Rich Clark Marketing

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

Nationwide England Team Sponsors Logo


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The Evolution of Football Sponsorship at Nationwide

The Evolution of Football Sponsorship at Nationwide

For years sponsorship has been big business. Brands clamour to associate themselves with clubs, sporting events, festivals and broadcast properties. For some brands it has been difficult to prove the benefit and impact that these sponsorships provide. However when sponsorships have been activated as a component part of an overall strategy their values, whilst not always robustly quantifiable, are often seen as intrinsic drivers of performance.

The reason for sponsorships can be varied. From wishing to get your logo/brand out to as wide an audience as possible, to being associated with something that your target audience are passionate about all the way through to providing the perception that your brand has stature, which might be difficult to evidence elsewhere.

Stage One – National

Nationwide Football League Badges

Nationwide Football League Badges

As a national brand, with the general customer perception of smaller and almost provincial provider, Nationwide needed a vehicle to back-up their national presence. Football was an obvious area, as it is the sport with the largest spectator and playing base. But rather than jump in with a top flight club that would have provided potential view of scale quickly, it was equally as likely to polarise views.

The option to sponsor the football league came up and this was seen as a perfect opportunity. After all, nearly every town and city in the country has a football club and their support is fanatical. Being title sponsors of the league and subsequently the conference provided the real ‘one of us’ feel to the sponsorship.

Nationwide did such a great job of its sponsorship, the tail of the deal lastesd a minimum of 8-12 months after Coca Cola assumed the role. By that time Nationwide was now being seen as a national player.

Stage Two – Scale

The next stage once Nationwide was recognised as a national player was to create the perception that we were a large-scale organisation to rival the Big 4 Banks (after all Nationwide was always largest or second largest mortgage lender in the UK).

Nationwide England Team Sponsors Logo

Nationwide England Team Sponsors Logo

The opportunity to sponsor England came about. Green Flag has been sponsors but did very little with their partnership. This was a deal that could be done and for us at Nationwide to make a big impact with a premium property. The England national team was going through quite a successful period (relatively speaking).

However, as with the dilemma of polarising views that came with sponsoring a top flight club, we could be in danger of alienating whole geographies within the UK. Many high level discussions were had and the decision to go ahead was on the basis we could be title sponsors or associate sponsors for the other home nations (Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales).

Thankfully discussions with the other home nations went well and they were also secured as partners. It is a relatively well shared notion that Nationwide approached these sponsorships a little differently and with a bit more creativity than previous sponsors. Undertaking guerrilla marketing techniques before the World Cup in France and utilising player appearances in a better way than just wheeling players in to offices.

This stage was all about creating the perception of scale or size, which according to all our research and customer feedback it did.

Stage Three – Giving Something Back

Scale was achieved and the public seemed to perceive us as a genuine alternative to the Big 4 Banks. However as a brand Nationwide wanted to embody everything that a building society stood for. At the same time in the sponsorship team we wanted to make the sponsorship more valuable and connect it at a deeper level with our customers. Nationwide as a business had adopted “Proud to be Different” as both a strapline and mission statement. This was seen as a way of underpinning our difference and benefits of coming to a building society, without using confusing financial services words such as ‘mutual’, ‘members’ and ‘Building Society’.

The whole concept was to highlight how we are different through everything we do and in every way we interact with our audience. This was demonstrated through the radio ads featuring the Little Britain actors and the TV ads featuring Mark Benton, using humour for the first time in a major campaign for a financial services provider.

We decided to take this in to our sponsorship activity and rather than using it purely as an opportunity to gain exposure we wanted to turn the whole sponsorship on its head and give all the benefits back to the customers. The sponsorship activity was rebranded ‘Sponsored By You’ essentially as a Nationwide customer you were sponsoring the England team. Your name appeared in programme ads. Your name could appear on digi-boards, you could meet the players etc.

This turned sponsorship from a pure brand and awareness activity to a channel for loyalty and customer retention. This was aided by the move into UGC and Social Media before any of the current players were either here in the UK and definitely before any of them made it big.

Summary

The evolution of our strategy at Nationwide replicates how sponsorship when done well, has evolved. To make sponsorship effective, you need to take it beyond the badging and exposure of tradition and move it across many channels and give something to the target.

