Approach Each Season Like A Campaign

The power to connect brands with people is what attracted me to marketing. Iconic brands from Nike to Starbucks understand the power of authenticity, values and strong messaging. And, even more, the power of human emotion.

Good ads are an art. They don’t sell; they move people to stop, pay attention, share and (hopefully) convert. Good ads entertain and connect on more than a superficial level.

This idea of emotion in marketing has been a personal point of interest for me. Years ago I interviewed at Nike (before my time at UA). When I stepped onto campus I cried. Yes, literally. Not because I was a sneakerhead. Because as a marketer, this was the brand that had paved the way in making an emotional connection with consumers, especially in sport. They bought into the idea of entertaining and storytelling above selling. I felt a personal connection.

An quote article in FastCo said it best:

Popular brands had multifaceted personalities. They could make you laugh, or cheer, or lean forward and take notes. They’d stopped hammering away at a share of mind, and were expanding to achieve a share of emotion.

Enough with the personal and embarrassing anecdotes though. My point is that as marketers — and as marketers in sport — emotion is one of the most underrated tools we have. It makes the subject relatable for the consumer and connects at a deeper level. We all laugh, cry, smile and cheer. That’s how we connect as people. And, that’s how people connect with brands.

The idea of storytelling is daunting though. It’s too vague, too big, too vast. Sure, teams and leagues can tell a lot of different stories, but how do you make it impactful? They key is to hone in and focus.

If you want to tap into more emotion, consider taking a page out of how consumer goods (especially sporting) approach their marketing. Product launches and company priorities come with campaign roll outs. A strong message, a reason, a rally cry that’s consistent across all channels.

To do this, think about every new season as a brand campaign. That doesn’t mean every season comes with a new tagline (although that could be a component). It means creating a compelling narrative through which content and creative filters across all channels. Below are two examples:

 

South Carolina’s Here

The campaign was not just about football and the gameday experience. It was bigger than that. The campaign was about the culture of the school and town, a retreat from the grind, the commonality that ties all Gamecocks together and the passion of the team and fans. Instead of just selling football tickets, South Carolina told their story.

 

MLB’s This

Back in 2018, MLB launched a creative campaign called “This is Baseball”. Focused on the word THIS, it was ode to the great things in baseball that need no explanation (exactly how THIS is used in social media). The campaign’s strengths was in its simplicity and ability to integrate across teams. THIS campaign was relatable to every fan, no matter which team they root for.

As you can see from above, creating a campaign helped the Gamecocks and MLB rally around a common theme. It made their message clear and strong. And, it helped them move beyond the scores to the emotional side of sport.

Campaigns like this have a revenue purpose too. They might not be a hard ticket push, but they sell an emotion and an experience. And that is more likely to get people to click and convert than screaming “buy this”. A great brand campaign paired with a smart paid plan has the potential to be a big win.

The process for creating a true brand campaign is long, tedious and collaborative. But, here a few thoughts to get going:

 

Know your brand pillars.

Even if you think about each new season as a brand campaign, the DNA of your brand should not change. A great campaign has a clear message hierarchy. One that starts at the core of what your brand stands for and cascades off of that.

 

Find the idea.

A brand campaign isn’t about a new hashtag. It’s about a thematic that brings to life the brand’s story. The best campaigns come from an insight. Pull insights from the current team’s personality and nuances, fan chatter or something rooted much deeper in the brand’s DNA. Find that big idea to rally around.

 

Simplify.

Too often as marketers we try to get fancy and lose our consumer. It’s important to talk with them, not above them. Go through the process of fine tuning and simplifying your message. Simple is powerful.

 

Create a visual identity.

Today’s world is increasingly visual, which means your visual identity plays an important factor in convey the message. A great brand campaign should come with a strong visual identity.

 

Think through tactical and creative executions.

Once you have nailed the idea, it’s important to think through how the campaign can come to life across all channels and executions. A brand campaign is about a cohesive story across all channels. Nail your idea and then execute well.

 
Teams and leagues have never competed with more attention than they are now. Every space is cluttered and it takes something special to stand out. If you can think of every season is an opportunity rally behind something more, then that’s a good place to start. Emotion matters. And in sport, there’s plenty of it.

What examples of a brand campaign have you seen from team or leagues?

