The ‘New Normal’ Matchday Experience
With the significant changes to the normal matchday experience for sport, primarily with the loss of crowds, we’re intrigued to see how rights holders and brands will be looking to engage consumers through the ‘new normal’. Broadcast, digital, virtual, and at-home channels are set to be leveraged by brands involved in sport and we’re here to take a look at some rights holders and brands doing it the best.
Borussia Monchengladbach has been challenging the big two in German football on the field in the Bundesliga title race and innovating off the field to be the first sporting organisation globally to coin the idea enabling fans to buy cardboard cutouts of themselves to maintain their physical presence at the game, even though they can’t attend. The NRL has seen the success that the German club has had, and has built on the idea by creating the ‘Fan In The Stand’ online portal, where supporters can upload a photo of themselves and have a cut-out made for $22, as well as create their own banners and music playlists to be played at the breaks.
With the NRL being the first major Australian sport returning, Kia has re-ignited the season and its partnership with the Brisbane Broncos by creating the ‘Drive-In Footy’ experience allowing fans to drive their cars in and watch the big game on a giant screen, 15 minutes drive from the Brisbane CBD.
One of the most recent major deals signed in the Australian sponsorship market was between Menulog and Sydney South Rabbitohs, which sees a thriving brand and category partnering with a leading Australian sports organisation to leverage the passion and engagement of the fans. Menulog is looking to own the matchday experience by offering 25% off for all 30,000 Rabbitohs members to enhance the return of footy. The partnership also sees the brand collaborate with Commonwealth Bank by offering CommBank Rewards customers $15 cashback when they spend $30 or more using their CBA credit or debit Mastercard when they activate and redeem the offer.
While brands are leveraging the return to play and innovating the matchday experience, so are major rights holders across the country. AFL is working with its partners to develop unique at-home experiences to make the ‘new normal’ viewing experience much better than just normal.
Likewise, Netball Australia is looking at how it can bring fans into the matchday experience of the arena by replicating the 2014 Google and Manchester United ‘Front Row’ collaboration that enabled fans to share in the magic of being at Old Trafford through Google Hangouts. Netball Australia is also exploring ways in which it can use the broadcast and LED signage to drive fan engagement through live social feeds, live stats and online polls; while working with partners to take their physical concourse activations online.
It’s great to see the ‘new normal’ coming to fruition and it couldn’t be further from normal as brands and rights holders look to find unique ways to improve the matchday experience and bring communities together. We can’t wait to help our clients bring these new experiences to life to celebrate the return of sport.
By Nick Sloman – Senior Commercial Strategist
An Opportunity To Rethink Experiential
COVID-19 has triggered a dizzying number of cancelled events, suspended launches and halted travel. It feels as if the virus is freezing the cogs of economic activity the world over.
For those in experiential, our very business is the art of drawing crowds, we can’t sugarcoat the fact that COVID-19 is a headache of unprecedented nature. But, being in advertising we are accustomed to chaos; unplanned strikes, pivoting briefs and shrinking lead times. In experiential we always have contingency plans A, B and even C. So, rather than wallow in despair, we’re seeing COVID-19 as a brief; an opportunity to rethink experiential beyond mass gatherings, recalibrate and remind ourselves what experiential is all about.
Experiential is about finding and acting on the intersection between brands, people and culture. Despite the havoc caused by COVID-19 brands are here to stay, people will always need to be entertained and culture is in constant flux. So as an industry, now is the time to step up and deliver against the pillars that we pride ourselves on: agility, adaptability and most importantly, creativity.
While mass gatherings have been put on hold, we’re enlisting creative stopgaps that capture the imaginations of both our clients and our audiences; live-streaming, digital avatars, interactive content and gamification are some of the tools and tactics we’ll be doubling down on in the coming weeks.
What follows are some of the trends we’re looking to embrace as Experiential 2.0.
As brands shift their experiential focus from IRL to URL, we’ll expect to see an uptick in interactive content experiences, which we’re calling ‘Remote Adventures’.
