Pogba + United + adidas – The perfect marketing match?

An announcement under the hashtag #Pogback at 12.30am signalled Paul Pogba’s return to Manchester United after four years at Juventus. The boy who left England with bags of potential has come back as a man to finish what he started with his first senior club.Whilst Jose Mourinho has signed Pogba for purely footballing reasons, it’s clear the club, adidas and the player himself will all benefit commercially from this new partnership. From a marketing perspective it seems to be the perfect match.One of the biggest personalities and most exciting young players in the game has joined the biggest club in the world, which is just starting its second season with kit supplier adidas, for whom Pogba is already a key ambassador.

Signing up Pogba on a £31m 10-year deal earlier this year has helped adidas create a fresh, new look that capitalises on the Frenchman’s unique style, individualism, flamboyant nature and flashy personality. He has been the figurehead of the brand’s #FirstNeverFollows campaign, a brand position that builds on the previous #ThereWillBeHaters activation and mixes football, fashion and music. The aim of this is to appeal to the younger audience, the next wave of potential adidas consumers, and win them over from newer brands like Under Armour and New Balance, who are challenging the more established giants.

Pogba gives adidas a point of difference over its rivals, such as Nike, who were also competing for his signature. He wasn’t signed just as a face to shift trainers, but as a catalyst to help change the nature of adidas’ football marketing…to make his mark on the brand itself.

From United’s viewpoint, Pogba and adidas also help the club reach a younger audience, an audience that may be swaying towards supporting Manchester City, Real Madrid, FC Barcelona or another of Europe’s big clubs.

Pogba will be the face of both United and adidas for years to come. He hasn’t returned to Old Trafford for just one or two seasons; he will surely be there for a significant proportion of his career. He represents the new United, forging a new identity in the post Sir Alex Ferguson, era under the leadership of Mourinho.

Adidas, like other sponsors, do not get a say in the club’s transfer activity (although they may have had a quiet word in Ed Woodward’s ear), but for them shirt sales are clearly critical. Aligning one of their big ambassadors with one of their biggest clubs (alongside Real Madrid) will have been music to the ears of adidas, as the ‘POGBA 6’ United shirts start flying off racks around the world.

One of the reasons adidas teamed up with United in the first place is because the club has a huge fan base in the US and Asia, both target markets for the German sports brand. Pogba will help to gain cut-through in those markets.The French midfielder’s social channels have more than 13m followers. For United, this offers an opportunity a reach a new audience; whilst for Pogba, joining the Red Devils will no doubt see this figure grow and grow, as has happened with other recent arrivals to the club – a win-win. And adidas can utilise this massive reach to push out branded content and messaging to his adoring fans.This branded content played a role in the announcement of Pogba’s capture. Adidas teamed up with UK grime artist Stormzy to record a short piece of music-focused film featuring Pogba that matches the #FirstNeverFollows theme, announcing the player’s arrival at United. We are likely to see more dual-branded content like this appear as adidas and United push Pogba to the front of their marketing activity and his global appeal spirals skyward.

Heart Over Head: Spotlight turns on sponsors after Sharapova ban

In the 48 hours following the news that Maria Sharapova has been banned for two years for taking banned substance Meldonium, the spotlight has invariably shifted to her sponsors to see their reaction.

Many would have expected Nike, Head and Evian to pull the plug on their sponsorship deals with the former world No.1, but all three have done quite the opposite. Nike announced it will be continuing to partner with Sharapova, citing that she did not dope intentionally and is appealing the ban. Originally Nike had suspended its relationship with the Russian pending the investigation.

Evian, likewise, had first said it would follow the investigation closely before making a decision, but has now come out in full support of Sharapova and will continue to work with her despite the ban.

Head, though, took things a step further – a big and controversial step further – by challenging the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and the International Tennis Federation (ITF). Head has claimed that the ban was based on WADA’s flawed process and was therefore a flawed decision, and so the brand will be sticking by Sharapova and continuing its sponsorship.

Quite why a tennis racket manufacturer is challenging WADA’s global drugs policy is baffling. What expertise does Head have to make such a criticism of WADA and doping in sport? A well-advised sponsor would steer clear of such a move and comment only on its relationship with the athlete, certainly not taking on a governing body that is trying to keep the sport clean and fair.

This follows the original statement Head released back in March when the failed drugs test first arose in which the company nailed its colours to the mast and came out in support of Sharapova without knowing all the facts or what the final outcome of the independent investigation would be. This did not sit well with one of its biggest athletes, Andy Murray, who openly criticised Head’s position in supporting Sharapova.

