Bloodmarketing: is Red the new Black?

Back in summer 2012, the sponsorship industry witnessed a seminal CSR activation by Hemoba, a Brazilian blood bank and Brazilian football club Vitória, with their ‘My Blood is Red & Black’ campaign. Synergy’s colleagues in Brazil wrote about the activity at the time in their review of the year, picking it out for special praise.

As a quick reminder for anyone unaware of the activity (so that’s probably just … ), the concept revolved around the insight that people in Brazil only give blood when inspired to do so by someone they really care about. So who better to donate for than the club you love?

From this singular insight the club created a clear, cute and well-intentioned campaign, the centre-piece of which saw the red of Vitória’s famous red and black shirts leeched white. As fans committed to blood banks across Bahia State, the club shirts steadily regained their iconic colour.

Again, you can’t argue with the results for Hemoba – who marked an increase in donations of 46% – or Vitória itself, as there has scarcely been a more appropriate example of fans giving their blood, sweat and tears for their team shirt.

So why mention this again?

Well, because last week it was announced that anyone giving blood (okay, anyone in Denmark, in a prescribed location, at a defined time…) would be given a copy of the new PlayStation 4 game, Bloodborne.

With multiple rave reviews, and a RRP of £49.99 (or around 500 Danish Krone), there’s little question this represents a good deal. Even Danes not able to make the donation session on March 23rd in Copenhagen were still encouraged to sign up to give blood, as those that add ‘PS4′ after their name on the GivBlod donor list, have the chance to win a PlayStation 4 console.

Why target gamers? GivBlod have established that there is currently a shortage of male blood in Denmark, so used what they considered a traditionally male platform to incentivise action.

Why Bloodborne? Well, the hemoglobic connection was probably too good to miss, plus it’s a game with a PEGI rating of 16, meaning if you’re buying it, there’s a chance you meet the 17 years-and-over legal age to give blood in Denmark.

With largely positive (if a little quippy) feedback from the online community, it suggests that PlayStation and GivBlod are on to something here.

Question will be whether they use this mechanic to engage more broadly than the stereotypical male gamer demographic, particularly since in Denmark this passion point is actually not quite as definitively XY as assumed (although PS4 ownership might be).

Moreover, if looking at the Europe-wide statistics, it’s clear that female gamers are in fact becoming more and more prominent.

In the wake of #Gamergate, it’s all the more important that advertisers, brands and associated stakeholders consider the wider gamer demographics as a relevant group to engage.

Regardless, it’s unlikely that this is the last we’ll see of consumer incentivisation meeting a product launch beyond the initial Danish blood test.

Millennial Movie Fans: The Battle of the Five Armies

It’s a time of war.

Five forces, locked in bloody conflict, light against dark, in a fight to the death. Old adversaries clash in bitter skirmishes, as fresh rivals reveal new fronts to a timeworn battlefield. All the while, uneasy alliances are forged in the face of the common foe: malevolent and intangible, a shadowy presence hiding in plain sight, its bitter poison laying waste to the very earth itself.

It’s an ancient battle for a very modern prize: the love (and lucre) of the Millennial movie-watcher.

An appropriately dramatic analogy, perhaps, but the point is still clear: Studios, Multiplexes, Streamers (think Netflix and the like) and Brands are facing up against an army of Pirates in a conflict set to shape the future of film. So now, with the battle lines drawn for 2015, how can brands best prepare themselves to strike a telling blow in the war for Millennial film fans over the coming year?

With this question in mind, it’s worth considering the relatively unprecedented context presented by 2015: in cinematic terms, this could well be the single biggest year the industry has ever seen.

Not one, but three billion-dollar movies will be hitting screens in the coming 12 months. In May, we have Avengers: Age of Ultron – sequel to the third most successful movie of all time ($1.5bn worldwide gross, according to Box Office Mojo); Spectre, the follow-up to Skyfall (at $1.1bn, Bond’s biggest ever outing), appears in November; and that’s not forgetting a small production in December by the name of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the latest episode in the $4.2bn box office mega-franchise.