Marketing Lessons from @Nike and Jordan’s NBA All-Star Weekend Slam Dunk

When it comes to marketing (and especially social/digital), Nike is a company that doesn’t just do it. They get it. Years ago Nike saw potential in the digital landscape. They saw it as an opportunity to tell their story and connect with consumers like never before. So, they invested in the online world.

The investment is paying off. Today Nike is leveraging social media, owned channels and the physical space to connect with consumers in unique ways. And, their Pearl Pavilion activation during the NBA All-Star Weekend is a perfect example of how they’re merging all their assets together to create the ultimate experience.

Jordan’s Pearl Pavilion celebrated the brand’s most iconic moments and allowed consumers to celebrate “the Michael Jordan in them”. The exhibit celebrated the brand’s athletes, explored the history of the brand and MJ’s career, created custom content for each consumer and allowed people to recreate some of Michael Jordan’s greatest game-winning shots. You can read the full release from Nike about it here.

Pearl Pavilion was a stunning and beautiful consumer experience that generated buzz and excitement. And while we might not all have the budget to create something of its magnitude, there are still takeaways for us all. Here are four key ones:

 

No. 1- Storytelling is Key

Nike is a pro at storytelling, so it comes as no surprise that storytelling was woven into the entire Pearl Pavilion experience. The idea was simple: To celebrate the Michael Jordan in everyone. To execute the story, consumers were first guided through the rich history of the iconic brand and Michael Jordan himself. Once inspired by the greatness, consumers stepped into MJ’s shoes and created one of his greatest moments. You’ll see from their video how the experience told a complete and powerful story for the consumer:

Takeaway: Storytelling is a powerful way to connect the dots with your consumer, whether the experience is online or offline. Storytelling makes whatever you are trying to convey more consumable and meaningful. People connect with and remember stories, so tell them.

 

No. 2- Simple is Best

Even though Pearl Pavilion had a “wow” factor to it, the idea was a simple one at its core. Everything laddered back to the “story” and big idea that there’s MJ in everyone. I could walk you through the entire concept and activation in two minutes simply from reading about it online. That’s powerful.

Takeaway: If you are trying to convey a message or feeling to your consumer, don’t try to overcomplicate things. You want your message/idea to be easy to grasp and remember, otherwise your message will get lost in translation. The Pearl Pavilion experience is a great reminder that simple ideas are often the best ideas. It’s how you execute and bring that idea to life that is key.

 

No. 3- Empower Consumers to Tell Your Story

Throughout the Pearl Pavilion experience, consumers were presented several opportunities to create shareable content, ranging from a photo booth picture to a video of their epic court skills. The content created was inline with the content the Jordan brand shared socially. It was hip, sleek and extremely shareable. Here’s a look at some of the content created for the consumers:

Takeaway: If you take a close look at Nike’s platforms across categories you’ll see that they don’t push a lot of content on their channels compared to some other brands. They understand that consumers can tell a powerful story for them. They focus their energy on creating quality content (not quantity), engaging with their consumers and empowering them to talk about their brand (like these examples above). Word of mouth is still the most powerful marketing tool, so figure out how you can empower your consumers to tell your story.

 

No. 4- Personalize

When consumers entered Pearl Pavilion, they received RFID bracelets to unlock personalized images and videos (as seen above) on their phone. From what I can tell in my search, their were different types of cuts for consumers, providing a fun and personal experience. This personalized content is a great way to thank consumers, while also empowering them to share.

Takeaway: Technology and social media enable us to make consumers feel special and valued. And, I believe that consumers are more likely to share and remember personal content. It’s worth taking the extra time to create a personal experience for your consumer. It will make the content more memorable, shareable and buzz-worthy.

 

While we may not be able to create a Pearl Pavilion with our budgets, we can take away a thing or two from this consumer experience. Remember these powerful lessons from this awesome Jordan brand activation: Tell a story, personalize the content, keep things simple and empower your consumers. If you do, you’ll be on your way to a powerful marketing campaign.

 


 

What stood out to you with the Pearl Pavilion consumer experience? Share your thoughts below!

Thanks for reading!

Pac-12 Networks Rallies Fans With #BackThePac Campaign

Working in a league or conference office is different than working for a team. You aren’t just rallying one passionate group of fans, but you are trying to rally an entire audience with different allegiances. How do you make people care when it’s not about their team? It’s not always an easy feat.

