Sponsors gear up for bumper weekend of sport with real time marketing holding key to success

Screen Shot 2015-10-01 at 5.35.49 PMBrands and sponsors are gearing up for the biggest sporting weekend of the year with the grand finals of the AFL and NRL set to pull bumper TV audience and generate advertising revenue worth millions of dollars.

But the double header, which sees the AFL season reach its climax tomorrow followed by the NRL final on Sunday, will also present challenges for brands as they fight for breathing space in a cluttered weekend of high profile sporting events.

The small matter of a winner-takes-all clash between England and Australia in the Rugby World Cup in the early hours of Sunday will further add to the noise.

Screen Shot 2015-10-01 at 5.34.59 PMJack Watts, managing director of Bastion EBA, the sponsorship, events and activation division of Bastion Group, said: “It’s once in a blue moon that both code finals happen on the same weekend. Throw the rugby union World Cup in there and it’s an extraordinarily big weekend.

“The only losers out of that will be the brands who are involved with both codes such as Telstra and Toyota, the latter of which is the major sponsor of NRL finalist North Queensland Cowboys and also a major sponsor of the AFL.”

Instead of being able to spread their marketing across two finals weekends, they will be forced to cram activity into a single weekend and “cannibalise” their coverage.

“They will have to sacrifice space for the other code whereas usually you would have a weekend you could own,” Watts said.

On such a congested weekend, brands which do well will be those who can connect with fans, with social media pivotal to such engagement.

NAB mick o'loughlinNational Australia Bank, one of the AFL sponsors, has used the hashtag #haveaniceday in the lead up to the game and employed AFL “legends” to surprise footy fans who have then shared photos on social channels.

“The AFL Grand Final is one of Australia’s most exciting sporting events and we want to share that excitement to help people have a very nice day,” said NAB acting executive general manager of marketing, Michael Nearhos. “This activity has allowed NAB to not only give back and surprise footy fans, but also generate content that has really resonated with consumers.

“In just four days over six million people have seen these videos, a great reflection on the quality of the stories.”

Jack Watts

Jack Watts

Watts said Bastion has established a social media control room where staff will monitor conversations on social media.

“One of the areas brands can win over the weekend is by owning the iconic moments that will decide the outcome of the game and you can achieve that in one of two ways,” he told Mumbrella.

“One is through luck – when the winning goal is scored the moment your brand appears on the LED signage. That image will be carried on every news bulletin.

“But while you cannot control when those iconic moments happen, you can also own the moments through design by being part of the conversation and through real time marketing.

“We will listen to all the conversations around both the AFL and NRL Grand Finals and work with brands to respond to key moments and capitalise on them with relevant, real time content.”

But long gone are the days when simply slapping your brand on a sporting moment will suffice, he said.

“That is just not good enough. You need to ensure the content adds to the experience and is content that people would want to share. That is the end goal.”

Screen Shot 2015-10-01 at 5.06.58 PMWatts cited the example of Snickers which latched onto an incident in the FIFA World Cup when Uruguayan footballer Luis Suarez bit an Italian player.

Moments after the controversy, Snickers tweeted: “Hey @luis16suarez next time you’re hungry just grab a snickers”.

He added that brands which have creative activations at the outdoor big screen venues in Sydney’s Darling Harbour and Yarra Park in Melbourne will also see a “good return”.

Jack Lamacraft, general manager of M&C Saatchi Sport and Entertainment, said the two domestic finals, coupled with the Rugby World Cup, will create a “cluttered environment” as brands compete for attention

He echoed Watts by suggesting brands which create content that is relevant to the sport will see greater success than those with “standard creative”.

“As with all sport there will be breaks in play and during these points more and more fans are picking up their mobile phones,” he said. “Brands that can create engaging second screen content can take advantage of this.”

He pointed to Adidas as being the “first brand to really own real time content linked to the on field action”, predicting the brand will have a “bank of content” ready to push live.



“Fans want to feel involved in the action and share content with their social networks,” Lamacraft said. “If a brand can create relevant, engaging and shareable content they can take advantage of this.

“Following the finals the teams that win will generate a massive amount of PR coverage. As the media cover their victory brands can also leverage this. They need to think about how they can help celebrate and bring value to the moment rather than just settle for their logo on a media wall or players polo shirt.”

Suzanne Pontey, creative director of creative and content agency The Stadium, said brands spend big because of the “unscripted drama” of sport.

“Along with State of Origin, the NRL Grand Final will be one of the most watched events of the year,” she said. “Millions of fans will be yelling, screaming, tweeting, sharing, cheering and possibly crying.

“For the NRL’s sponsors it’s a chance to engage with a massive audience at a time when they’re most passionate. Exactly what will be said and what will resonate will depend on the twists and turns of the game. No matter the result both teams are great stories.

“This unscripted drama is what big-time live sport is all about and why companies spend millions of dollars to be involved.

“The only certainty is that the sponsors will be trying just as hard as the players to come out on top.”

Watts predicted the brand winners over the weekend will include Toyota who will leverage the “enormous mainstream media buy” which accompanied the recent launch of its HiLux vehicle, and CrownBet, which has a Game of Drones activation before the AFL final that will see one punter take to the field and attempt to win $250,000 by catching a specially marked football dropped from a drone.


Tasmania and its tourism industry will do well should Hawthorn, which the state sponsors, win the AFL title while Telstra and Brisbane Broncos sponsor NRMA Insurance should be celebrating impressive brand exposure, Watts said.

tableMeanwhile, Australian startup FanFuel, which connects brands with athletes to create social media endorsement deals, has explored the value of the Brisbane Broncos and the North Queensland Cowboys on social media.

Founder and chief executive Daniel Paronetto said the firm has developed an algorithm to measure the economic value of a post on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

“We are now beginning to partner with sports teams to help them monetise their social media platforms,” he said, adding that a study of the NRL finalists found the Broncos outperformed the Cowboys.

“FanFuel tracked over 2 million data points to create this assessment and used their PPP (Price per Post) algorithm to generate the results,” Paronetto said. “Amongst the data points tracked were the amount of followers, engagement rates, @mentions and #hashtags.

“With this technology FanFuel is able to understand what a post is worth on the main social media platforms and help brands invest in the right amount on sponsored posts.

“The Broncos outperformed the Cowboys by 9 to 7 and this was primarily driven by their large audience on Facebook.

“However, the Cowboys generate better engagement rates across all channels, which will be interesting to assess if they can keep that up once their audience grows to the same size as the Broncos.”

Other brands investing in the finals weekend are Carlton and United Breweries, and decking oil brand Cabot’s which is airing a re-purposed TV ad on the big screens at the MCG.

CUB, which will launch new versions of Victoria Bitter’s TV ads during the finals, also has a Carlton Draught bar at the Yarra Park live site tomorrow with 2,500 people attending.

The custom made marquee will see live entertainment, Q&As with AFL talent, two free schooners for every guest and last minute seats upgrades to be won for the game.

“It’s positioned as the next best thing to being at the game,” a CUB spokeswoman said. “Tickets have been allocated through Triple M promos, Hawks & Eagles members who missed out on tickets and My Footy Reward winners.”

A Strongbow cider garden has also been set up at the MCG while Crown Lager again hosted the Brownlow Medal after party.

Steve Jones


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