On top of that, in sequel terms, we’ll see the conclusion to The Hunger Games (the preceding movie having made $695m worldwide), Jurassic World, Ted 2, Mission: Impossible 5, Furious 7 and Magic Mike XXL. When you add in Pixar’s Inside Out, Josh Trank’s reboot of comic book The Fantastic Four and – ahem – Fifty Shades of Grey, there’s something in there for just about everyone.

So where does this leave Millennials? After all, a trip to the cinema represents only a single touchpoint with Film as a passion point…and an expensive one at that. With the average price of a cinema ticket in the UK now £6.53 (a 26% hike since 2007, with London seats topping £13) and US tickets hovering around the $8 mark, it’s not hard to see why a trip to the movies is becoming less of an impulse decision. In 2014, research published by Nielsen in America identified a 15% drop in attendances from the previous year amongst 12-24s.

The average Millennial’s world is fast-paced and relentless. Whether picking up emails from work or endlessly checking feeds for social currency and connections, they are seldom ‘off’. For the Multiplexes, this creates an interesting and relatively unique dilemma: while the cinema is considered by Millennials as one of the last places where they can still genuinely disengage from life, attendances amongst this group are still declining.

Time-poor, experience-rich

With the average length of the year’s highest-grossing movies up from 118.4 minutes in 1992 to 141.6 minutes in 2012 – not counting the incremental half hour of adverts and trailers – starved of smartphones and live pausing, Millennials need to commit or quit when considering a trip to the cinema.

What’s more, it’s fair to say that the cinematic experience itself at the Multiplex is generally not up to par for the young, free and single Millennials. As born multitaskers and social animals, there’s an expectation that a night out offers more than just silent contemplation of an IMAX screen. Look at the popularity of Secret Cinema, the immersive movie experience encompassing themed costumes, food and event production, whose 2014 UK screenings of Back to the Future saw 17,000 of the available 66,000 tickets sell out in under five minutes. There’s even proven to be an audience for East London’s Hot Tub Cinema pop-up events, with the Hot Tub Time Machine 2 surely a shoo-in as content for screenings this year.

Similarly, more ‘regular’ viewing experiences are available for the Millennial multitasker, with the Electric, the Everyman chain and the Roxy Bar and Screen leading the charge in London in terms of luxury and/or homely seating, refreshments and even mid-movie debate. Grab a beer and order some food; make a night of it; feel sociable and connected.

While brands may struggle to have an impact on the long-term Multiplex experience itself, there may be a mindset shift occurring here, with Cineworld’s acquisition of the independent Picturehouse chain in 2012 a conscious (albeit controversial) move to recognise and grow both brands in tandem.

The question is, what can brands learn from the independents that they could take to a national level in partnership with Multiplexes? One of London’s most popular independent theatres, The Prince Charles Cinema, a stone’s throw from Leicester Square’s Empire, ODEON and Vue, provides a few clues as to how sponsors might help the chains get a little more creative, whilst engaging relevantly with Millennial audiences.

Double-bills, seasonal themes, franchise marathons, fancy dress evenings – even sing-along events (Frozen being the spectacle du jour) – you name it, the PCC could be the ultimate incubator when it comes to replicable in-theatre ‘moments’.

All you can eat content

Whether the big chains like it or not, the Millennial perception of acceptable pricing policy is changing. The Streamers have it right: at £5.99/$8.00 per month, Netflix/Amazon/Hulu have this audience wrapped up, feeding the Millennial binge-watcher a constant supply of on-demand content, all for a low (or, at least, acceptable) monthly charge. So why haven’t the Multiplexes adopted the same approach to generating a regular subscriber base? To date, of the UK’s major chains, only Cineworld offers this with its Unlimited card, £16.40 granting you as many screenings as you can fit into a month.

Stateside, the cross-chain MoviePass subscription service lets users go to a film a day for $35, a ‘premium’ version of which (think 3D and IMAX showings, not just standard 2D) AMC – the second biggest Multiplex in Northern America – is also now trialling.

