Thursday, July 29, 2010

Coke, P&G Find Consistency Wins Out for Global Sports Platforms

These Mega-Marketers Connected Every Facet of Their Sponsorship Activation to One Big Idea

By Jeremy Mullman

Published: July 26, 2010

NEW YORK ( -- Pricey sports sponsorships are often described as a casualty of the digital revolution. Why write a nine-figure check to be an official partner of the FIFA World Cup or the Olympics when a well-executed web video such as Nike's "Write the Future" can score 20 million online views or associate a non-sponsor more strongly with an event than the companies that paid for the affiliation?

Increasingly, mega-marketers are finding that the best way to make such sponsorships worth their considerable cost -- and fend off well-executed ambush attempts -- is to connect every activity related to the sponsorship to one big idea.

P&G shined at the Winter Olympics by aligning its ad message around one big idea -- mom -- to get its message across.

That approach paid off handsomely for global marketers such as Procter & Gamble, Coca-Cola and Visa. Executives say that for brands such as these, tightly aligning all their activation for a sponsorship under a theme that reinforces their brand message pays significant dividends for them and limits opportunities for competitors.

"It is not important, it is critical," said Antonio Lucio, chief marketing officer at Visa, which saw dramatically improved returns on sponsorship investment after shifting all of its global activities under the "Go" platform, which emphasizes the access Visa provides during the 2010 Vancouver Olympics (and, subsequently, the 2010 World Cup). "At the end of the day, a sponsorship is nothing more than an amplification of the brand message, and it doesn't work if that message isn't ... consistent," he said.

There is, in some way, a back-to-the-future quality to this trend. Part of the reason heavily themed sponsorship efforts went out of style was that work built for one event is often difficult to repurpose for another. An ad built for a soccer tournament doesn't fit in during a basketball broadcast, and it's hard to justify the expense of creating reams of creative with such a short shelf-life.

But the soaring costs of sponsorships, combined with an increasingly fragmented media that both dilutes muddled messages and also provides countless outlets -- and ammunition -- for would-be ambushers has forced major-event sponsors to reconsider.

One mega-marketer that clearly came to the same conclusion was P&G, which reportedly spent $15 million to become an official sponsor of the U.S. Olympic Team and utilized the platform solely to court moms. The "Proud Sponsor of Moms" program at the Winter Olympics incorporated advertising and promotion for 18 brands, including endorsement deals with 16 U.S. athletes and the company's first corporate-branding effort on TV, marshaled by Wieden & Kennedy, Portland, Ore. The company also set up a house in the Olympic Village in Vancouver for families of U.S. athletes and paid travel costs for moms of athletes who couldn't otherwise afford to come to the games. Besides some well-received ads produced in advance of the games, P&G also got NBC to provide footage of moms celebrating the victories of their children to show in a commercial that aired during the closing ceremonies.

The effort paid off in spades. P&G's favorability rating jumped 10 points over the course of the marketing program, said Global Brand-Building Officer Marc Pritchard, and sales and share of the participating brands grew ahead of projections. In all, he said the program generated 6 billion impressions, 3 billion of them from PR with 2 billion from TV and 1 billion online. Months later, he said, P&G is still getting letters from moms thanking the company for the work.

Key to making the program work, Mr. Pritchard said, was a strong unifying idea. "We had 18 different brands that sponsored 16 different athletes. Each of [the brands] had their own idea. That was good. But we didn't think it was enough. So then we put that to our creatives. The brief was what idea would link these 18 brands, 16 athletes and P&G. And at first it wasn't clear what that would be. [Wieden] arrived at the idea that behind every athlete was a mom, and moms are there to sacrifice every step of the way, and P&G is there every step of the way in appreciating them."

The 160-country, $600 million campaign Coca-Cola launched for this year's FIFA World Cup had a broader target in mind than P&G's Olympics push, but executives there insisted on a similarly singular message for the largest campaign in the history of the world's most famous brand.

Coke executives said they realized early on that, given how cluttered the media landscape is, they'd need a clear and simple message to break through. So in 2008 they took 13 different agencies to South Africa, took in a local soccer game and quickly decided that all of the company's activation around its massive FIFA sponsorship would focus on soccer celebrations as the expression of Coke's "Open Happiness" tagline.

That started with creative focused on the "History of Celebration," from Argentina-based agency Santo, which assembled highlights of some of the most memorable on-field rejoicing in the sport's history. The celebration theme was continued through Coke's sponsorship of the World Cup trophy's 126-city, 84-country tour, which drew 862,000 consumers, many of whom recorded their own celebrations that were uploaded to the campaign's hub on YouTube as part of a 120-country deal with the web-video colossus. As of June 25, the YouTube page and associated widgets had garnered 25 million visits.

The effort had a soundtrack, too: Somali-born artist K'Naan re-recorded a celebratory anthem with Coke-inspired lyrics, and the song hit No. 1 on iTunes in 15 countries. Coke also deployed the theme on packaging, producing more than 1 billion special-edition packages with the celebration theme.

And, in addition to all those Coke-branded billboards surrounding the pitch, the marketer also got FIFA to agree to present a trophy to the player whom fans selected as having had the best goal celebration at the end of the tournament -- via internet voting, of course.

While consistency is always a virtue in marketing, it's also a money-saver for global marketers such as Coke that need to operate in dozens of countries at once because they can deploy many of the same materials and programs with only minor tweaks.