Whilst sponsorship can not claim credit for the shift in mindsets of the public it was certainly a substantial contributory channel.  Thankfully throughtout the evoultion the company were willing to take risks, push boundaries and offer a creative approach.  Crticial to gain standout in my opinion.

Bring your sponsorship to life and make it part of your targets conversation. That way you can move sponsorship beyond awareness driving, to much more of an engagement driving activity.

Most people know of my experience in digital marketing, however I have masses of experience in sponsorship and above the line. However, so I don’t disappoint, the follow-up to this post will be ‘How sponsorship properties can be brought to life online’. Some of this will be from personal experience at Nationwide, whilst others will be looking at best practice.

As always comments appreciated on here or via eMail.

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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.


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Missing Blog Posts

So as some regular readers of my blog will have noticed I haven’t posted any articles recently.  Firstly I would like to apologise, this isn’t because I have lost interest but due to the fact that I have recently changed roles and endure a daily 2 hour commute each way.

So what am I doing now?

Having made my career progress at DSGi taking over all Online Marketing, Design and Content for Currys, Dixons and PC World,  I dBest Buy Logoecided it was time to seek a new challenge.  Thankfully plenty of offers were on the table and I was lucky enough to choose from some fantastic opportunities.   I decided to opt for remaining in Consumer Electronics retailing but try my hand at delivering my experience within a start-up.  The opportunity at Best Buy (as reported in NMA) allowed me to set up a department and functions from scratch.

Carphone Warehouse Store Front

Whilst Best Buy aren’t your traditional start-up (part of the World’s largest Consumer Electronics Retailer) it does mean you get involved in absolutely everything.  Formulating strategy, developing plans and ensuring buy-out throughout the entire organisation.   Add in the Carphone Warehouse (who I am supprting on a consultancy basis)  element and you get an organisation of amazing scale and opportunity.

 

 

Back to tradition

In addition to truly formulating the online marketing approach I am also, driving the overall brand and comms strategy, everything from brand architecture and positioning through to developing a fully integrated comms strategy.  All this in conjunction with the Head of Marcomms, allowing us to really plan from a joined up foundation from day one.  A really refreshing approach and one that has to be the way forward.  The main obstacle blocking generally preventing this from happenning is the fact that many online marketers don’t have experience in branding or ATL comms.  Luckily my experience at both Reuters and Nationwide is helping me lead and define the approach

More to come

Whilst I can’t promise to be as active as I once was on this blog, I will start to try and produce more articles again.  Thanks to everybody for reading and thanks for the positive and constructive feedback both through the comments on the blog and via e-mail.  Also look out for updates on Best Buy as we get closer to our 2010 UK launch.


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What are your Top TV ads?

See the full blog post – My Top 5 TV Ads


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Affiliates – One Network or more

More the Merrier?

One of the questions I am regularly asked is “Should merchants partner with more than one network?”  I have been on both sides of the fence.  At Nationwide I ran with both single and multiple networks at different times.  For the majority of DSG brands we run exclusively with Affiliate Window

Competition and Loyalty

A common argument for running more then one programme is:

The networks are just virtual sales forces.  Surely an element of competition will improve performance as the networks try to beat their rivals.

On the face of it, that is a sound argument.  In certain circumstances that is true.  However wherever there is competition, there are generally winners and losers.  Whilst in the initial stages, competition is rife, often the losers motivation deteriorates.  This results in more work for the merchants and less focus on those affiliates.

In addition, some affiliates do have preferences with certain networks.  This could be down to personal relationships or the technology the network provides.  Whilst very few affiliates do work exclusively with one network, they often prioritise merchants based on the network they are with.

So do merchants on exclusive agreements miss out?

Management

Merchants on single affiliate networks benefit from a number of efficiencies.  The de-duping becomes less of an issue.  You don’t have to worry about double paying through affiliates or integrating two tracking technologies.

Processing of payments, affiliate approval and communication is streamlined.  The main benefit is the fact that relationship building with the networks become easier and more focussed.  In turn the network can talk in much more depth about your programme and sell the benefits to affiliates.