The question is, if the Multiplexes aren’t offering this themselves, then how could a sponsor make this happen? And we’re not necessarily talking for free: Orange Wednesdays – arguably the biggest thing to happen in cinemas in the past 10 years – was essentially a customer BOGOF. With EE now having walked away from the offer, perhaps a reboot is in order (this is the cinema, after all), especially now that Aleksandr Meerkat and chums are now involved.

How about adding a premium bolt-on to your monthly mobile phone tariff and then using your NFC-enabled smartphone to claim tickets as often as you like, every month?

I’d buy that for a dollar (or even twenty).

Instant gratification

Another area where the big boys – in this instance, the Studios – could learn from the Streamers, is in how they deploy Video on Demand (VOD). The hacking of Sony Pictures’ systems in late 2014 – their very own Nightmare Before Christmas – actually went some way to demonstrating that whilst physical distribution in theatres is critical, it’s not essential.

Following the decision (by the major cinema chains, rather than the studio) to pull the release of the North Korea-baiting comedy The Interview, Sony Pictures finally released the movie as VOD content, making $15m in the process. Sure, this is still short of the reported $44m production budget, but (if you believe the financial documents released by the hackers) just about covered stars Seth Rogen and James Franco’s fee.

The controversy of this particular film aside, from a sponsorship perspective, the lack of a physical presence for a movie in theatres presents an opportunity for the right brand to create the necessary real-world touchpoint for consumers. Whether through Coke Zero’s excellent ‘Unlock the 007 in you’ Skyfall tie-in, or more standard marketing real estate, sponsors have the unique ability to meet Millennials half-way, and bring them closer to the movie itself.

Another related consideration for brands is that of simultaneous cross-platform release schedules. This is not a new phenomenon, with examples of ‘opening days’ synchronised across multiple media stretching back at least a decade, from such film-makers as Steven Soderbergh and, more recently, Ben Wheatley. Although unlikely to ever replace the release model for the summer blockbuster – where even the most extravagantly proportioned household flatscreen will fail to do justice to the scale and seat-juddering spectacle of a good movie theatre set-up – the provision of both immediacy of content and a choice in how to view it are drivers for Millennials across the globe. This would likely also prove popular for Gen Xers with childcare issues…

How about a sponsor-driven release day, with loyal customers or promotion winners provided unique access to either a VOD stream, DVD or viewing party – rather than just the typical activation of a local premiere we’ve come to expect? The trick is realigning the Studio- Multiplex licence agreement, which generally provides a 3-month exclusivity period to the theatres before movies can be distributed as hard copies or as digital pay-per-view content.

Any sponsors wanting to demonstrate how much they ‘get’ the Millennial film fan would also do well to consider supporting lower budget movies through this instant medium. With the blockbusters often hogging screen time at the Multiplexes, the opportunity for brands to use existing VOD technologies to drive audiences to the best new, yet otherwise unheralded films may help rather than hinder some of these productions. IMDB’s #1 rated movie amongst users, Frank Darabont’s The Shawshank Redemption, was almost completely overlooked when on general release, with only VHS bringing it into the homes and hearts of millions across the world. What if yours was the brand that had first said ‘Welcome to Shawshank’, and facilitated bringing a masterpiece to the masses?

If you love something, give it away…or, more likely, share it

It’s the ultimate double-edged sword for the industry.

Avatar, the most successful film of all time ($2.87bn worldwide gross), is also the most pirated (hitting 21 million individual downloads as far back as 2011) – demonstrating a curious co-existence and begging the question of which came first.

Whilst it’s often digitally savvy, legally unfazed Millennials who help perpetuate online piracy by viewing and distributing studio content, there’s little doubt that sharing is critical to the movie marketing ecosystem.

Without word-of-mouth recommendations, film forum debate and the excited re-posting of trailers and outtakes, there would be no cult classics or sleeper hits, and viral teaser campaigns for movies such as The Dark Knight or X-Men: Days of Future Past would fall flat.