Tinder recently launched a big experiment, ‘Swipe Night’ to much success in the US and has begun to roll out the initiative internationally. Swipe Night sees the dating app evolve from connecting people to producing content. Swipe Night is a content series that allowed guests to swipe on a story, rather than a date. Presented in a “choose-your-own-adventure”- style format that’s been embraced by Netflix, YouTube and others, Swipe Night asked fans to make decisions to advance a narrative that followed a group of friends in an “apocalyptic adventure.” The decisions you made are then shown on your profile as a conversation starter. The content is short and pithy and a very creative and clever way to engage and sustain engagement. Tinder said in late October that matches on its app jumped 26% compared to a typical Sunday night (the series airs on Sunday nights), and messages increased 12%.
Live Streaming 2.0
While live streaming is nothing new, we’re expecting to see new entrants and new industries in the space as the world goes into shut down.
Following the last-minute cancellation of the Australian Grand Prix an equally last minute online race was staged attracting Red Bull F1 driver Max Verstappen, Indy 500 winner Simon Pagenaud, Le Mans champion Neel Jani, Formula E winner Antonio Felix Da Costa and many others. The racing world is starved of entertainment as sport goes into shutdown. Incredibly, more people tuned into the “The Race All-Star Esports Battle” than British TV coverage of Formula One races suggesting that COVID-19 could be a tipping point for more people tuning into e-sport reaching a wider audience.
Similarly, to launch Season 7 of Game of Thrones, HBO launched a Facebook Live event to reveal the premier date. A block of ice displayed on the screen and viewers watched as the ice melted: with a twist, they were invited to type in FIRE to summon an offscreen flamethrower to melt the block. At one point, Bran himself (Isaac Hempstead Wright) appeared to cheer people on. Despite a glitch, people kept viewing anyway with 150,000 tuning in to the experience.
Brands As Saviours
In a world where consumers buy the change they wish to see in the world, some brands are using COVID-19 as an opportunity to demonstrate their ethos and culture. However, brands need to exercise caution and avoid the temptation to profiteer, acting with transparency and where appropriate.
LVMH announced that it is converting three of its perfume manufacturing facilities where it normally makes fragrances to make hand sanitiser instead. The product will be given at no charge to the French authorities and the largest hospital system in Europe. On top of this, the hand sanitiser won’t carry a brand name. This is interesting not only because of how rapid their response is, but because it shows how quickly culture can change, all of a sudden the humble hand sanitiser has become a luxury good.
Across Europe and North America citizens have limitations on travel, from KFC to Deliveroo brands are offering free delivery and even doing your supermarket shopping for you. Deliveroo has also announced a ‘contactless’ delivery option, a PR stunt underpinned by utility.
In addition, Google is providing $25 million in donated ad credit to the WHO and government agencies, blocking ads from brands hoping to capitalise from the pandemic, and enlisting its SOS Alert in Google Search to connect people to news, safety tips and links to more authoritative information from the WHO.
To help ease a worldwide shortage, Apple iPhone manufacturer Foxconn Technology Group has redeployed idled electronics production lines to make surgical face masks, initially for its workers and then for the general public.
With employees increasingly working from home, self-isolation is likely to become the unfortunate trend of 2020. Consumers are only going to rely more on delivery, from an experiential point of view, this is about finding opportunities to intercept the sofa using technology and creativity.
In 2019, LEGO activated a pop-up store with no garments, instead visitors scanned a QR code which activated an immersive Snapchat lens. While physical pop-ups might be put on hold, there’s no shortage of how Snapchat’s lenses and filters can be used to not only build an immersive experience from the comfort of home, but also close out the path to purchase.
With Coachella and Stagecoach cancelled along with an increasing number of sporting events, is there an opportunity in reshaping the way people even attend and experience these events?
According to developer Epic Games, 10.7 million people attended the Marshmellow concert that took place virtually inside Fortnite in 2019. As music played, Marshmello himself was being broadcast to players, urging them to make their avatars dance along to the music. The show itself was around 10 minutes in duration and filled with interactive moments, with players being launched into the air during Fly and bouncing beach balls during Happier.