Affiliate Choice

So does one network reduce affiliate choice?  Well in one sense yes, if an affiliate really wants to work with Currys for instance, then there would only be one network.  However it does make choice easier for the affiliates and they know exactly who they need to speak with  in order to resolve issues or to negotiate incentives and optimisation.

Decision

The end game has to be based on your objectives.  If you are meeting your KPIs with one network do you need the additional work of two networks?  There is not one single answer, different approaches work for different brands with different objectives.  For me Affiliate Window offer great technology for retailers and affiliates alike.  For that reason sole networks could be the way forward.


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Top 5 TV Ads

 

This is a list of my Top 5 favourite recent or current TV ads.This won’t feature the usual high-budget productions from Nike, Guinness or Coca Cola that you are used to seeing. For me the ads on this list off something different. Create engagement, impact or break the mould in their sector. 

1. Cadburys Dairy Milk

The latest series of ads are both creative and show a brave move from the Cadburys Head of Advertising. Rather than concentrating on the chocolate or people enjoying the flavours, Cadburys have created a new stance. They have managed to mix music with humour and creativity and not once does if feel like the brand is being bastardised. Hats off to Cadburys and their agency on these. I could have picked any of the recent series, the Gorilla is probably best known, however due to currency and sheer weirdness I have selected the two kids with the 80s watch and eyebrows.

2. Compare The Market

This ad is a fine example of where creativity takes a lead over the brand police. Obviously the outcome of a creative think tank, the agency that came up with this concept probably couldn’t believe their luck when their client bit. The ad lends itself to some neat viral activity with a spin off website comparing Meerkats. It also very simply gets the message of Compare the market across. Its use of the web to extend the campaign further is a fabulous example of using all channels effectively. The Meerkat with his simples slogan, could also become a great icon. Visit Compare the Meerkat – its worth a look

3. PG Tips

The series of ads featuring Johnny Vegas and Monkey from ITV Digital is a genius idea from the outset. However the latest ad which shows the over complex method of making a cup of tea. Including the milking of the cow and Vegas dancing with Monkey to the Stripper by David Rose. It takes on some classic cartoon style moments as well as classic slapstick. There is no other tea to beat PG

 4. T-Mobile

The first time this was aired was as an exclusive to channel 4. With over 2 minutes of footage from a ‘flash mob’ in Liverpool Street train station, London – it took a while for the pay-off to show that it was an ad for T-Mobile. What T-Mobile created here was a talking point, a stand-still moment that is very rare in advertising. The slimmed down versions are no less entertaining. Whether this is more than a good one-off remains to be seen. The snippet showing a bar-code is hardly inspirational. However as a piece of creative with standout, this is up there.

5. Virgin Atlantic

The ad works on a number of levels. Maybe it is a generation thing. Maybe it’s the visual clues to the 80s, Wimpey and Our Price. Maybe it’s the distinctive Frankie sound-track. Maybe it’s the vivid colours used on the cabin crews uniform and the photogrpahy in the background. Whatever the reason. The ad works – it simply and effectively puts Virgin’s birthday message across (something I wasn’t even aware of before the ads)

Nearly made it: 

 

Nationwide Building Society OK, so I may be a little biased here (having had a hand in the development of these ads). However, Nationwide broke the mould in terms of advertising Financial Services products. Rather than solely concentrating on the product and the potentially good rate, they took a brave step of moving to a situational approach. It focussed on exactly what Nationwide isn’t by introducing the bungling Bank Manager, played by Mark Benton. This combination of good story, good one liners and a pay off, mean it is without doubt worthy of a place. Also, it was a contributory factor to the downfall of those annoying Halifax/Howard ads.

 Barclaycard  The ad with the slide is another fine example of standout within a sector. Finance is slowly moving away from the stayed boring ads. Visually it stands out with good filmography and great visual clues to every day life (Scanning card in supermarket). The music is unusual (Let your love flow by The Bellamy Brothers) offering standout. The addition of a few funny elements such as getting stuck on the slide and the towel line, means this deserves a mention.

Love to hear your views.  Do my choices resonate with you?  Or do they jar with every sense you use?