Encouraging Millennials to share what you want about a movie (rather than just its BitTorrent download address) is the key for studios. This is something that the team at our sister agency Trailer Park know all about. By building excitement about the Multiplex experience, they maximise their profits, and by drawing attention to the must-see lower-budget films – which perhaps don’t get so much airtime on general release – even the little guys get to benefit.It only takes a short flick through Twitter, Facebook or Reddit to discover a wealth of talented individuals lovingly creating their own take on the films that touch them. From alternative homage posters, brain-bending FullMovieGIFs and the niche but nifty 8-Bit Cinema animations – the democratisation of design has enabled credible, cool fan-made marketing campaigns to live and breathe across the social networks.Marketers that could appropriately leverage the creativity of the talented masses to deliver genuinely shareable content or relevance to the Millennial audience will win here.

As we enter into 2015 proper, for the big players in film the audiences have never been more empowered, and the stakes have never been higher. One thing is clear, however: in the Battle of the Five Armies, it’s the Brands – in particular, the sponsors of film – that have a genuine opportunity to help raise the standards for the conflict ahead.

It’s showtime…

Jonathan’s blog comes from Synergy’s Now, New & Next sponsorship outlook for 2015, which can be viewed in full here.

Will this be Rugby’s Perfect Moment?

Back in September 2014, a year out from Rugby World Cup 2015, Synergy gathered a panel of experts at the top of The Shard, with an audience of sports sponsorship glitterati, to debate whether the upcoming tournament would be ‘Rugby’s Perfect Moment’. Could this be the year for rugby to break free from the pack to establish itself as the number two UK sport? Could 2015 be a catalyst to super-charge rugby’s international expansion?

With a panel including Brett Gosper, CEO of World Rugby; Damian Hopley, CEO of the Rugby Players’ Association; and Rose Beaumont, Senior Vice President and Group Head of Communications of Rugby World Cup Worldwide Partner MasterCard, it may come as no surprise that the debate was how, not if, this year would be ‘Rugby’s Perfect Moment’. But what underpins such confidence that 2015 could step change rugby’s profile, in the UK and beyond?

A Solid Set Piece

As a globally relevant spectacle, the Rugby World Cup (RWC) is on an upward trajectory, with each tournament surpassing its previous incarnation. The 2011 tournament in New Zealand may have been less commercially lucrative, with small stadia forcing ticket sales down 40% on 2007 and some pretty unfriendly match scheduling as far as European broadcasters were concerned, but it didn’t stop World Rugby continuing to tout their showpiece event as the world’s 3rd biggest tournament. There is no debate on the top two – the Olympic Games and FIFA World Cup are pre-eminent in terms of interest and media coverage – but many a rightsholder makes claim to the final podium position.

What is Rugby World Cup’s argument over the likes of the F1 Championship, the Champions League, the European Football Championship, the Ryder Cup and the NFL? ‘It is the third biggest global event of an international flavour,’ claims Gosper, citing the number of participating unions, the TV footprint, cumulative TV audience of 4bn, and ticket sales. While many observers, including Synergy’s CEO Tim Crow, have raised eyebrows at such pronouncements, there is no doubt that the platform for growth is strong. RWC 2015 will produce an estimated 20,000 hours of coverage, broadcast in over 200 territories, to over 800 million homes. A return to the commercial epicentre of global rugby means the 2015 edition is set to be the biggest yet.

An Expansive Game Plan

From such a proven set-piece, rugby has the opportunity to reach hitherto untouched communities and audiences. From a UK perspective, the challenge for tournament organisers England Rugby 2015 (ER2015), and longer-term for the RFU, is to help rugby expand from the traditional heartlands and engage a new audience, who will not only be captivated during the tournament, but will stick with the sport once the big show has packed up and moved on, destination Japan 2019. The dreaded L-word: legacy.