Sharapova is a Head ambassador

At the same time, another Sharapova’s sponsors, Tag Heuer, took the non-emotional route and put loyalty to one side by announcing it was suspending renewal talks and cutting its ties with the tainted tennis star. Tag has reaffirmed this stance and said it is not in a hurry to discuss any new contract, signalling the partnership will wind down

Porsche took a similar approach to Nike in suspending all planned activity with the former Wimbledon champion and has now said it will hold back final judgement until the outcome of the appeal is known.

Avon sensibly chose to remain silent back in March, but has now confirmed the sponsorship will expire at the end of the current contract without renewal, pointing at a limited engagement window for activity being the reason as opposed to the doping situation.

The Nike positioning is interesting when you look at the business value and the brand’s reputation. Supporting an athlete banned for doping damages the reputation of the brand, although a precedent was set by Nike’s renewed support of two-time drugs cheat Justin Gatlin. If there is a huge business value attached to the athlete that outweighs the reputational risk in the long-term then you could understand Nike supporting Sharapova. However, she is approaching the end of her career, especially by the time she can return to the court, and when put alongside the other stars on Nike’s books she no longer has the revenue pulling power.

We now await the verdict of Sharapova’s appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport and to see what the sponsors do next. Will Murray and other top stars with Head or Nike partnerships speak out publicly against Head challenging WADA or Nike sticking by Sharapova?

A year like no other: Synergy’s 2014

As another year comes to an end, now seems a suitable time to reflect on a whirlwind 12 months for Synergy.

Here we outline some of our most innovative work in 2014, what the wider implications are for the industry, and what other campaigns have caught our eye and set the benchmark for what will undoubtedly be another busy and exciting year:


What we did:

2014 kicked off slightly early for some of the team at Synergy, who were at Twickenham activating IG’s inaugural sponsorship of The Big Game. Through the ‘Big Game, Bright Lights’ campaign, we looked to capitalise on the down-time that half-time offers and re-invigorate the crowd for the second half. By innovatively using Twickenham’s LED inventory, fans experienced an audio-visual spectacular that connected IG’s brand with Harlequins and gave fans the chance to win some amazing prizes.

Industry insight:

Half-time at sports games have often felt like a necessary evil for sports fans in the UK; a short break to allow the players to recover and fans to visit the facilities. The Pepsi Half-time show at the SuperBowl in February emphasised that US sport is still the benchmark for half-time entertainment, but IG’s work at Twickenham showed that, with a clear insight and innovative use of standard sponsorship inventory, the half-time break may no longer simply be used as an excuse to get the drinks in.


What we did:

The RBS 6 Nations tends to dominate the sporting agenda in February, and is often when Synergy is at its most active. As part of the RBS 6 Nations activation, Synergy helped to produce a series of films based on defining moments from the tournament. These films truly encapsulated the values of sportsmanship, perseverance and teamwork that the brand and the fans love about The Championship.

Industry insight:

Capturing sport’s inherent ‘truths’ like this, and amplifying them to produce content of interest, based on real insight, is a gift that fans want to receive. Guinness also managed this feat, with their films in honour of Jonny Wilkinson, Shane Williams and Bill McLaren, whilst Barclays’s impressively moving Premier League film captured the essence of the match day experience that makes football so special for fans, and so valued by brands.


What we did:

The Capital One Cup Final in March saw the climax of Capital One’s season-long campaign focused on ‘supporting the supporters’. As part of the Final activity, Capital One looked to maximise the audience of the final by offering free Now TV passes to those not lucky enough to have access to Sky Sports. This was a big gesture that delivered true value to football fans, who would otherwise have missed the first final of the 2013/14 season.

Industry insight:

Extending the true excitement of an event beyond those lucky enough to attend is a challenge facing a number of brands and rightsholders. However, alongside Capital One’s work, there have been a number of other examples in 2014 of brands bringing events closer to non-ticket-holders. Two that we particularly enjoyed were The National Theatre’s continued commitment to its National Theatre Live programme, which involves live screenings of theatre shows at local cinemas, and Manchester United’s partnership with Google+ that allowed fans around the world to ‘be’ at Old Trafford by appearing live on the pitch-side perimeter boards.


What we did:

In order to kick off MasterCard’s partnership with Rugby World Cup 2015, Synergy created a photo moment on the Thames involving All Blacks legend Dan Carter kicking conversions over Tower Bridge. As emphasised on the Synergy blog, a good photo idea has to be reinforced with insight and good management in order to be successful. Both of these boxes were emphatically ticked here, with the resultant images capturing the imagination of the national media and providing one of the most compelling sports PR shots in recent memory.

Industry insight:

Other striking PR shots that grabbed our attention this year included the Yorkshire Building Society dying 150 sheep yellow in honour of the Tour de France and Puma’s water projection on The Thames to launch the new Arsenal kit. Once again, these examples looked fresh and innovative and therefore excited the media and fans alike.