During the bowl season though, the Pac-12 Networks managed to do just this. They united college football rivals and foes through their #BackthePack campaign. The campaign encouraged the 12 schools and their fans to rally around their conference in the postseason. It tapped into the emotion of sports, harnessed pride and captured the encouraging words and positive sentiment fans had shared all season. It was one of my favorite post-season social media campaigns.

Through content creation, Twitter avatars, videos and more, the Pac-12 Networks helped to spark online chatter that was genuine in nature. The results were outstanding. From December to January, the #BackThePac hashtag was used more than 25,000 times. Impressive.

As I watched the campaign unfold during the postseason, I had three big takeaways:

Own your brand. Sometimes we make too many apologies and let negative sentiment get in the way. If you can’t be proud of your brand, then how can you expect other people to get excited about it? The Pac-12 Networks rallied around their brand, made no apologies and never looked back.

Let others help carry the weight. Whether you are a team or league, you need to let others carry the weight of your story like the Pac-12 Networks did with their fans and teams. Look to celebrities, influencers, schools, fans, partners, etc. who can help spread the love. The great thing about social is that you don’t have go at it alone!

Celebrate the fans that share. If you are running a campaign that asks fans to rally around something, be sure to celebrate/thank the ones that take action. This will encourage others to join the journey. Here’s an example of how the Pac-12 Networks celebrated the fans that shared:

These takeaways just touch the surface of the campaign. Thankfully Justin Karp, the Social Media Manager at the Pac-12 Networks, took the time to answer questions about the campaign. Below is his insight into the campaign, why it worked, lessons learned and more.  Hopefully you will be able to take away a thing or two:

Can you give us a general description of the #BackThePac campaign and what it was all about?

#BackThePac was a concerted social effort to rally conference-wide support around each of the eight teams that qualified for bowl games during the 2014 postseason. It was a way to show solidarity and support for each of those teams from across all of our 12 fan bases. In general, getting fans to support each other (especially rivals) is an uphill battle, but we found the way fans were getting behind each other inspiring, and in the social sphere, really organic in nature.

Gaining buy-in for the idea that teams other than your favorite elevates the prestige and recognition of the conference as a whole is tough, but the vast majority of people who participated really got into the idea. They recognized that quickly and jumped in with both feet.

What inspired the idea for the campaign?

In reality, the fans really were the inspiration. I feel like we just gave a name to an organic movement. As the season progressed and we moved closer to the Pac-12 Football Championship Game, we saw more and more comments on Facebook and Twitter to the tune of, “Great win, Bruins! From a Utes fan!” or “I’m a Wildcats fan but I was impressed by the Trojans today!”

Our head of digital content, Sam Silverstein, constantly challenges us to find ways to harness that fan energy and convert it into something special. We all know that the comment sections of websites and social posts can, on most occasions, descend into nastiness (our pages aren’t an exception sometimes). But this natural progression into warm, positive support was really welcomed. So, the idea came along to harness that energy into something really fun for the bowl games.

The hashtag itself, of course, couldn’t feel forced or clunky. Any successful social campaign has to feel organic to actually work. #BackThePac was catchy, it served a purpose and described itself.

So, about an hour after Oregon beat Arizona at the Pac-12 Football Championship Game in Santa Clara, we launched the tag on Facebook and Twitter with a simple post and a collage of the eight teams who we knew were bowl eligible and heading to the postseason. The response to this Facebook post specifically was out of this world. We knew from the start we had a winner:

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From there, we concentrated on this being a very fan-centric campaign. We’d encourage it through our own Facebook, Twitter and Instagram channels, but the volume of people using it on their own without coaxing from the brand was overwhelming.We knew that it was taking off when fans from all over the conference used the hashtag when Marcus Mariota won the Heisman Trophy, and again, when Utah dominated the Las Vegas Bowl. From there, it was off and rolling.

Can you talk about all the different social and digital elements you had for the campaign?

We were able to do some really special things that nudged the campaign along. And by nudged, I really mean that our fans and followers were the ones who carried this with their messages of support.

We had some fun creating graphics that people could share on all networks; before games, we’d post a simple photo of the team with #BackThePac on it. After games we’d post a final score graphic for everyone to share. Our team calls that “digitally rushing the field” when we post a final score and hundreds of fans scramble to retweet and share it.

A simple but successful tactic was simply retweeting fans during bowl games as they shared their #BackThePac energy. Amplifying their enthusiasm in turn spurred others to hop on the train as well.

