Synergy Spotlight

This month we welcome Accenture’s Head of Sponsorship, Julie Alexander, to the Spotlight. Julie is responsible for Accenture’s innovative sponsorship and hospitality portfolio working with partners such as British Triathlon and the National Theatre.

1. Your career in 1 sentence?

A varied career with roles both in-house and agency side in multiple disciplines, specialising in sponsorship.

2. What is the highlight of your career to date?
Jumping on a plane to Tokyo to sell in an idea to Sony HQ around the FIFA World Cup – what a city, what an experience!

3. Describe yourself in 3 words
Open-minded - I like to try new things and see where the road takes me; determined - I don't give up easily; fun - it's all about balance for me.

4. What is the key to your success?
A good mix of personal and professional experiences but ultimately focusing on what I enjoy - it's much easier to be good at something you like doing.

5. Who inspired you and why?
My 101 year old grandpa - he grafted all his life to build a successful business from the ground up with total humility and determination.

6. What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
Don't get too focused on what everyone else is doing, keep focus on you and your own personal development and goals.

7. What advice would you give to your younger self?
Learn from your mistakes - they'll help you more than your successes will!

Premier League Club Shirt Sponsorship: Fans Are the Only Ones Missing Out in the Arms Race

It’s fair to say the 2017-2018 English Premier League season has started with a bang. The new campaign has seen a rejuvenated Manchester United side shine under the watchful eye of Jose Mourinho, Harry Kane’s customary August goal drought is now a distant memory, and Crystal Palace have shown green shoots of recovery. But what about off the pitch?

The big news is that, with shirt sleeve sponsorships being introduced for the first time ever, clubs have cashed in even more from lucrative deals. This season has seen brands including Western Union (Liverpool), Rovio (Everton) and Nexen Tires (Manchester City) all signing big money sponsorships. For the clubs, it’s clear to see how the new influx of sponsors offers an easy additional revenue stream – between £40m and £60m in total depending on what you read – as they seek to maximise commercial opportunities wherever they can.

Liverpool FC’s £25 million shirt sleeve sponsorship with Western Union has provided a lucrative additional revenue stream for the club
It’s easy to see why foreign brands have felt compelled to jump on the opportunity, as the Premier League’s global TV viewing figures of over 12 million on average per match offer them the chance to establish themselves in the market – particularly in the increasingly lucrative Asian territories. It’s therefore no surprise that 12 gaming brands are now emblazoned across the front or sleeve of Premier League club shirts, out of a total of 38 club deals, and 39% (15/38) of sponsors’ headquarters located in Asia.

But are sponsors forgetting about the fans?
In my opinion, yes.

It could be argued that the cost of deals is outweighed by the classic measures of brand exposure, but brands shouldn’t simply be buying eyeballs. I firmly believe sponsors are therefore missing a golden opportunity to engage with the thousands – and in some cases, millions – of fans who buy and wear the shirt that sport their logo on the front or sleeve. They should be trying to win the hearts and minds of football fans instead of simply branding 100cm2 on a football sleeve.

The fiercely loyal nature of fans means that brands who sign deals will, on the whole, be well received by those who now accept the commercial need for clubs to maximise their revenue at every opportunity (the Newcastle United and Wonga debacle aside). For me, sponsors should be grabbing the opportunity given to them with both hands to grow their brand by having deeper, more meaningful conversations with such a captive and passionate audience.
Sadly, for many of the shirt sleeve sponsors this season, the relationship will continue to remain solely between the club and the brand – particularly for those who view the agreement as simply a vehicle for expansion in the UK and other markets.

That’s not to say there aren’t sponsors who have made great strides in positively engaging with fans. One sponsor who wears their heart on their sleeve is home appliance brand Beko - who have sponsored the sleeve of FC Barcelona since 2014. Our work with them at the beginning of the sponsorship quickly led to a strategy where fans are at the heart of all global activations. As the club’s ‘Official Partner of Play’, it allows them to speak to the 300 million+ FC Barcelona fans worldwide, in a way that both enhances their day-to-day experience of supporting the club - through content featuring the players and money can’t buy experiences - but also effectively communicates Beko as an innovative yet playful brand.

Our client Beko has made great strides in winning the hearts and minds of FC Barcelona fans with their shirt sleeve sponsorship
A little further afield, Southampton’s front of shirt and sleeve sponsor, Virgin Media, have gained universal praise with their ‘Twenty’s Plenty’ campaign, where they pledged to subsidise all Premier League away tickets to £20. Not only did they perfectly capture the fan sentiment at the time – that the Premier League exploited those who help make the league such a marketable product - but used a sponsorship of a single club to deepen ties with football fans across the country in the process.