What we did:

BUPA’s ‘My First Step’ campaign looked to get more people running by emphasising the ease with which people could start, or re-start, training. As part of the planning, BUPA and Synergy found that 60% of UK adults believed that their bodies would not be up to running once they reached 60, a myth BUPA looked to dispel as part of the campaign. 63 year-old non-runner Jennie Bond was recruited as an ambassador, as we followed her training journey that culminated in her completing the BUPA London 10,000 event.

Industry insight:

Consumer insight is clearly crucial for a successful sponsorship campaign, with the best examples based on thorough planning. Whilst the success of the ‘My First Step’ campaign was built on a relevant and robust consumer insight, we make no excuses for including another piece of Synergy work from 2014 that emphasised the importance of understanding a target audience. Ahead of Round 4 of the Capital One Cup, Capital One gave Brian Clough-style green jumpers to Nottingham Forest’s away fans at Tottenham as a tribute to their legendary manager. The story and images received widespread acclaim and, whilst the execution was impressive, the success of the story was thanks to the team’s insight around the 10th anniversary of Clough’s death and his unforgettable status within the game.


What we did:

June at Synergy signalled the launch of Coca-Cola’s ParkLives project. Following many months of in-depth planning and research, the aim of getting more people more active more often was brought to life through this bespoke programme in partnership with local councils, which provides free activity classes for local people in local parks in cities across the UK.

Industry insight:

The planning for the ParkLives campaign re-iterated that self-created programmes can often be the best way for brands to achieve their CSR goals, rather than simply buying an off-the-shelf proposition. Another great example of this in 2014 was Western Union’s ‘Pass’ programme around the brand’s UEFA Europa League sponsorship. Each successful pass made during the competition signified a contribution of financial support for quality education of young people around the world.


What we did:

The SSE team at Synergy were up in Glasgow at the 2014 Commonwealth Games for the culmination of the brand’s GoGlasgow campaign. One of our many roles up in Scotland was managing SSE’s experiential activity on Glasgow Green, which allowed fans to capture a unique photo of themselves supporting their nation. Importantly this activity linked seamlessly into SSE’s wider campaign and fed into a digital leaderboard that acted as a real-time tracker on the conversations around the Games.

Industry insight:

Whilst by no means a new trend, by linking the experiential activity to the wider campaign and creating a strong digital output, the reach of SSE’s footprint went far beyond those lucky people at the Glasgow Green live site, and therefore generated significant engagement levels. Another really simple idea that we loved from this year was Nescafé’s activity in Croatia that again blended the online and offline world simply and effectively to create a fun and shareable experience.


What we did:

A couple of crazy days in late August saw Synergy manage the media launches for both the Guinness Pro 12 and Aviva Premiership 2014/15 rugby seasons, and give journalists, staff and fans unique access to two of the biggest club rugby competitions in Europe. The Guinness launch focused on staff engagement at Diageo’s global HQ in London, which gave employees the chance to quiz the Pro 12 captains; whilst Aviva’s event at Twickenham harnessed the Twitter reach of several of the players by creating the first ever ‘Captains selfie’ which provided fans with a fun, new viewpoint of the launch.

Industry insight:

One of the obvious benefits of sponsorship as a marketing tool is the ability for a brand to give their target audience behind-the-scenes access to something about which they care passionately. Whilst not specifically a launch, The FA’s use of the trophy to promote the sense of adventure around the upcoming third round of The FA Cup is a heart-warming example of a rightsholder giving fans unique access to something special (in this case, young fans being able to take the trophy on a series of their own adventures).


What we did:

2014 has been a massive year for Martini and Synergy, as we have helped take the iconic stripes back to the Formula 1 grid through the title partnership of Williams Martini Racing. In September, at Martini’s home race at Monza, a massive pan-European trade promotion reached its climax, with consumers and trade partners having the chance to experience an exclusive Italian weekend. This included rooftop parties, power boating on Lake Como and, of course, access to the Italian Grand Prix itself, and Synergy were on-hand to ensure this massive operation ran smoothly.

Industry insight:

Global sponsorships don’t get much bigger that a Formula 1 car deal, and Martini have used their sponsorship effectively to create unique promotions that engage with their target audiences. We also loved Coca-Cola’s huge FIFA World Cup on-pack promotion – offering consumers the chance to win one of a million footballs. For a brand that is committed to helping people get more active, this was a bold statement of intent. The additional element of a 10p donation to StreetGames for every purchase showed a brand that is embracing the Social Era and also reiterated that sponsorship, shopper marketing and CSR can work brilliantly together when applied correctly.


