Red Thread

How to get the right balance for Sponsorship Content

The Tour de France is now well underway after a packed 3-day sojourn in the UK and the first flurries of associated marketing content have arrived alongside.

For the Brit-centric crowds the content highlight has been Jaguar’s Team Sky piece on Chris Froome cycling the channel tunnel. It’s a well shot piece, lots of lingering logo shots, and a tightly wrapped story.

It also highlights the big balancing act in producing content, brand message vs. share-ability.

The key dilemma is an obvious one: do you create a content piece that is  fully on-brand for the sponsor, lands all of your key messages, but does so at the risk of no-one watching; or one that is compelling, is of interest to the maximum possible audience, but possibly only tangential to the sponsor brand.

The test I always use for the latter – can you fully describe the content of this video without any need to reference the sponsor?

In this case, yes you can, and there is not a clear enough ‘ownership’ of the content by Jaguar to explicitly mention them  – Jaguar’s investment of hundreds of thousands of Euros becomes little more than ‘Chris Froome rides through the Channel Tunnel’. Jaguar have made a fair effort here but it’s branding by stealth; this is content about Team Sky with the maximum number of Jaguar images added and an attempt at integration in the VoiceOver.

The content is good. And a clip from the video even made it onto the Tour de France highlights show in a primetime slot with the UK broadcaster ITV – a coup for any content agency – but the clip was of Chris Froome, in the Channel Tunnel. No cars, no mention, no visibility of Jaguar.

“I do not regard advertising as entertainment or an art form, but as a medium of information. When I write an advertisement, I don’t want you to tell me that you find it ‘creative.’ I want you to find it so interesting that you buy the product”
– David Ogilvy, Ogilvy on Advertising

It’s a common problem and it gets harder the less ‘lifestyle-centric’ the sponsor brand is. NaS-Hennessey is still my favourite content collaboration because the piece is a full integration of the two brands that also happens to be compelling for that audience.

This issue of balancing brand and share-ability also highlights the importance of agency incentives. How your agencies are judged and rewarded makes a huge difference to your end product.

So if your content is produced by your PR agency (who are primarily judged base on reach and views) then the focus will be on share-ability, often at the expense of the core message. The worst case scenario is you’ve spent €100k, €200k, €500k, got a million views, and no-one is any the wiser about what you stand for.

If your content is produced by a creative agency you have the opposite problem. They’re usually an embedded agency whose work is scrutinised for brand messaging and there’s no need to worry about distribution as they use bought media. So they focus on delivering something that’s completely on brand and delivering your key messages, but of limited interest to anyone. Here the worst case scenario is the opposite; you’ve got a wonderful piece of brand messaging but no-one ever sees it. And you’ve still spent that €500k.

The best solution comes by acknowledging those motivations in the briefing process. So the brief to a PR agency is very different than that to a creative agency. To the PR agency the emphasis is on messages, brand integration, and that’s how you judge their delivery. To a creative agency the emphasis is on popularity, share ability, and maximum possible reach.

When great work happens agencies always like to take the credit, but the vast majority of the time it’s great clients that are responsible for it. The best clients often aren’t creative geniuses or wizard planners; they’re the ones who know how to brief their agencies to get the results they want, how to inspire those they work with to come up with solutions, and they know a great idea when they see it.

Red Thread

the right rights: Beats by Dre – The Game before the Game

Aside from the annual advertising festival known as The Super Bowl; the FIFA World Cup is the next biggest demonstration of creative prowess combined with a fight for share of voice.

And so, as the tournament kicks off, we all get comfy in our critic’s armchairs, yellow pencils in hand, ready to judge the winners and losers in the battle for hearts, minds, eyes, and wallets.

This year, one brand stood up to be counted ahead of the others in an ambush campaign that kicked off in advance of the tournament. Beats by Dre launched their acclaimed ‘The Game before the Game‘ advert by agency RG/A on 5 June, and it has since been viewed over 23 million times on YouTube.

By entering into rights deals with individual players, Beats managed to use their allocated filming time and product endorsement to promote themselves around the key football event, without rights to the event itself. In the words of AdWeek ‘Beats by Dre just out Niked Nike’.

At just over 5 minutes, the advert was already crossing boundaries between advertising, a music video, and a short film, but by weaving together a compelling narrative with impressive cinematography and an engaging soundtrack, RG/A managed to deliver content with emotion, creative excellence, and product placement that didn’t shy away from saying – I’m an advert, this is what I’m selling.