their sponsorships been so great.  With the growing consumpion of alternative media, people are now driving the news and owning the media agenda.  With the likes of Twitter or Facebook, users can endorse or undemine a sponsorship within mintues of its announcement or perhaps more importantly within minutes of being exposed to it.

Big Brother LogoAny organisation that sponsors any property, whether it is a football club, event or a broadcast property such as Big Brother, needs to have a reason to be associated.  When I was at Nationwide we developed a whole campaign that enveloped our sponsorship properties (primarily the England Football Team).  Our “Sponsored by You” campaign put all the perks of being a corporate sponsor back in the hands of our members and the average fan.  Members of Nationwide could win VIP tickets to see England, get a player to a local school or get signed merchandise.  It also encourage winners to post videos or photos of their experience.  This kind of approach allows the organisation a place within the recipients passion, and makes them feel welcomed. 

Sponsors need to move away from thinking about sponsorships as merely a means to get their name out to a mass audience.  They really need to make them work or face a waste of marketing spend that could have been utilised to a far greater degree elsewhere.