But first the nation needs to be in thrall to tournament itself. And if you want a playbook for capturing the public imagination, it doesn’t get much more compelling than London 2012. Who better to implement that blueprint than the LOCOG team – including Chief Executive Debbie Jevans and Director of Comms Jo Manning-Cooper – who have been parachuted into the ER2015 organising committee? From ‘The Pack’ of 6,000 volunteers (RWC’s ‘Games Makers’) to the 100-day Domestic Trophy Tour (there is no Torch to ‘relay’ when it comes to rugby), the London 2012 tactics are being redeployed to give the tournament more geographic and demographic reach.

Arguably the RWC has an in-built advantage. Whereas the Olympics and Paralympics were London (or at least South-East) specific, each over within a couple of weeks, RWC 2015 is a six-week tournament, played out across 13 venues in 11 cities nationwide. Not only will host cities share the 48 matches, their staging agreements include commitments to deliver Fanzones, where the ticket-less can watch matches on big screens, participate in various rugby experiences and sponsor activations, and feel part of the tournament.

The intention is clear: a genuinely inclusive and national tournament. As Gosper comments, ‘London enhanced the Olympic brand. I’m hoping the same will be true of England 2015 for the RWC brand.’ ER2015’s stated ambition to make the UK a ‘rugby nation’ in 2015 – seemingly shared by Visit England – began with Stuart Lancaster starting Newcastle’s firework display and unveiling a RWC 2015 logo on the Tyne Bridge, and will continue through Olympic-esque countdown milestones, such as ‘100 days to go’ and the launch of the Domestic Trophy tour on June 10th.

A Big Scrum

The ER2015 marketing approach is clear, but what about the consumer appetite? With over five million ticket applications during the first 17-day sales window – the highest demand for any RWC to date – and approaching two million tickets sold, initial signs are good. While ER2015 are still ‘expecting’ complete sell-outs across all matches, the over-supply of Millennium Stadium matches looks to be a minor miscalculation. It remains to be seen whether the frenzy for tickets – aptly echoed in ER2015’s ‘world’s largest scrum’ PR stunt to launch the ticket drive – has brought in a new audience. Regardless of the ultimate make-up and volume of tournament spectators, that prerequisite for successful sporting competitions – packed stadia – is guaranteed, and RWC 2015 will be the most attended RWC ever.

Bums on seats are essential not just for the spectator experience, but also for how the spectacle translates to pubs and homes across the nation via ITV’s coverage. RWC is a lucrative asset for the broadcaster. A 30-second TV ad spot in an England pool match is likely to set you back £100,000, with the price escalating the further Stuart Lancaster’s men progress in the tournament. ITV will be hoping the host nation advance to the latter stages, so audiences are closer to the 15.8m who tuned in for the England v South Africa Final in 2007, than the 7.6m who watched the England v France Quarter-Final in 2011 – both England’s final (and most watched) games in the respective tournaments.

It appears that ITV’s money men are planning for success. As a barometer of consumer interest, the reports that RWC will bump X-Factor from its sacred Saturday night slot suggest change is in the air. This is reinforced by Repucom analysis, which suggests that the proportion of people in the UK interested in rugby is set to jump from 35% to over 46% in 2015. That would translate to an extra five million rugby fans in the UK. Quite a surge in interest, and a mouth-watering opportunity for rugby sponsors.

Forward Drive

Back to the ‘L’ word, and rugby’s chances of harnessing the heightened consumer interest to create a sustainable, long-term increase in followers and participants. The RFU palpably failed to capitalise on England’s RWC triumph in 2003, so what should they do differently this time? Perhaps best not to follow the Olympic blueprint on this one, according to Tim Crow: ‘The London 2012 Olympic legacy ultimately became a toxic subject. People never fully understood why the money was being spent. We want the aftermath for the Rugby World Cup to be really impactful. And I’m not sure we’re completely there yet on explaining what the event’s legacy is meant to be.’