Whilst COVID-19 runs its path, at Bastion EBA we’re expecting to see an uptick in the nascent use of digital technologies. Whilst it feels like we’re thrown off keel, we’re seeing this time as an opportunity for experimentation, a time to test and a time to learn, to find new ways of doing things that perhaps we’d overlooked previously.
Kia deconstructs the Seltos with an immersive experience at the AO
This year marks Kia’s 19th year as the Major Partner of the Australian Open.
With years of experience, Kia knows that owning the grounds takes more than branded assets, but experiences that stimulate the senses, create memories and ultimately, turn the idea of traditional auto touchpoints on its head.
Kia is using the Australian Open to launch a car, this year it’s their first small SUV, the Seltos. A car that’s bolder in terms of design and features and aimed at catering to a younger audience who over-index in urban aesthetics. To engage this more discerning audience, rather than building a typical auto experience, Bastion EBA built ‘Kia Seltos Studios’, a multi-sensory experience that invites AO fans to step inside the Kia Seltos universe and experience deconstructed elements of the car’s design.
Located at the Grand Slam Oval precinct at Melbourne Park, Seltos Studios outer walls mimic in-built Bose speakers with jagged edges that creep up over its roof. Neon signs and changing wall colours give onlookers a first-hand feel of the mood-lighting feature and draw attention from across the grounds. The hero of the activation is ‘Beat The Beat’ which brings together an amalgam of the Seltos features in a digital game that challenges guests to stomp digital tennis balls to speed up their virtual Seltos.
After week one Kia are close to recording their fortnight consumer target for the Kia Seltos Studios activation. Dean Norbiato, General Manager – Marketing at KIA Motors Australia said: “The Aus Open is the vanguard for sponsor activations in Australia and this year Seltos Studios is at its epicentre. For us, it’s about shifting brand perception and using our sub brands, like Seltos, in fresh and unique experiential ways to hero our master brand.”
Whilst Kia Seltos Studios is the hero consumer activation, multiple other touch points inside and outside of the Tennis Australia precinct come together throughout the Australian Open period working simultaneously to drive awareness of and engagement with the Kia brand.
Bastion EBA worked closely with Kia and Tennis Australia to curate the VIK Ceremony, the first public Melbourne appearance of global Kia ambassador Rafael Nadal. The appearance saw Rafa hand over the keys to the fleet of Kia cars that are fundamental in moving players and officials around Melbourne throughout the tournament.
The campaign was also amplified by Kia Surprise Sunday. This year falling on Australia Day, EBA composed Kia Tricks Squads, who gave fans a chance to win spot prizes and the opportunity to participate alongside renowned Serbian trickster Stefan Bojic, for their chance to win a 2021 Australian Open VIP experience.
Two Seltos car displays in Federation Square and Garden Square North completed the campaign where fans could get a selfie with the custom Rafael Nadal bobblehead. The campaign was further amplified by the KIA Fan Fleet partnership with Uber, giving fans the chance for free Uber trips to the tennis throughout the tournament.
This campaign is an example of true integration from the ATL spot that plays across broadcast, right through to the look and feel of Kia Seltos Studios and the designs of each car display. The sleek design of each execution is an encapsulation of the new Seltos, aimed at a younger urban audience who value the tech and spec of this progressive new model. Each decision was made with this consumer in mind, and the result is a consumer led campaign that caters to their passion points and lifestyle choices.
Garnier delivers on Coast to Court Campaign
In Garnier’s second year of partnering with the Australian Open, the brand has utilised the sponsorship to complement and amplify their existing Coast to Court creative campaign currently in market. As part of this program, Garnier is excited to have produced the first competition grade tennis net made completely of recycled plastics.
With over 800,000 fans estimated to attend the event in 2020, the Garnier Coast to Court activation helps tennis fans take a journey through Garnier’s mission to reduce the plastic waste making its way into our oceans and onto our beaches every year.