What we did:

October was all about The 2014 Ryder Cup, and the BMW and SLI teams at Synergy used their sponsorships in very different ways to achieve their objectives. BMW focused on generating sales leads and bringing fans closer to the action, with all activity centring on the #DriveYourTeam hashtag, whilst SLI used the tournament to demonstrate their ‘World Class As Standard ‘proposition. Two unique content strategies helped to achieve these objectives, with BMW focusing on using Twitter to create relevant and reactive golf content for fans and SLI creating long-form video content with ambassadors Sam Torrance and Curtis Strange to connect the World Class attributes of The Ryder Cup with Standard Life Investments.

Industry insight:

As we all know, a single sporting platform can be approached in very different ways, and a third brand (this time a non-sponsor) who once again used The Ryder Cup as a prime PR opportunity was Paddy Power, and we loved their approach, using a tongue-in-cheek appearance from Nigel Farage to extol the virtues of Europe coming together.


What we did:

The QBE Internationals are always a busy time in Synergy’s calendar and this year we were busy creating fantastic social content for our new client, and England kit manufacturer, Canterbury. Using Canterbury’s innovative new shirt fabric as our literal canvas and creating messaging that linked the product with the team, we were able to put an innovative spin on real-time messaging and put the shirt at the heart of Canterbury’s content.

Industry insight:

As the fan appetite for real-time content continues to grow, the evolving challenge for brands is how to get serious cut-through from their communications. We therefore also liked Virgin Media’s real-time newsroom during the Commonwealth Games, which created fun, amusing and – most importantly – differentiated sponsor content throughout the Games.


What we did:

December has seen another milestone reached for Synergy, as the first instalment in a series of Royal Salute videos inspired by the world of horsemanship, reached over a million views on YouTube (across four geo-tagged edits for different markets). This visually stunning video beautifully encapsulates the bond between man and horse, and is perfectly in keeping with a luxury brand with a strong heritage in polo.

Industry insight:

We have thought about some of the other content we have enjoyed in 2014 and in no particular order, three of our favourites include:

Beats By Dre – The Game Before The Game

The ultimate ambusher pulled off a masterstroke – brilliantly framing the key moment before a game (the moment when Beats headphones have an obvious and key role for the players) with a little help from among others – Neymar (and his dad), Fabregas, Van Persie, Lebron, Serena and even the two stars of the World Cup final – Schweinsteiger and Gotze. The presence of the pantomime villain Suarez didn’t even detract from it!

Nike Football – The Last Game

We loved how Nike brought out the personalities of their superstars and used animation in a fresh and interesting way, helping them to get around the obvious problems of bringing together a wealth of their talent for a shoot. The medium also opened the door brilliantly to the unique #AskZlatan real-time content series.

Always #LikeAGirl

A very different video – and one that doesn’t rely on any talent costs or high production values – but in an incredibly focused, simple and beautiful way reinforces Always’ commitment to empowering girls globally.

What do all of these videos have in common? All four of them are (in very different ways) tapping into something of genuine interest and relevance – whether a moment or a movement – and therefore people in their millions have actively chosen to watch, talk about and share them.

For Synergy, 2014 has unquestionably been a year to savour in sponsorship – here’s to another great year for the industry in 2015.

Brazil 2014 – Synergy’s Sponsorship & Marketing First XI

Germany’s victory against Argentina on Sunday evening signaled the end of what many are referring to as the greatest World Cup in living memory. The attacking football on show led to matches of the highest quality, with many of the world’s top players rising to the occasion and creating magical moments. However, the action on the pitch was not the only source of interest, with the marketing of the event inevitably leading to a number of worldwide talking points. As part of our Synergy team on the ground in Brazil, Reema Babakhan picked out her highlights:

1. Social media showed just how global the World Cup is

In particular, Twitter demonstrated this like never before during this summer’s tournament. Germany’s demolition of Brazil in the Semi-Finals broke the world record for the number of tweets about a single sport event, with 35.6 million tweets sent about the match, while 618,725 tweets were posted in just one minute following the final whistle of Sunday’s showpiece. And the conversation really is global, as neatly illustrated by this Twitter heat map from the Germany v Brazil match.

Away from Twitter, the World Cup Final became the most discussed event ever on Facebook with 280 million interactions during the game, dwarfing the 245 million set by the Super Bowl last year.

2. Suarez’s bite was the ‘Oreo Moment’

Suarez provided brands with a prime opportunity for some tongue-in-cheek real-time marketing. But, as we wrote on the Synergy blog, no brand managed to own the incident like Oreo at the Super Bowl.

3. Watch this space

Hublot’s huge new watch-style subs boards were a real coup, and they became one of the talking points of the tournament. It also highlighted a trend of World Cup sponsors’ unique activations becoming more and more visible with other examples including Bud’s Man of The Match, Coke’s Happiness Flag and McDonald’s Player Escorts. Food for thought for the IOC?