The RFU is talking a good game. Planning started three years out, focused on building capacity and increasing participation: £10m to be invested in facilities; over £1m in newly qualified coaches and referees; £500,000 in recruiting lapsed players. Perhaps the most interesting initiatives are those spreading the gospel to new audiences – the All Schools programme aiming to bring rugby union into 750 state schools by 2019, and investment in touch rugby as a more accessible entry point to the game. The money and programmes are there, but much depends on England’s on-pitch performance providing the requisite inspiration for a new generation. Failure to emerge from the group of death could have huge ramifications on the future of the game in England.

Foreign Muscle

Beyond the UK, the Rugby World Cup Trophy Tour – a global procession of the Webb Ellis Cup delivered in partnership with RWC Worldwide partners Land Rover and DHL – is helping to foster international anticipation. In 2014 it made its way across 10 countries, from the core rugby nations of Australia, Fiji, Argentina, and South Africa to burgeoning rugby hotspots such as China and the UAE. The sport is already breaking free of its heartlands and growing at a significant rate. In the US, while participation in baseball and basketball fell between 2008 and 2013 (14.5% and 9.3% respectively), rugby participation grew 81%, more than any other sport, according to the Sports & Fitness Industry Association. Indeed, in 2008 the top 10 countries in terms of rugby participation were the usual suspects – the RBS 6 Nations and Rugby Championship nations. By 2010, the top 10 included the United States, plus Japan and Sri Lanka.

The RWC is the commercial catalyst for the game globally, and World Rugby’s profits from each tournament are invested in the growth of the game through initiatives such as their ‘Get Into Rugby’ programme. But a very different dynamic, and slightly different sport, are responsible for creating a ‘perfect moment’ for rugby globally. The biggest surge in participation materialised when the International Olympic Committee voted to add Rugby Sevens for the 2016 and 2020 Summer Games. A shorter format, more accessible for new fans and players alike, and with a greater chance of success for smaller, less affluent rugby federations such as Fiji and Kenya. The growth of Sevens, and its involvement at Rio 2016, are arguably the most significant factors in rugby’s international development. It remains to be seen how compatible the two forms of the game remain. The tension between Test Match cricket and T20 could well be replicated in rugby as players become short-form specialists and younger fans gravitate to the festival nature of a Sevens event. For the time being, rugby’s global icons will remain in the 15-a-side game, with RWC its pinnacle.

A Deft Sidestep

RWC 2015 is on track to be a record-breaking tournament on every measure. Commercial success is all but guaranteed, and the tournament organisers have 2015 largely to themselves as they look to build anticipation. The Ashes will take the limelight for a while, but will also help to stoke the fire of traditional England–Aussie rivalry, ahead of the Pool A showdown at Twickenham on October 3rd. The global game is in rude health, fuelled by Olympic dreams, and will continue its expansion east with Japan 2019 on the horizon. But the real test will be whether RWC 2015 grabs hold of a new audience and pulls them into rugby’s embrace for good. Sponsors have a massive role to play in taking the rugby message beyond traditional audiences. Brand activation around the 2011 tournament was relatively underwhelming, and it will be interesting to see how many RWC and National team sponsors step up to the plate this year.

So, Rugby’s Perfect Moment? Well, as Stephen Jones, The Sunday Times’ rugby correspondent, pointed out at the top of the Shard, if rugby was meant to be perfect they would be using a round ball. Imperfect maybe, given how much rests on the shoulders of a team scuppered at the previous tournament by mystery blondes and dwarf tossing, but undoubtedly Rugby’s Biggest Moment.

Tom’s blog comes from Synergy’s Now, New & Next sponsorship outlook for 2015, which can be viewed in full here.

Changing the Game for Women’s Sport

Although consensus on London 2012’s tangible legacies in the UK remains elusive, arguably the most high profile and certainly the most sustained legacy is the momentum behind greater recognition for women’s sport, created by the medal success of the Team GB women and their starring role at the Games.

It was clear before London 2012 that momentum was already building, with the public furore at the omission of women from the 2011 BBC Sports Personality of the Year shortlist a clear signal of things to come.