Around the Mariota Heisman win, we used Storify to aggregate posts from our member schools and fans from across the conference to aggregate supportive #BackThePac tweets as well as ones tagged #MahaloMarcus, which was a wildly successful campaign launched by the Oregon Ducks.

We also had mascot videos that were a stroke of inspiration from our counterparts at the Conference, who really wanted to make sure to find a creative way for the schools to get involved once Oregon won the Rose Bowl. They provided the platform for our schools and their video teams – who had already been extremely active on their own social channels with #BackThePac without any coaxing from the Networks – to create those cool videos for us to post o Pac-12.com. The payoff was the video our digital team produced at AT&T Stadium where the Oregon cheerleaders helped The Duck open all the presents his fellow mascots sent him.

We created #BackThePac avatars for fans. This idea came after a brief conversation with some fellow Arizona State alums on Twitter who said they wished they had an even more visceral way to show their support for Oregon at the National Championship game. We figured there was no more consistent way to do so on social (especially Twitter) than by changing your avatar, so I popped all of our logos into a PhotoShop project and created them. We then asked our @Pac12Networks followers if they’d use such a thing, and we probably got about 50 replies in the first two minutes saying yes.

The idea for our Oregon-themed #BackThePac t-shirts came from Laura Podolak, a senior assignment manager at Pac-12 Networks, for distribution in Dallas. We made a great feature about fans and notable Oregon alums receiving them at the Fan Fest and they became a great, unique souvenir of both their trip to the game and a campaign as a whole. On Twitter, we were able to have some fun with the shirts by having a virtual scavenger hunt for the shirts as well.

The final and probably most impactful thing we did was to feature our favorite #BackThePac tweets in visual form throughout the National Championship game. We were inspired by what the Carolina Panthers did during their NFC Wild Card game against Arizona. Those graphics were among the most engaging pieces of content we produced all day – garnering an average of nearly 100 retweets and 150 favorites per post. The imagery plus the positive message was a big win.

What were the keys to success with this campaign? What made it so special that fans wanted to rally around it?

At its root, I think fans of our Pac-12 teams really want the recognition they all felt their teams deserved. At the end of bowl season, the Pac-12 ended up having a 6-2 record (before Oregon’s National Championship loss), which was the best record of any Power 5 conference in the postseason.

From the start, the fans of each of these teams really wanted the rest of the nation to take notice of just how great the conference has been as a whole. We’re obviously all aware of what time our games are schedule for and how late they go in other parts of the country. Piggybacking on the wild success and adoption of #Pac12AfterDark, which advocated for everyone to stay up past their bedtimes and see the wildness and excitement that came from our games this season, both we and our fans wanted to make sure the entire nation was paying attention to the Pac-12.

I think that’s what really brought fans together. We know that fans in general are fans of their teams and not necessarily a conference. But when it comes to prestige and reputation, I think the majority of our fans recognize that the strength of the Pac-12 as a whole elevates the attention paid to the West Coast and the respect it garners as one of the best conferences in America. Once that was recognized as the true driver of this campaign, fans jumped on in droves.

So, in short, the real key to success of this campaign was the enthusiasm of our fans and the passion they showed for not only their own team but for their fellow fans as well.

I saw you tweeted something about how pride trumps trolls any day. I love this, because I think sometimes we let the negative dictate too much of what we do. Can you talk about that and the lessons learned?

I think that we forget that for many, social is an echo chamber for both brands AND individuals. You’re only successful and making an impact in the social sphere if you’re talking WITH your audience and not at them.#BackThePac was a success because it created an environment where both we were having great conversations and exchanged with fans, and then allowing them to have them with each other on both Twitter and Facebook.

Inherently, there are going to be fans who don’t want to participate. They’re going to say that the idea is “stupid” and that they’ll “never root for any other team than theirs.” And that’s fine! No one was forced to participate, and everyone’s allowed to have their opinion. We were far busier engaging with the 90 percent of fans who were really invested in the idea rather than then 10 percent who didn’t like it.

There’s a line from a column by Chicago Tribune writer named Mary Schmich that’s affectionately dubbed “Wear Sunscreen” that registers with me, especially in this instance. (That column, of course, was adapted into Baz Luhrmann’s famous spoken word “Everybody’s Free To Wear Sunscreen” song.) One line says “Remember compliments you receive. Forget the insults. If you succeed in doing this, tell me how.” In the case of #BackThePac, it was important to recognize that some people didn’t like it, but it was much more important to enable and engage the people who REALLY enjoyed it.