4. Gillette missed a sitter

We like Goal Line Technology, but we loved the free kick spray and, more importantly, we all talked about it. It also spawned hundreds of Twitter virals almost immediately, so why did Gillette take a week to capitalise on it?

5. Cahill’s lucky escape

Some activity is only seen in certain territories. Gary Cahill will be forever thankful to his agent for ensuring that Premier League fans were spared this cracker from Budweiser that aired hourly in Brazil:

6. All over for Sony?

Although no official announcement has been made, rumours are rife that this will be Sony’s last as a World Cup sponsor. A contributing factor to this decision may well have been how well they were ambushed by Beats by Dre, a move that caused such alarm that the headphones were explicitly banned by FIFA. Despite this, and Sony sending every player a pair of their headphones, some of the most talked about players from this summer’s tournament, including Neymar, Luis Suarez and Mario Balotelli, continued to be pictured wearing their Beats away from the stadiums.

The ad for Beats, filmed in Brazil, features the aforementioned players as well as Bastian Schweinsteiger, Daniel Sturridge, Mario Götze and Robin van Persie, and has had more than 22 million views on YouTube. Following Germany’s victory at the Final, it was announced that the full squad would receive a set of 24 carat gold-dipped special edition headphones.

7. Will Emirates ever activate?

One film, Pele in a polo shirt and their hostesses at the Final. Is that it?

8. A ball became a celebrity

The activation of @brazuca by Adidas was probably the sponsor coup of the tournament. With its irreverent posts, the official match ball became one of the must followed accounts of this year’s World Cup, with Zinedine Zidane, Samuel L Jackson and Pope Francis amongst the 3 million people to hit the follow button. Not only that, but the brand sponsors both the German and Argentinian kit, resulting in the first all Adidas final since 1990.

9. Nike still rules as an ‘unofficial’ sponsor

The #riskeverything campaign received unanimous nods of approval, a certain Mr Gotze is a Nike man and they still own the most iconic shirt in football, the yellow of Brazil.

10. But most Brazilians don’t buy Nike shirts

Up and down the bars at Copacabana, on the streets of Sao Paulo, on the beaches of Recife, the yellow shirt is worn, which sounds great for Nike, but it’s rarely the genuine article. The price is prohibitive for many Brazilians, costing almost 1/3 of their monthly salary. In response, some outlets reverted to reducing the costs to combat the endless fakes sold openly on the streets.

11. Social Media has made #gotgotneed even louder

In every school playground and classroom, the ‘got, got, need’ mantra has been spoken for years. This year, that mantra became louder as nostalgic adults also got involved like never before. Social media became a giant global playground for dedicated collectors of the famed Panini stickers. It’s likely this will be a world record year for Panini, especially with Brazil as its biggest market (8 million albums are currently being filled by the host nation alone).

And 3 off the bench…

12. The USA sees the light

Has the US finally fallen in love with soccer? The performance of USMNT certainly galvanised the US audiences, and it is clear that 2014 was the year that Americans finally learnt to fully embrace the spectacle of the World Cup. President Obama was amongst a host of high-profile USMNT supporters to articulate their support for the team through social media. Others included Justin Timberlake, Fergie, Kobe Bryant and Hulk Hogan.

13. Football saved FIFA. For now.

It was all doom and gloom in the weeks and months leading up to the World Cup. The infrastructure was not going be ready, the tournament would grind to a halt, there would be violent protests, and England would struggle to get past the round of 16. The predictions were (almost all) wrong.

Football won. It was so good that FIFA, and even Sepp Blatter, were given a break from the corruption allegations surrounding the Qatar World Cup. It remains to be seen how long that will last.

14. Messi wins Golden Ball (sponsored by Adidas)

Messi also happens to be Adidas’s most high profile ambassador. Coincidence? Perhaps, but the general consensus is that Messi didn’t do anywhere near enough to claim the plaudits this time.


Aviva – Rainbow Laces


As a founding member of Rainbow Laces, the campaign run by LGBT charity Stonewall to promote LGBT inclusion in sport, Aviva has been at the heart of the movement to make sport everyone’s game.

As part of this movement, Aviva wanted to encourage fans to challenge traditional stereotypes, strengthen local communities, and show that they are an inclusive and diverse company.

They wanted to show that inclusion and diversity is hardwired into everything they do from the top down – building an agile and diverse workforce, reflecting the population of each country Aviva operates in and the customers it serves, with leaders who exemplify inclusive diversity and a culture that enables employees to do their best work.



Building on their previous LGBT inclusion in sport campaign activity, the 2017 Rainbow Laces activation had two distinct phases.