Now, post Games, nowhere is the legacy in the UK more evident than in the competition between the BBC, BT Sport and Sky to out-behave each other as champions of women’s sport.

BT and Sky both have dedicated editorial platforms and sportswomen of the year awards. BT Sport broadcasts Women’s Super League football and the BBC has ramped up its coverage of England women’s international football, in particular the most recent England v Germany friendly, which also out-sold – for the first time ever – the previous month’s men’s international.

And what a difference a few years has made to the BBC Sports Personality of the Year, with the 2014 Team of the Year award presented to the World Cup-winning England women’s rugby team.

But these are the exceptions that prove the rule, as consistently demonstrated by a long-running Women In Sport campaign, that women’s sport in the UK is overwhelmingly the poor relation to men’s, in terms of both media coverage and, as a result, sponsorship.

The transformative financial effect that media coverage can have can be clearly seen in women’s tennis. Billie-Jean King’s pioneering work in creating the WTA, and above all the dual men’s and women’s format of many major tennis events – in particular the Grand Slams – has kept women’s tennis and its stars in the spotlight, and as a result the money, for years. Other women’s sports, lacking the media spotlight, are playing catch-up, and the gap is growing.

Bridging it will not happen overnight, but in time, increased media visibility will come and will inevitably drive increased commercial viability for brands looking to sponsor women’s sport.

However, media coverage is only part of any viability equation for brands.

New behaviours will also be required. The inconvenient but undeniable truth is that much of the brand money invested through sponsorship in women’s sports is connected to sex appeal – what one might call the ‘Kournikova factor’.

It’s easy for brands to get quick wins by adding to the purses of the planet’s most glamorous stars – after all, sex sells, right? But sponsors that genuinely care about the advancement of women’s sport will look to celebrate women as athletes, not pin-ups, and to lead the way in promoting an attitudinal change.

This is something that has been confronted by the brand Always, with its highly creative and engaging #LikeAGirl campaign. Based on the simple question of what it means to do something (such as run, throw or fight) ‘like a girl’, and demonstrating quite how loaded this phrase has really become, the campaign challenges both genders’ thinking, acting as an apt reminder of the effects adolescence has on both girls’ and boys’ perceptions of themselves and others.

And, as well as new behaviours, brands interested in using sport to market to women will also need to navigate two major and related disconnects between theory and reality in this space.

The first is the assumption that a higher profile for women’s sport will automatically drive greater women’s participation in sport. This is unproven. Famously, for example, after London 2012, sports participation in the UK actually decreased across all groups, including women.

Which leads on to the second disconnect. The fact is that many women, for a variety of reasons, are not sports fans. As such, another widely held assumption, that using women’s sport to promote exercise amongst women will be effective at scale, is also unproven.

The new Sport England ‘This Girl Can’ campaign recognises this, attempting to drive attitudinal change to sport amongst women by confronting the fear of being judged, a key barrier for many women.

At Synergy, our understanding of these disconnects has led to successful campaigns for clients, proving that brands can make a difference if their activity is grounded in the appropriate insights.

Bupa’s ‘My First Run’ campaign demonstrated how crucial the right female ambassador is (in this instance, Jo Whiley) to drive coverage, engagement and ultimately behaviour change, which in this case led to an estimated 23,000 women being inspired to take part in their first ever organised run.

Similarly, Coke Zero’s ParkLives programme, which offers free, fun, family activities in local parks, has seen great success, with communications specifically avoiding the ‘s-word’ to ensure female participants are not put off by a direct association with ‘sport’.

So, there’s no doubt there is a big opportunity for brands here. That said, they must beware of thinking about it solely in the context of sponsoring Women’s Sport – capital W, capital S. For us, the biggest opportunity lies in driving attitudinal and behaviour change in the context of women in sport and in women’s relationship with sport in its broadest sense: in building trust, providing inspiration, and creating the environment in which women can express themselves, and audiences and participants can connect without prejudice or agenda.

Tim’s blog comes from Synergy’s Now, New & Next sponsorship outlook for 2015, which can be viewed in full here.