MKTG Insights: Our Favorite Things of 2014 - Activations
2014 was a landmark year for sponsorship marketers. Globally, large-scale games like the Sochi Winter Olympics and the FIFA World Cup contributed to record investment and brand activity. Here at home, Canadian sponsors continue to raise the bar through greater sophistication and creative programming. 2014 taught us that while the health of our industry is strong, the landscape is becoming increasingly competitive and complex. Rights fees are rising, technology is enabling brands to push the envelope on activations and more than ever before sponsors are being casted as the moral arbiter in moments of scandal, facing pressure to leverage their financial influence into action. As the year draws to a close, MKTG will be using our weekly Friday Insights blog to provide analysis on the year that was in sponsorship. We will be writing a variety of Year in Review columns that showcase our favorite things in sponsorship from 2014. Over the next three weeks, you will see us highlight our favorite trends, activations, and deals of the year. We hope that you not only find these collections informative and educational but that you engage with us. Was there something we missed? Disagree with one of our picks. Let us know by emailing us firstname.lastname@example.org or tweeting us @SESponsorship!
Last week, MKTG presented our favourite trends in sponsorship that have emerged over the last year. The second installment of our "Favorite Things" blog series will look at our Favourite Sponsorship Activations from 2014.
Having an overarching strategic direction and a clear articulation of objectives remain fundamental to the sustainable success of a brand's investment in sponsorship. Without knowing the answer to the "why do we invest in sponsorship?" question, long-term value is unlikely to be realized. It's this realization, combined with unique and compelling activations that will ultimately dictate the success of a sponsor. With greater technology and more access points at their disposal than ever before, in an overtly branded society, breaking through is becoming increasingly challenging. It is not enough that activations ladder up to brand and business objectives - they must meet the rising standard for innovation and creativity that exists amongst consumers. Over the last couple of weeks, MKTG staff members have submitted some of their favorite activations from the past year. Those submissions have been aggregated, debated, shortlisted, and finalized. Our list is in no particular order and by our own admission, is not exhaustive (we have deliberately not included the activation programs of our clients so as to avoid bias).
1. ANZ Bank's "GAYTM's":
The Australia and New Zealand Banking Group activated their sponsorship of the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras by changing their on-site ATM's to "GAYTM's". The Bank was applauded for its display of support for diversity and inclusion in a way that was core to the way that consumers experience their brand.
2. Twitter Mirror Rolled Out In Canada:
The Twitter Mirror is a platform typically leveraged backstage at high-profile events or on the red carpet that allows celebrities to upload autographed selfies to Twitter. While the platform has been in-market in the U.S. since 2013, Twitter Canada introduced the platform to the Canadian market by partnering with MLSE at team functions such as the MLSE Gala and the Toronto Raptors Media Day. Expect to see the Twitter Mirror on-site at an increasing number of activations in 2015.
3. J.J. Watt Delivers Papa John's Pizza to Community Members:
Papa John's has partnered with Defensive Lineman J.J. Watt to activate their role as the "Preferred Pizza of the Houston Texans". In addition to donating 10% of all Tuesday sales to the J.J. Watt foundation, the pizza chain and Watt have partnered for a local activation in which Watt delivers Pizzas to members of the Houston community. In a November iteration of the program, Watt delivered pizzas to both Houston Fire & Police Department, especially significant due to the fact that Watt's father and uncle were members of the fire department. In a year in which some of the NFL's brightest stars were marked by scandal, Watt's on-field performance and commitment to philanthropy has made him one of the league's most marketable stars.
5. Manchester United Brings Online Fans to the "Front Row" with Google+ Hangout:
In March 2014, Manchester United partnered with Google to transform the front row of the legendary Old Trafford stadium into an interactive digital screen. Man U fans from around the world were able to "video call" into the stadium over the Google Hangout platform and view the match from a sideline pitch. The live viewing audiences were broadcasted on digital screens across the front row of the stadium. The program represented one of Google's first forays into sponsorship activation. Despite being a rare player in sponsorship, their technology capabilities allow for innovation and creativity that breaks through - even on a cluttered property like Manchester United.
6. Chipotle's "Cultivating Thought" Author Series:
Chipotle partnered with a number of influential thought-leaders, authors, actors and comedians to activate its restaurant packaging. In their "Cultivating Thought" author series, Chipotle integrated short essays written by a range of authors such as Malcolm Gladwell, Sarah Silverman, Judd Apatow, Bill Hader and others in order to turn its packaging into a companion during the dining experience. Executions like this have helped Chipotle build their brand experience and bring to life a real point-of-difference in order to contrast against lower price-point alternatives such as Taco Bell.
7. Budweiser's FIFA World Cup Man of the Match:
As part of their sponsorship of the 2014 FIFA World Cup, Budweiser leveraged new twitter technology to give fans a chance to vote on the "Man of the Match" in all tournament games. Fans who tapped on a #ManOfTheMatch hashtag on Twitter (both online and over mobile) would see a custom Twitter card with side-by-side player photos available for selection (a selection would then generate an automatic tweet of a user's vote). Budweiser's Twitter activation was born out of a desire to augment the fan experience with a second-screen engagement that was easy for consumers to understand and participate in. Voting was available to fans across six different languages, allowing for a truly global rollout. While Budweiser has implemented the program at a number of FIFA events, its World Cup execution resulted in record voter turnout.