Virgin Media hit the nail on the head by helping to address a genuine football fan gripe with their Twenty’s Plenty campaign.
Now is the perfect opportunity for other sponsors to follow suit, by creating activations and communicating through their shirt deals in a way which allows football fans to connect with the brand. I’m not suggesting they should give back all access to players back to the fans, but how about setting aside an amount for them to meet the players or play at the stadium? Or why not adopt an element of Beko’s approach and create content that genuinely enriches fans’ experience of following their team?

Call me old-fashioned but isn’t football about its fans, without whom the game would be simply another form of entertainment for those on the sofa or in the pub? It feels right to reward the loyal supporters who become a walking advert for sponsors when they put on their team’s shirt every week.

We’re now at a time where the new shirt sleeve deals may only be beginning. With back-of-shirt deals - which already exist in La Liga and have been agreed by several EFL clubs - already on the horizon (not to mention the advent of back of shorts sponsors), wouldn’t it be refreshing for sponsors to seize their opportunity to engage with fans, without whom there may not be any sponsorship deals in the first place.

You might have seen it in the Guardian, but Synergy’s very own Jonathan Izzard has created an interactive infographic on shirt sponsors which shows the changing commercial landscape of the Premier League. Click here to read more.

Terms & Conditions – Synergy’s #WhatIf Pledge

1. The Promoter is Synergy, a trading division of Engine Partners UK LLP of 60 Great Portland Street, London W1W 7RT.

2. Entrants in the competition must be organisations based in the United Kingdom and be directly involved in women’s football either as a brand, team, governing body, charity or association. When you enter the competition, you are agreeing that you have authority to enter the competition on your organisation’s behalf.

3. The competition is not open to anyone directly connected with this prize draw. Employees or agents of the Promoter or any of its group companies or their families or households or anyone professionally connected to this competition may not enter the prize draw either directly or indirectly (i.e. as a member of the entering organisation).

4. Entry into this competition is deemed to be acceptance of these terms and conditions.

5. Only one entry per organisation.

6. By submitting your entry to the prize draws you are acknowledging that you are a budget holder and decision maker for sponsorship or marketing of your organisation.

7. The competition opens at 10am on 31st May 2018 and closes at midnight on 30th June 2018. Entries received after this time and date will not be considered.

8. Entries must be submitted by completing all details in the Google Form between the opening and closing dates. If there are any technical issues please email

9. Every valid entry is entered into the competition where entrants could win one prize of up to £25,000 (inclusive of VAT were it payable) worth of creative development time from the Promoter’s agency staff. There will be one winner.

10. The creative presentation date and time is to be determined between the Promoter and the selected winner and all parties will commit to do everything they can so that presentation dates are fulfilled on or before 1st December 2018 (“Fulfilment Date”).

11. The winner will be selected by a panel of judges comprised of employees or agents of the Promoter after the closing date and will be notified by phone or email if successful on or before 31st July 2018. The panel of judges shall review the entries to determine the entry which meets the criteria for the competition; in particular:

- you must be directly involved in women’s football either as a team, governing body, charity or association; and
- you must submit a brief.
- the winning entry will be that which, in the opinion of the adjudicating panel, best answers the questions set out in the entry form. Winners must respond and confirm acceptance by 10th August 2018. In the event that the Winner does not confirm acceptance by that date, a substitute winner will be selected and notified.

12. Further Prize Details: The prize includes a kick-off workshop to chat through your brief and objectives, three weeks of creative development time and an ideas presentation where you’ll be pitched to by the Promoter. Final idea pitch presentations will happen around September/October 2018 (flexible) – final date by mutual agreement by both parties on or before the Fulfilment Date.

13. Further Prize Conditions:
a. Prize includes creative development time only;
b. Activation and delivery of the final ideas are not included; and
c. The Promoter reserves the right to replace the prize with an equivalent prize without notice;
d. The creative presentation will be based on the brief you submit and the winner may not amend the brief in any way after the prize is accepted by the winner;
e. Entrants must supply the Promoter with any additional materials reasonably requested by the Promoted to aid them with the brief and the creative presentation within seven days of being asked for this by the Promoter.

14. No purchase is necessary.

15. The prize is non-transferable and there is no cash alternative. No part or parts of the prize may be substituted for other benefits, items or additions. The prize must not be sold on or transferred to another party.

