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Half Time Team Talk; A Tactical Response to Social Hijacking

No matter how much time you take planning a sponsorship strategy for a major event, there will almost always be incidents that arise which are outside of your control.” And while you may not be able to plan for them, it is important to be alert and well prepared to fend off moves from challenger brands. Both official sponsors and unaffiliated brands will find that unplanned events can present serious challenges and it takes a level head and quality insight to manage a change in strategy.

I want to take the recent 2014 FIFA World Cup as an example of a global event that wasn’t as straightforward for marketers as it may have seemed. There were a number of challenges presented for both official sponsors and non sponsors, including the social and political unrest before the tournament as well as the threat of ambush marketers.

According to a Gorkana survey we conducted halfway through the tournament, only 31% of UK consumers identified Adidas as an official sponsor, which represented a two per cent drop from the beginning of the tournament. Now, two per cent may not sound like much, but the fact that awareness fell at all during this period is a cause for concern, especially when people believe Adidas’ main competitor Nike to be an official sponsor.

But what should a brand do in this situation? Here’s where social media monitoring tools come in handy. Using Adidas as an example; had its marketing team used tools such as Gorkana Social Media Pro, it would have been able to pinpoint the best channels to use in order to try to reach and influence its target audience.

Using insights from such tools as this, the key questions the brand needed to ask were:

  • Has the game changed?
  • Has the social landscape evolved?
  • Do we need to focus our efforts in a different area?
  • Do we need to change our tone?
  • How can we counteract the different challenges coming our way?

Now, let’s go back to the political and social unrest and use it as an example of how brands were able to use known issues to adapt their activity. The political issues that were prevalent in the press before the tournament provided ongoing concerns for all brands, and the likes of Adidas and Coke had plans in place to soften their marketing should the unrest dominate the streets of Brazil. But, the marketing teams of both brands knew only too well that situations out of their control would arise that they would need to react to.

So, how about an example of a brand having to make a change to the planned strategy? According to our survey during the tournament, we found that 17% of people wanted brands to connect with them via competitions, with 16% saying advertising and 12% wanting brands to connect via social media. This is invaluable insight for brands wanting to know the best ways to reach different audiences throughout the tournament. Furthermore, marketing teams would have been able to use social listening tools to see which social channels were most popular during the games. In the case of the World Cup, Adidas did monitor which content went viral on YouTube and used this insight to tailor their tactics accordingly.

This is a prime example of where in cases where brands have the beauty of time, and aren’t under pressure to respond in real time, the evidence collated from social listening and audience feedback can be used to trial a period of small scale testing. From this, a new course of action can then be developed which addresses the challenges to a brand’s pre-planned activity

So, if you are planning a strategy to tie in with an event, bear the following points in mind:

  • Obtain as much insight and evidence as possible to identify the challenges and threats. This will enable you to understand the challenges and adapt your tactics and strategy accordingly
  • It’s all about staying one step ahead of competitors’ activity, so if the opportunity arises make sure you make the most of testing new and possibly more aggressive tactics. Some of this is likely to be trial and error but will hopefully enable a new course of action to help you overcome the challenges and adapt your sponsorship strategy to reflect the changing marketing landscape

Lastly, always remember that planning is only half of brand sponsorship, the true results will come from your team’s ability to adapt and change the focus if needed.

By Sarah Kemp, PR and social engagement manager, Gorkana