Are there any special moments from the campaign that stand out to you?

There were so many. The mascot videos stand out. I loved how quickly the schools got behind each other, especially once Oregon got to Arlington. Stanford tweeting the Pac-12’s bowl record along with #BackThePac after every bowl victory was special. Arizona’s #Devils4Ducks piggyback campaign on the day of the National Championship was excellent.

The moments where we realized that the hashtag was trending in so many of our home markets – Portland, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Tucson, Salt Lake City – was really amazing. It was an affirmation – not of our work, but of how proud our fans were of each other.

I think just the way fans embraced it so quickly was the special moment as a whole. I don’t think any of us, especially me, expected it to take off like this.

And finally, any plans in the future for #BackthePac?

You never know. It was fun while it lasted for bowl season, and who knows if it’ll make a comeback.

 


 

A big thanks to Justin Karp for taking the time to offer some insight into the #BackThePac campaign. Be sure to give him a follow on Twitter @jskarp along with the @Pac12Networks.

In addition, if you want to read more about the campaign, checkout this writeup from Justin here.

Thanks for reading!

Insight Into the University of Oregon’s Brand Campaign: “If”

By Tammo Walter, 160over90 Newport Beach

Chances are, you know University of Oregon for its athletic accomplishments – from the birthplace of Nike innovation; to the rise of America’s greatest distance runner, Steve Prefontaine; to UO’s historic Hayward Field and ‘Track Town USA’ moniker; and its championship-material football team.

You might not know, though, about the University’s amazing academic stories. UO is an R1, AAU institution, which puts the school in a short list with the top research institutions across the nation. Still, UO is small enough in size to maintain a close community and approachable nature. It’s a place where you can run into the President at Eugene’s Saturday Market, bump into your professor on a walk to Autzen to see a football game, or sprint alongside an Olympic athlete on your morning jog.

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What’s different about this campus than many others is the unique sense of academic collaboration, where innovation comes from the intersection of disciplines. Green chemistry meshes with product design. D1 Football players pursue BFAs. Students double major in cinema studies and physics.

And campus-wide, there’s what we call ‘wonderlust’ – an insatiable need to explore, ask questions, and ultimately achieve great things and find ways to change the world for the better.

So at the launch of a new brand campaign designed to elevate state, national, and international understanding of UO’s academic achievements, 160over90 leveraged Oregon athletics as a ‘handshake’ to tell the complete UO story. And it just so happens that the Ducks presented us with one of the biggest national platforms to do so – the most-watched Rose Bowl in history.

Just before the game against Florida State, Oregon rolled out its new academic website and a campaign microsite, Explore If. And a 0:30 anthem TV commercial broke during half time of the Rose Bowl, following Florida State’s spot. [If you weren’t already feeling bad for FSU, now you really did.]

 

 

The commercial is centered on the idea of ‘If.’ ‘If’ sits at the very core of the wonderlust that drives UO’s exploration, collaboration, and innovation.

The commercial was launched to over 28 million ESPN viewers and 92,000 in-stadium game-goers. And it prompted people to action. In the hour after the ad aired, Oregon’s web traffic quadrupled. Visits to the academics information page doubled, while traffic from the school’s homepage to the admissions page was six times what is was the previous year when the Ducks beat Texas in the Alamo Bowl.

The ‘If’ spot aired on ESPN [which garnered an 18.5 overnight rating] when Oregon took on Ohio State University in the College Football National Championship.

Because “If walks like a duck and quacks like a duck … and goes for it on fourth down.” “If is running the play while the other team is catching their breath.” And “If will change the game. If will change the world.”

Learn more at www.exploreif.com.

 


 

In addition to the spot, the larger campaign will employ a mix of traditional, social, and guerrilla tactics — including print ads, radio spots, Duck mascot pop-up appearances, digital billboard runs, targeted outdoor advertisements [from wallscapes to train and bus wraps] in West Coast power markets, and more — throughout the year to highlight UO’s storied history of experimentation, innovation, and collaboration. In each execution, the team behind the campaign is balancing the University’s strong local commitment with UO’s far-reaching contributions and increasingly global impact, and to affirm UO’s position among the nation’s premier academic and research universities.

A big thanks to Tammo Walter and Caleb Mezzy of 160over90 for bringing this post to life. You can follow their work at 160over90.com