16. All intellectual property rights of any of the Promoter’s final creative ideas belong to the Promoter or as set out below:
a. Creating a marketing campaign for the winner: the Promoter and winner will mutually agree ownership to the final creative ideas. The Winner retains ownership of all intellectual property created independently of this competition.
b. Creating activation ideas for a current sponsor: the winner must have an engaged sponsor that agrees to a budget and should the winner choose to use the ideas proposed the Promoter, both parties will mutually agree ownership and implementation to the final creative ideas.

17. By entering the prize draw, the winner confirms that the Promoter has permission to film and photograph them at the presentation, to participate in reasonable promotional activity including publicity or media interviews and for the images/footage to be used for up to five years for promotion purposes. The winner releases any right to examine or approve the advertising and promotional material that may be used alongside or the use to which is might be applied. The winner gives consent for their names and organisation and/or picture or other likeness (without any compensation or further obligation) in any manner and in any medium for advertising, marketing, public relations or other promotional purposes in connection with the Promoter’s website online, and social media promotion related to Women’s in Football's #WhatIf campaign, except where prohibited by law.

18. The Promoter’s decision is final and no correspondence will be entered into.

19. The Promoter accepts no liability for lost entries. The Promoter and its agents accept no responsibility for difficulties experienced in submitting an entry to these competition, including any technical, hardware or software failures of any kind or lost or unavailable network connections which may limit or prohibit an eligible entrant’s ability to participate in the competition.

20. No other expenses are included in the prizes, e.g. travel to/from the venue of the presentation or accommodation. The presentation referred to in paragraph 10 will take place in London.

21. The Promoter reserves the right to exclude entries in its reasonable discretion which do not comply with these terms and conditions, or those entries which the Promoter believes to be fraudulent, or based on misconduct.

22. By entering these prize draws, entrants agree to that they have read and understood our Privacy Notice.

23. This competition, prizes and these terms are governed by English law and are subject to the exclusive jurisdiction of English Courts.

24. The name and county of the competition winner will be available after 10th September 2018 by sending a stamped addressed envelope to: Adrien Raynaud, Synergy, 60 Great Portland Street, London W1W 7RT.

GDPR Privacy Notice
This privacy notice explains how the Promoter (“we”, “us” or “our”) handles any personal information about you as part of the competition.

1. What personal information is collected: Information in you give us in the entry form for the competition and, if successful, names and contact details of individuals connected to the promotion.

2. Purposes for which personal information will be used: The main purposes for which we use your personal information are: (i) conducting the competition; (ii) liaising with and creating materials for the winning entry. We may also use your personal information for legal and regulatory compliance purposes, for example, to ensure compliance with health and safety requirements and other legal obligations, or in connection with litigation or an internal investigation or audit and to ensure compliance with laws, as well as equal opportunities monitoring.

3. Legal basis for processing: We will only process your personal information where we have a legal basis for doing so. Generally, we will be processing such information to for the legitimate business of promoting the competition and fulfilling the prize. We may also process your personal information to comply with our legal obligations.

4. Where personal information is stored: Your personal information will be held by the Promoter in the UK. Your personal information will not be shared with any third parties.

5. How long personal information is stored for: We will keep your personal information for as long as necessary for the purposes described in this notice. We will keep personal information from unsuccessful applicants for 6 months after the competition closes. We will keep personal data for the winning entry for the duration of the prize fulfilment and for six years thereafter. We may keep your personal information for longer than this where we have a legal obligation.

6. Who personal information is disclosed to: We may disclose your personal information (i) to the panel adjudicating the competition; (ii) in relation to the winning entry, to members of the press and bloggers for the purposes of reporting on the competition; and (iii) our underwriters so that we can maintain appropriate insurance coverage. Finally, we may disclose your personal information to other third parties (i) when required to do so by law, (ii) in response to a request for assistance by the police or other law enforcement agency, and/or (iii) to seek legal advice from our lawyers or in connection with litigation.

7. Your rights: In certain cases, you have the right to request access to, rectification or erasure of, the personal information we hold about you. You may also have the right to object to or restrict certain types of use of their personal information and request to receive a machine-readable copy of their personal information. If you have concerns about the way in which we have handled your personal information, please contact us in the first instance. If you are still dissatisfied, they have the right to complain to the Information Commissioner’s Office.