Celebrating Inclusivity

Aviva showcased and celebrated the inclusiveness of grassroots rugby, by setting up a surprise for gay-friendly club Bristol Bisons RFC, who were greeted by England legends Will Greenwood and Ben Cohen (an LGBT activist) prior to their game against fellow inclusive team Northampton Outlaws RFC. The 2003 Rugby World Cup winning duo presented the squad with a brand-new kit, featuring Aviva Pride and Stonewall as sponsors, as well as Rainbow Laces for their boots, before announcing they would be playing in the match. The day became even more surreal for both teams after Greenwood revealed that top international referee Owens would be the man taking charge of the fixture, fresh from officiating at Twickenham the previous day.

Encouraging Support

On Rainbow Laces weekend, Aviva handed out 22,000 pairs of laces to fans at six Aviva Premiership Rugby matches and a Norwich City match, 9,000 to Aviva staff across 16 UK offices and 1,300 through their social channels Aviva branding at six Aviva Premiership Rugby matches and Norwich City’s home match vs Preston North End was changed to the Aviva Pride logo, including pitch painting, LEDs, match day programmes, flags and referee kit, reaching hundreds of thousands of eyeballs live and on TV in the process. A partnership with Teamer was established to reach fans across the country


Awareness and a positive reaction to Aviva’s commitment to inclusive and diversity was generated via:

 - 1.5m views of the film – engagement and CPV exceeded previous Aviva brand content
- 16 national media articles
- 32,300 laces distributed (40% of all Rainbow Laces distributed)

Teamer’s partnership promoting the activity reached a total of 80,000 rugby and football fans

The campaign provided opportunities for staff involvement and showed Aviva publicly leading from the front, creating a culture for LGBT staff to feel comfortable

Campaign developed in consultation with LGBT employee network Aviva Pride, which has 1,200 members


British & Irish Lions Tour 2017 – One Team. One Standard.


Raise global brand visibility and increase understanding of the values Standard Life Investments share with the British & Irish Lions: an unrivalled team ethos and a commitment to excellence combining to achieve World Class results.

Use the partnership as a platform to engage with clients and involve staff to strength team culture and pride.



The campaign had three phases to establish, explore and reveal the importance of unleashing teams’ potential – both for the Lions and for Standard Life Investments.

With no access to players until the squad was announced in May, we signed five ambassadors: Head Coach Warren Gatland, Martin Johnson, Paul O’Connell, Gavin Hastings and Shane Williams.
We launched the campaign with a short film featuring Warren exploring the potential of the team and unlocking it to achieve World Class performances.

The RBS 6 Nations – widely accepted as the shop window for Lions selection– gave us the chance to benefit from the extensive fan and media conversation by creating the Lions Index, a series of social films featuring Martin Johnson and hosted by Sky Sports’ Alex Payne. Each examined match data and social conversation surrounding each Home Nation and analysed players’ performances in the context of bringing them together to create a World Class team.

In collaboration with Engine sister agency WCRS, we supported the ATL creative that showed Standard Life Investments’ and the Lions shared ambition to achieving world class performance through teamwork. The work went live across key online, print and OOH sites during the Autumn Internationals, RBS 6 Nations and Lions Squad Announcement.

When the Tour finally arrived in New Zealand, we made sure that Standard Life Investments were at the forefront of the media and fans’ minds through a series of on-the-ground activations. Meanwhile, we produced over 35 pieces of content featuring Rugby legends giving insight and analysis around each match, allowing Engine Media to achieve outstanding results through precise audience targeting.


Our content strategy fed the never-ending appetite for Lions-based content, we shared stories that communicated Standard Life Investments brand messages of World Class, Teamwork, and Potential.
Capturing and distributing content on a real-time basis allowed us to embed Standard Life Investments in the ongoing Lions conversation and ensure that what we shared was hyper-relevant.
The campaign delivered:

A 297% increase completed video views, with view rates increasing by 87% compared to previous campaigns.
Prompted awareness of the Standard Life Investments brand reaching 84% after the Second Test
Over 30.7 million content views across 81 countries
Over 100 pieces of editorial coverage in the UK alone.

British Triathlon & Accenture – Nothing Beats Working Together


Having worked with Accenture to define their sponsorship strategy and evaluate a range of opportunities, we identified the British Triathlon Federation as the one with whom they could build a truly innovative and progressive partnership and achieve their objectives.
The next step was to create a launch campaign to communicate the new partnership to Accenture’s core audience – both internal and external – and build anticipation for what is still to come.



