Storytelling in sport: the steps to success

Nick Hurley is a Senior Manager for the Sports Sponsorship team of OMD Create Sydney, driving strategic, sponsorship-led solutions for a variety of client challenges.

In the ever-expanding Australian sports market, the battle to attract and retain fans is becoming even more important. Gone are the days when a child will start following a sports team in primary school and stick with them for life, just because their family have always supported the team. With so many codes and teams all vying for a fan’s attention, they need to work harder to build a connection with their fans, spanning from game day attendance to an ongoing conversation during the week.

Sport sponsorship has moved away from traditional ‘brand slapping’ to utilising partnership benefits such as ambassador access and IP to tell a brand story through a sporting lens.

Sport can provide an emotional connection to fans that traditional advertising can’t. By using sponsorship assets wisely and developing tailored content to suit the fan’s needs, rather than business needs, the content can result in a long-term shift in brand consideration.

The key challenge when developing sports partnership content is getting to know your audience, and to develop tailored content to suit them.

A great example of how effective this strategy can be is through a recent partnership OMD ran for Cancer Institute of NSW with the Australian Open. Our research showed that P50-74 are 22% more likely to watch tennis on TV, providing a perfect platform to promote Bowel Cancer awareness.  

Further to this, the tournament was also celebrating 50 years in 2019, which coincides with the age Australian’s receive free Bowel Cancer testing kits in the mail, creating a natural link between the messaging.

We were able to develop authentic stories using relatable legends of the game, including Todd Woodbridge and Mark Philippoussis, who shared stories about how their lives have been touched by bowel cancer and communicated the benefits of doing the test and early detection. This gave our audiences a clear call to action to ‘Do The Test’ when they received it in the mail.

Content was syndicated across online video with completion rates above industry benchmarks also seeing a 15% uplift when compared to standard campaign messaging.  

I recently attended the ‘Business of Sport’ Summit held in Sydney and was fortunate enough to hear a range of speakers from sporting clubs, media owners and the private sector, who echoed the challenges they face in getting content right for their audience.

Julian Dunne, Head of Brand, Social and Creative Services at the AFL, spoke at the event about their marketing strategy to attract new fans to the sport, creating a tailored campaign targeting the 30% of Australians who are undecided on their AFL interest (i.e. non-fans or rejectors).

After lengthy research, they found that traditional AFL advertising, focusing on the highlights of the game, does not resonate with non-fans. They found that they simply don’t understand the game, given the intricate rules of AFL take some time to learn.

Therefore, the AFL made a conscious decision to focus their marketing on the stories behind the game, something the non-fans could relate to. The series of stories were called ‘Don’t believe in never’ focused on human interest stories, one of these focused on Dema, a young Muslim girl in Sydney.  In the content, her family were originally opposed to her playing AFL, but were in fact brought closer together by playing the sport.  

By targeting the content to this ‘undecided’ audience, they had amazing results, with 6 million views of the content and a 40% engagement rate. The AFL further targeted the 40% engaged audience with offers to attend a live AFL game with 10,000 taking up the offer.

Through a clear strategy and execution plan, the AFL were successful in recruiting 10,000 new fans, an amazing result showing the clear importance of putting the fan first.

Brands aligning themselves with sport have the same opportunity to build emotional connections with sports fans. At OMD Create, we work with a range of brands across different categories to tell their story through sporting partnerships, developing content that resonates with the fans.

A perfect example of this is AAMI’s Channel 7 partnership, where our Sydney team have worked with Ogilvy to develop the ‘Clangers’ concept, a light-hearted concept that ties perfectly back to the brand and the code.

By working closely with the client, agency and media partners, we were able to run a clear and consistent message across all partnership assets. From the launch of ‘Clangerfesto’, a montage of the best AFL ‘clangers’ across the years, to utilising the Channel 7 commentary team through short content pieces with the AAMI girl preventing their ‘clangers’. The success of this campaign has seen the concept rolled out into new partnerships with SCA to promote across their live AFL coverage.

This concept gives AAMI a unique voice in the AFL market, something relatable and well-liked by the fans that they can build further campaigns from.

When executed well, brands can reap the benefits of authentic storytelling within the sporting landscape, creating a powerful voice to build a long-term connection with the fans.


http://www.connectevents.com.au/public_ftp/documents/brochures/Business-of-Sport-Summit-2019-Brochure.pdf
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