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Contributing: Jack Neff

Want to Score in Sports? Create a Connection

CAA Sports' Michael Levine on the Impact of Social Media, Scandals and NBA Free Agency

By Jeremy Mullman

Published: July 26, 2010
 CHICAGO ( -- Between the sponsor nightmares created by Tiger Woods' philandering, the National Basketball Association's recent free-agent frenzy and the unprecedented global sponsor activation surrounding the 2010 FIFA World Cup, the business of sports has perhaps never been in the headlines so frequently.

And few people are more qualified to make sense of this turbulent and fascinating year than Michael Levine, co-head of CAA Sports since 2007. Mr. Levine leads a unit that not only represents more than 500 of the world's most famous athletes, but is also active in the areas of corporate marketing, broadcast rights and sports-property sponsorship sales. Ad Age recently caught up with Mr. Levine for a wide-ranging conversation about the state of the sports world.

Ad Age: We're just starting to see brands take advantage of the social-media presences of players. Wilson just broke a campaign starring Roger Federer on his Facebook page, and you guys work with Cristiano Ronaldo, maybe the most social-media savvy athlete in the world with 6 million Facebook fans and his own YouTube channel. But I'm struck by how rare it is for brands to take advantage of opt-in audiences of millions like the ones Federer and Ronaldo can deliver. Are these online presences coming up more in your negotiations? How do you value them?

Mr. Levine: Yes, we are seeing more of it. ... I think we're at such an early stage here in the growth of social media, and as time goes on we're going to see it be a more and more important element within the marketing mix for brands. ... We think our properties and athletes who have passionate fan bases have more and more opportunities to connect with them these days, more than they've ever had. We see tremendous value in the power of social media for our clients.

Ad Age: In terms of athletes, who do you think is doing it the best in terms of how they work with brands right now, in social media and otherwise?

Mr. Levine: Wow, that's a tough question. ... I really just love the way Derek Jeter's career has evolved, and his relationships with brands over that entire career has had such a similar and artistic growth. It's been natural, it's been authentic and it's been relevant.

Ad Age: And he's a client, right?

Mr. Levine: Yes, he's a client, and I'm a Yankees fan, so it's doubly biased. But if you take a look at some of the specifics of his career, he's evolved gradually with his partners and had only long-term partners. He was the first baseball athlete to join Michael Jordan's Brand Jordan [a Nike subsidiary], and has continued to lead their charge in baseball. He's had a longstanding and highly visible relationship with Gatorade, which again is another authentic connection between the athlete and the brand. And then in the last 24 months he's established an important relationship that we're proud of with Gillette as part of their Champions program and, within 12 months of that relationship beginning, he becomes the Yankees all-time hits leader and leads the Yankees to their 27th world championship. So he clearly epitomized what a champion was before and continues to, and that's how it should work. Authenticity and relevance are two words we're always seeking in these types of partnerships.

Ad Age: Is there an example of a brand working in sports that you think is really doing it the right way?

Mr. Levine: It's tough to choose one. One that has really impressed us is Delta. They're in the midst of a very competitive landscape with three major New York airports. They've made a strong commitment to sports and entertainment through partnerships with the Mets, Yankees and most recently with Madison Square Garden. ... They've created this Delta Sky Lounge at both Citi Field and Yankee Stadium, and they'll have one at the new Madison Square Garden as well, and that's a place where their guests and the fans can enjoy their team in an environment that is familiar to them, like they have at JFK and LaGuardia. And the work they've done with David Wright and Derek Jeter and their foundations has been spot on from a cause-marketing standpoint. They hosted a really well-attended viewing party during the subway series [between the Mets and Yankees] this past month in Madison Square Park. All of these different things make people feel like there's a strong connection between that airline and New York. And that's what their goals were, and their execution is meeting those goals.

Ad Age: You guys handle sales for some of sports' greatest blue-chip properties, including the Yankees and Madison Square Garden. So many brands want to be associated with those types of properties, and we've sometimes seen these things get sliced up pretty thin. How do you find the right balance so that you get maximum value for the property without watering down the value of the association?

Mr. Levine: We've had the good fortune of working with the Yankees as they were entering the new stadium, and Madison Square Garden as we head into its transformation over the next three years. And in each case we spend a lot of time trying to create the optimal formula that'll work for both the team and its partners. Each circumstance is different, but I feel like the Yankee partners and the newest signature partners at Madison Square Garden -- Coca-Cola and Delta -- are thrilled with the way these have been set up.

Ad Age: I don't think we can talk about the business of sports today without getting into all these NBA free agents. This has really become a phenomenon, and the athletes -- particularly LeBron James -- seem to have milked the publicity from it pretty well. Do you think the way this has played out has been good for brand LeBron or brand Dwayne Wade?

Mr. Levine: This is such a unique moment in the NBA's history, and, from our perspective, we think it's a great opportunity for our clients to be front and center for unique and special career moments. To be front and center night after night, week after week, whether it's during competition or during the off-season, we think is a good thing. ... I think that even casual sports fans have had a hard time not recognizing that this year's free agency in the NBA was unique and special. And when sports [events] cross over from avid to casual fans, that's only good for everyone who's a stakeholder in sports.

Ad Age: The other big sports stories of the year are all about Tiger Woods and Ben Roethlisberger and the like. Do you see any changes in how brands are approaching athletes in the wake of these stories?

Mr. Levine: We're not seeing any significant change. When you look back at marketer decision-making, there's always a risk-reward calculation brands have to make. And that's true whether you're talking about a TV show, branded web content, an athlete or a property. You're seeing scrutiny from the brand side to see whether the ROI and the risk-reward ratio can stack up, but I don't think it's changed drastically in recent years.