We wanted to create a full campaign to support the launch, with each idea demonstrating:

1) Accenture’s commitment to improving the performance of British Triathlon’s athletes and Para athletes through the application of new technologies

2) Accenture’s belief in the importance of inclusion and diversity (reflected in their status as the first Official Mixed Relay Partner)

3) Accenture’s commitment to offering their employees, clients, and partners exclusive experiences as part of an active and healthy lifestyle

Recognising the levels of collaboration required to communicate all three, our campaign message came naturally: Nothing Beats Working Together.
Featuring moments of collaboration between British Triathlon athletes and coaches captured during a normal day’s training at Loughborough, we created something very few partnerships have – a cinematic teaser trailer that builds anticipation for future collaboration.
To support the film, we captured a PR image that showed a moment in the training regime of the full team – athletes, coaches, and Accenture technicians – working together.


The film and hero image were featured across key business, triathlon, and sport industry media outlets. Both created conversation and excitement around the landmark partnership, with Accenture employees from across the UK also sharing them via their social media channels before it was shown on the big screen at the City of Nottingham Triathlon.


Anthony Joshua & Kano – The Road to Greatness


Despite being one of the leading sports brands in North America, Under Armour’s brand recognition in the UK and across Europe falls some way behind. So, when Under Armour athlete and World Heavyweight Champion Anthony Joshua faced off against future hall-of-famer Wladimir Klitschko in the UK’s biggest ever boxing bout, it provided a fantastic opportunity for the Baltimore-based brand to launch itself into the UK’s consciousness. Our brief was simple, cut-through the hubris and noise surrounding the fight to deliver a brand piece that would provide both sporting and cultural penetration for Under Armour in the UK and beyond.



With such a crowded media space, cluttered by both official and unofficial fight partners, we took the decision to gamble on an execution that could only be activated in the event of an Anthony Joshua victory, thus avoiding the pre-fight scramble for space.

With authenticity and athlete-first activation at the heart of the Under Armour brand, we capitalised on Anthony Joshua’s position as a well-known supporter of the UK’s grime scene to partner with Kano – one of the ‘Godfathers of Grime’ and one of AJ’s favourite artists. Kano was briefed to write, deliver and perform a spoken-word tribute to Anthony Joshua that both encapsulated AJ’s journey to sporting immortality and Under Armour’s ‘I WILL’ pledge - a forward-facing, inspiring statement that aims to push athletes to better themselves via a young, aggressive and fearless mindset.

With lyrics finalised, our next step was to produce a miniature music video to accompany the piece. Working against the clock, we produced a stripped-back, ‘less is more’ creative – providing greater emphasis on Kano’s ability to deliver the emotional tribute with passion and conviction rather than becoming reliant on backing melodies or distracting visuals. The end product was a powerful, emotive piece that successfully embodied the qualities that Under Armour aspire to deliver and those that AJ demonstrates in the ring. All we needed now was for Anthony Joshua to win his fight…


As soon as Anthony Joshua’s dramatic 11th Round victory was secured, we released the tribute via Under Armour’s social channels and then to online media in the immediate aftermath of the victory. With Anthony Joshua and Kano also sharing the video, the piece gathered 100,000 views in a couple of hours, causing it to ‘trend’ on YouTube.

Mainstream media coverage soon followed with the likes of the Daily Mail Online, Sun Online, ESPN, Mirror Online, Complex, GRM Daily and Hypebeast all covering the video’s release – clearly demonstrating that the video had delivered beyond mainstream sporting titles and provided a cultural moment too as the nation’s most influential music and lifestyle sites paid homage to the tribute. This effect was also replicated on social media sites with the likes of MOBO Awards, SBTV and The BPI also sharing the piece, providing a brand new audience for Under Armour.

With the piece amassing nearly 10m views across all channels by the end of the week, Under Armour HQ made the decision to bring the creative (which had been delivered by our client, Under Armour Europe) stateside. After a quick repurpose and edit, the video went from an online creative to a TV advert played in the breaks of the NBA Play-Off finals – reaching an estimated audience of 44.5m viewers. A massive international splash? I will.


British & Irish Lions 2017


Develop a unique, ownable campaign that communicated Canterbury as the Official Apparel Partner of the British & Irish Lions, driving commercial sales six months ahead of the 2017 tour to New Zealand.


We needed to develop a campaign that was based on a fundamental British & Irish Lions insight – one that embodied the symbolism of the iconic red jersey but also mobilised Lions fans across the four nations.
And so, built on the truth that rugby players won’t touch the jersey until they’ve earnt the right to do so, the ‘Untouchable Jersey’ campaign was born.

The concept of ‘untouchable’ was used to creatively bring the jersey to life as part of a fully integrated campaign which ran across PR, Digital and in-store.