Put Yourself First…

Each year in the UK, approximately 1 in 4 people will experience a mental health problem. Depression is the second leading cause of years lived with a disability worldwide.This was a difficult blog to write and there is a point to it. I’m trying to talk about mental health – my own – and that’s not something that’s ever come easily.So why am I writing this? Partly, for catharsis.

But mostly because, a week on from Mental Health Day, I felt I should do something to share my experience. I want to show how important mental health is to everyone. It’s not just for people with a diagnosis. And I want to start a bit of conversation…

So, having written the odd blog, I thought that it might be a natural way to do that, or at least the least awkward.

I’ve been diagnosed Bipolar for nearly ten years. I’ve also been very lucky. For much of that time, it’s not played a major role in my life. Until earlier this year, when the old black dog reared its head and treated me to the longest, most severe period of depression I’ve experienced yet.

I was signed off work for nearly two months. I couldn’t sleep. I didn’t eat. I could barely talk. A walk around my garden became a marathon.

This is not a sob story.

I’m not looking for sympathy.

I won’t be the first, or last, agency bod to ever experience the highs and lows that Bipolar brings. I’m now back at work, enjoying it as much as I ever did and with fresh perspective.

So, what have I learned?

For f**** sake talk about it.

The worst thing about depression is it steals people from you. Or, more accurately, it steals you from them. The more you talk, the easier it gets, the less you are stolen away.

People understand and people care. Give them the chance. Confiding in someone is the greatest compliment you can give them. All they will want to do is listen, and will do anything possible to help.

It feels like it’s the most difficult thing in the world. But trust me, once you get started it just gets easier. The load gets lighter and the darkness gets a little brighter.

The RPA say it far more academically with their Lift the Weight campaign. Talking about mental health is not a sign of weakness – anathema for rugby players.

CALM and Chris Hughes were a little more tongue-in-cheek with L’Eau de Chris – bottling up your emotions is ludicrous.

How they say it is very different, but the message remains the same. Don’t suffer in silence. Talk.

I think about it like this. If I want to get physically fitter then I do some exercise. Talking to people is exercise for the soul – the more you do it the fitter you’ll get.

Find your secret weapon.

For me, it’s my bike. It’s a way to escape, get out of my psychological square mile. A quick spin does as much good for my head as it does my legs.

I know people that swear by running.
It could be yoga or meditation.
It could be painting.
Or writing.
It could be anything.

Find yours and deploy it when needed.

Put yourself first.

This matters. It’s not trivial. It hurts. Don’t feel guilty for needing time off work or putting your social life on hold.
Agencies are some of the most understanding employers out there. What we do is about understanding people and communicating with them; we practice what we preach.

And it was my agency that taught me this. My biggest fear after being signed off was letting my team down. Their response? They told me not to worry, to focus on looking after myself and to come back only when I was ready.

If it was a physical health issue you wouldn’t hesitate. You shouldn’t with your mental health either. Be kind to yourself. Give yourself time to recover and don’t rush back. You’ll come back all the stronger for it.

I hope I didn’t preach. I hope it might even help someone. But, if you take one thing from reading this, I hope it’s that everyone needs to look after their mental health as much as they do their physical health.

If you want to find out more, or talk more, about mental health issues, I hope the below links help.


Mind provide advice and support to empower anyone experiencing a mental health problem. They offer a range of support including a confidential Infoline, free information resources and support through their network of local Minds.

Mind Infoline: 0300 123 3393


The Campaign Against Living Miserably is an award-winning charity dedicated to preventing male suicide, the single biggest killer of men under the age of 45 in the UK. In 2015, 75% of all UK suicides were male.

CALM Infoline: 0800 58 58 58

Immersive Experiences: You Need to Dive In

Experiences are becoming more and more powerful parts of the integrated marketing mix. Studies by the Event Marketing Institute and Mosaic, note that 93% of consumers believe live events are more effective than TV ads, with 89% saying events improve their understanding of a product or service better than a TV, print, online or radio ad does. A massive 96% are more likely to buy a product after participating in a branded live event, and 74% of consumers report having “a more positive impression” of a brand as a result.What we’re seeing is that digital content and social media engagement alone are no longer enough, with younger audiences wanting to feel a part of these moments, that they can share them as their own social currency. The right experiences now offer an opportunity to immerse your audience in your brand and deliver meaningful product and campaign messages in a memorable way.

And we are finding more and more that fans – and millennials in particular – want to find an emotive connection with brands and rightsholders. Take the recent F1 Live Event in London, which gave motorsport fans the chance to see the drivers and cars in a fantastic environment in central London, showcasing a new, more inclusive beginning for the world of F1.