The experience invites fans to walk through the wave, feel the mist of water on their skin, learn about Garnier’s sustainable approach and, on their way out, take a unique photo and a sample of Garnier’s iconic Micellar Water – with its 100% recyclable plastic packaging.
Speaking to the role of experiential marketing in driving and amplifying campaign engagement, Alexandra Shadbolt, Garnier Marketing Director, said:
“Garnier is committed to sustainable sourcing and reducing our environmental footprint to support our future generations.
“If we can engage in a conversation and offer a fun and interactive activation that truly resonates with Australians, then it’s the first step in creating a more sustainable future.”
Bastion EBA was responsible for building an activation for Garnier that amplifies their existing Coast to Court campaign and heroes Garnier’s Green Net. The Coast to Court activation featuring the giant wave on Federation Square, the mini version at Show Court 3 and the team of helpful Garnier Coast Guards roaming the AO grounds help Garnier serve a greener summer of tennis from the coast to the court.
At Bastion EBA, we believe the human touch and immersive nature of experiential marketing goes a long way for brands, and pays off in the long run. Brand experiences engage customers directly by inviting them to participate in-person rather than putting them in the role of a passive observer. The Freeman Global Brand Experience study discovered 93% of consumers claim live events have a larger influence on them than TV ads. Making experiences a significant opportunity for brands to bring their ethos to life and turn imagination into reality, helping customers fall in love with their culture not just their products. By reflecting consumers increased needs to create memories, thanks in part to social media. From a business perspective, this means consumers are willing to spend money on experiences, and in turn are more likely to purchase products the company sells.
Why the Aus Open is the new experiential frontier
With total attendance approaching 800K over a 2-week period, the Australian Open (AO) is the biggest sporting event in the southern hemisphere.
With serious crowds, and even bigger broadcast numbers, it’s no shock that sponsors have upped the ante in recent years with zones that step away from preaching a commercial brand plea to immersive experiences that leave a long-lasting, emotional impression on attendees.
While ‘customer-centred design’ and ‘consumer-first’ experiences are vetted concepts when it comes to product design and the online customer journey, in sports sponsorship, it’s only just getting started.
The AO is proof that it’s perhaps less about logo placement (judged by ROI) and increasingly about the consumer reward (judged by return on experience or ROX).
Tennis Australia’s desire has been to transform the Australian Open to more than just a sporting event, instead creating an entertainment destination in its own right.
With restaurants, live entertainment and anchoring themes for the GSO (this year’s themes: “Countryside”, “Eastside” and “Northside”), sponsors are taking heed of Tennis Australia’s visions with activations that focus on detail, frictionless customer experiences and above all, creating memories.
In this post-interruption era, (read: ad blockers and streaming services) brands have to work harder to win over the hearts and minds of their target audience.
A simple logo placement no longer constitutes success at the sponsor or consumer level.
For brands, the AO has become a chance to build activations that elevate live sports experience and connect with people through tangible, real-world activities that communicate things TVC’s can’t.
According to the Freeman Global Brand Experience study, 93% of consumers claim that live events have a larger influence on them than TV ads.
The human touch and immersive nature of experiential goes a long way for brands and pays off in the long run; they engage customers directly by inviting them to participate in-person rather than putting them in the role of a passive spectator.
Experiences are an opportunity for brands to bring their ethos to life and turn imagination into reality, helping customers fall in love with their culture not just their products.
This thinking reflects the needs and wants of today’s consumers who prioritise creating memories thanks, in part to social media.
With today’s more discerning and powerful consumer, experiential is a huge opportunity for brands to spark positive word of mouth through tactile activations that humanise an otherwise inanimate entity.
Unlike the past where the internet was a way to escape our physical worlds, today, the real world has become a respite from the interminable pull of our digital lives.
A bad experience runs not the risk of being ignored, but of being called out and publicly shamed.
This is the year that Pat Cash’s words will ring truer than ever “It’s always felt like a festival that happens to have a tennis tournament going on at the same time” and we’re excited to watch it unfold as we enter week two of the event.
Written by: Georgia Patch, Creative Strategist
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