8. Pepsi Leverages Blake Shelton, Katy Perry to get NFL Fans Hyped For Halftime:
Pepsi has developed a true moment of ownership in the football calendar through their sponsorship of the NFL's Halftime Show. They have done so by extending the window of the engagement around the asset with programming before and after the Halftime Show. To gain attribution for their sponsorship and generate interest in this year's show, Pepsi has leveraged both Katy Perry and Blake Shelton in both TV and online spots. The Shelton spot has gained particular traction online- it sees the country music star bring "Operation Halftime", a pop-up rock concert, to a military base to provide those who deserve it most with a can't buy music experience.
9. Under Armour's "Storm the Centre" Competition:
In 2014, Under Armour brought to life Year Two of their "Strom the Centre" Promotion. In this three-part challenge, youth hockey teams competed for a chance to play a regulation game on the Air Canada Centre ice and have a professional hockey experience. The activation effectively leveraged user-generated content from participating entrants to help shape a compelling activation narrative and galvanize competing teams. For example, teams earned points for submitted video content such as team cheers, coach imitations, pre-game speeches, skills and drills, and community involvement. The grassroots emphasis has program elements that are highly differentiated within the performance-focused apparel category
10. Asics Salutes 500 NYC Marathon Runners by 3-D Printing Statues:
Asics activated their sponsorship of the 2014 NYC Marathon by honouring running participants (the first 500 to sign up) with a miniature 3D statue of themselves. The statues were photographed in three different landmark locations along the marathon course and each photo was then sent to the participant’s Facebook account when they actually passed the same landmark in real life providing updates to friends and family. The activation craftily blended a mass exposure platform with a 1:1 marketing mechanism.
11. Snakes & Lattes Joins National Brands With TIFF Activation:
While it is primarily large corporate sponsors like Bell, RBC, and Visa who invest significantly in TIFF, local Toronto cafe Snakes & Lattes also had a presence at Canada's largest film festival. This year TIFF added a Street Festival to the agenda where more than 30 brands had on-site activations. Snakes & Lattes, a coffee shop where consumers can rent board games, set up a pop-up shop where a gaming expert made recommendations for board games based on a visitor's mood and availability. Partnerships with a local Toronto establishment helped to authenticate TIFF as a community event.
12. Fashion Brands Turn Olympic Opening Ceremonies Into Runway:
The fashion category has grown in prominence in recent Olympic cycles as the intersection of sport and lifestyle has catapulted fashion brands into Olympic sponsorship relevancy. With ratings for the Opening Ceremonies typically being significantly higher than for specific events – while also bringing in a more diverse demo to the viewing audience – the Opening Ceremonies truly are the world’s biggest runway. Notable fashion brands who had partnerships at the 2014 Sochi Olympics included: H&M (Sweden), Bogner (Germany), Ralph Lauren (USA), Hermes (France) and Fila (Britain).
13. Samsung Galaxy Alpha Crowdsources Supermodel Cover Shoot:
In a European-based activation, Samsung leveraged top supermodel Ronja Furrer in a consumer photography contest. The brand launched Alpha Cover, an interactive website in which fans can act as the photographer choosing between a variety of outfits and poses for Furrer. Participants have the opportunity to have their image selected as the cover photo for the Zurich Fashion Week edition of Swiss fashion magazine 20 Minute Friday.
14. Gatorade, Jordan Brand Say Farewell to Legendary Endorser Derek Jeter:
In Derek Jeter's final MLB season, the brands that have long enjoyed the New York Yankee legend’s presence on their endorsement roster said farewell. Earlier this Summer, Nike’s Jordan Brand paid tribute to Jeter, leveraging marquee events like the MLB All-Star Game and the ESPY’s to thank Jeter for his ambassadorship of the game of baseball. For Jeter’s last homestand in September, long-time sponsor Gatorade also took a turn in “farewell creative” for Jeter. Jeter’s retirement was leveraged by his sponsors to create a legacy piece around their association with Jeter, of the world's most respected and marketable athletes.
15. Yahoo! Launches Fantasy Football Lounge In New Levi's Stadium
Levi's Stadium, the new official home of the San Francisco 49ers which opened to start the 2014 NFL Season, features an exclusive Fantasy Football lounge sponsored by Yahoo! The lounge will be accessible to luxury suite ticket holders and can hold up to 1,600 fans. The lounge is intended to be a haven for fantasy football players - it will consist of touch-screen technology, TV screens, Wi-Fi for fantasy updates, and charging stations. Yahoo!'s activation a natural brand extension in their HQ market. Yahoo! hosts one of the most popular fantasy products in the world, and as fans are staying home in increasingly larger droves due to the demand for a second-screen experience, sponsors and properties must work to modernize the stadium experience.