This is why events and experiences can no longer be considered a simple bolt-on to an wider brand campaign. And this is why, as experience leaders, we need to start putting fans at the heart of everything we do to make them more likely to engage with the brand.

Our Bose F1 Garage experience around the 2016 US GP in Texas was a great example of this, as we set the paddock and Austin alight last year with a ground-breaking experiential activation, combining innovative spatial sound technology and Bose Wireless headphones. Using a pair of Bose QuietComfort 35 Noise-Cancelling Wireless headphones, race fans gained access to one of the most exclusive places in sport: the MERCEDES AMG PETRONAS garage in the moments before the cars went out onto the track. The technical complexity of the build is what brought to life The Garage, but the notion of ‘getting closer to the things you love’ was at the forefront of every touchpoint of the user journey.
Opportunities to create content-rich experiences aligned to brand values are only set to increase across the next 12 months, as the buzz around integration continues. Importantly though, those that are successful incorporate the wider audience too – both online and across social media – such as Nike Strike Night. The activation represents a high watermark (appropriately) for experiences that get people talking.

As experiences become more important, there are five key considerations that you need to have in mind in order to build a truly engaging immersive experience:

1. Letting the audience curate their own experience
Millennials want to curate their own events. The emotional connection between a brand and consumer or fan is more important than ever. By providing millennials with engaging immersive experiences in which they can actively participate and interact with the brand in some capacity, you increase the fans’ likelihood of becoming more emotionally invested in the brand, product or service. This helps to increase important attributes of that relationship, such as brand awareness and loyalty. It's no longer good enough to say "we sell a product and here's a photo of it"; customers want detailed descriptions, context-relevant specifics, social proof and super-rich experiences that they have more control over.

2. Being authentic and standing out from the crowd
Brand and rightsholders looking to differentiate their physical interactions with fans and consumers will need to customise their approach to stand out. This includes taking a multi-dimensional attitude to branded experiences such as pop-ups, festival activation, roadshows, corporate museums and events. The fan or consumer is always looking for authenticity, always asking questions. What’s new? Why would I take that photo? Why should I enter that experience?

Brands need to use partnerships or passion points to create enticing visual spectaculars with a new layer of detail and interaction for fans to engage.

3. Integrating technology in a purposeful way

A truly immersive experience should be personalised towards the fan and enable them to bring their passion points to life in a truly memorable experience, with innovation going a long way to stimulate the senses of consumers.

Taking an analogue experience utilising performers, actors and events professionals tied in with technology can be the exact fusion needed, something Lexus did successfully by bringing in VR technology mixed with a fantastic analogue experience to launch their new Lexus RX.

Technology can be the key enabler, as long as it is used for purpose and not for novelty. To heighten expectation for fans, whilst pushing the brand event to the masses, technology can play a key role in empowering fans and creating advocates for brands. The one-of-a-kind experiences which place the brand in fans’ hands will be the most powerful.

4. Audience insight is crucial for creating the right experience for your audience

The Heineken Cliché campaign draws attention to women who are more interested in going to the UEFA Champions League Final than their male partners. It’s an example of understanding what customers really want. Audience insight really makes or breaks an event strategy and can turn an experience from being good to great.

Ultimately, our industry is all about results, and the outcomes need to inspire, engage and, usually, educate the audience. This is done best by encouraging participation, even if this is as simple as using the competitive notion of always wanting to beat your best time, such as Nike’s Unlimited track, which used personal immersive technology and projection mapping to track each runner.

5. Bringing together the physical and social worlds adds power to the experience

If you want people to talk about your brand you need to give them something to talk about. And new products or ad campaigns are not enough. Photos and video drive the majority of engagement on social media and in the era of the selfie, it’s the images in which they feature that people are most excited to share on social. A rich physical experience will have your audience pulling out their smart phones to show their friends and followers what an amazing time they are having, authentically spreading the excitement far beyond the four walls of any event. It’s an obvious one, but the question the audience will always ask themselves is “will I share this with my followers?” If it’s not cool enough, exclusive enough, authentic or rewarding enough then this simply doesn’t happen.
Event market is about creating lasting memories, bringing in brand advocates, demonstrating product features and benefits and delivering a legacy in the hearts and minds of your consumers. Your audience exists in both the real and the social worlds – so as a brand or rightsholder you should be doing the same. Go beyond photo booths, create something that generates a sense of fear of missing out, because that’s what people will talk about. After all, it’s not who goes, it’s who knows.

Go on, immerse yourself!