Simultaneously, Canterbury playfully challenged fans to follow in the footsteps of players and remain true to the ‘untouchable’ insight – buying the jersey, but then keeping their hands off it until the squad announcement in 2017.


To kick things off, we introduced our ‘untouchable’ insight to fans through the imposing voice of Lions Head Coach Warren Gatland, who delivered a spine-chilling message down the barrel of the camera with a stare belonging to a man with the toughest job in rugby. The short film invited fans to begin their journey to New Zealand by pre-ordering the jersey.


In a rugby first, Canterbury gave 30 Lions fans a sneak-peek of the new jersey 24 hours ahead of launch, by delivering a unique hologram of the new shirt directly through the user’s smartphone. The reward was available only to those that had pre-ordered the jersey, a direct incentive to drive pre-sales.


On the 1st November, the new jersey was unveiled to the rest of the world as a giant ‘untouchable’ hologram on the Southbank, seen hovering above the London skyline amongst the city’s most iconic buildings.
Finally, specially designed holograms of the jersey were installed in the shop windows of key retailers across the four nations. This helped to drive intrigue and local purchase, alongside static banners and POS builds. All ATL materials featured ‘untouchable’ messaging at their core, rounding off a truly integrated campaign.


A fully integrated campaign that drove earned media coverage, maximised Canterbury and British & Irish Lions owned channels, actively supported retailer partners and rewarded the most committed of supporters.

- 213 media articles across the tease and launch phases
- Over 570,000 content views

Canterbury has unveiled the new ‘untouchable’ British & Irish Lions Jersey by projecting a hologram into the London skyline this evening. Canterbury’s innovative stunt on the Southbank marked the launch of the official jersey that will be worn by the British & Irish Lions players in the highly anticipated 2017 Tour to New Zealand.

Mitsubishi Motors – Intelligent Motion


Impactfully launch Mitsubishi Motors as England Rugby’s Official Performance Partner while increasing customers understanding of the brand’s ‘Intelligent Motion’ philosophy.



We performance-tested England Rugby Captain, Dylan Hartley and fellow teammates, Jonny May and Alex Goode against ‘England’s biggest fan’ at the MIRA Transport Technology Centre. Combining the intelligent thinking of rugby with the brand’s heritage in innovation, the England Internationals put their skills to the test through a series of intuitive challenges up against a 45mph wind turbine.


Our activity provided the creative platform for iconic launch imagery, a unique story that rugby, consumer and automotive media wanted to tell, along with a rich variety of social content for fans to share throughout the Autumn Internationals.


Aviva Community Fund


Aviva were in the second year of the Aviva Community Fund, a nationwide initiative offering funding to community sports clubs and inspirational local causes.

How could Aviva harness their sponsorships of Premiership Rugby and Norwich City Football Club - and capitalise on their association within sport in general - to help drive more Community Fund entries versus the previous year?

Harlequins, Jack Clifford, Danny Care and Marland Yarde


As a critical first step, we introduced a new ‘Sport in the Community’ category to the Community Fund, specifically tailored for the thousands of amateur sports clubs across the UK, giving grassroots sport a more powerful and credible voice throughout the campaign.

Then, built on the insight that everyone has emotional memories of their first grassroots sports club, we created a campaign called ‘Back To Your Roots’. This focused on stirring those very memories in the minds of Aviva’s target audience: the sounds, the smells and the people that made their grassroots sports club so special.

We created film content with both double Olympic champion Nicola Adams and players from all 12 Aviva Premiership rugby clubs, talking about the importance of grassroots to their development – and even brought the Norwich City team down to surprise a local club. This was all backed up by our Aviva Community Fund takeover of Teamer - one of the UK’s largest free social sports websites – throughout the initiative’s submissions phase.


A resounding success, the campaign exceeded set KPIs;

3,897 entries into the Aviva Community Fund, 20% of which were in the ‘Sport in the Community’ category
Nearly 1,700 media articles, across print, broadcast and online
A total of 540k paid for and organic content views across Aviva, ambassador, Premiership Rugby and Norwich City channels
Over 10,000 click-throughs to homepage as a result of the Teamer partnership


Ryder Cup 2016


Create global awareness of Standard Life Investments' worldwide partnership with the Ryder Cup and deliver their 'World Class As Standard' message.



We signed up the 2016 Ryder Cup captains, Darren Clarke and Davis Love III, as brand ambassadors alongside a suite of performance and golf experts to align Standard Life Investments with world-class talent. Our ‘World Class As Standard’ campaign uses our ambassadors through a series of short videos released online, exploring the importance and the impact of analysis, performance and potential on ultimate sporting success.
We launched the Standard Life Investments 2016 Ryder Cup ‘World Class As Standard’ campaign in New York in April. Our approach was focused and targeted, providing exclusive access to American and international media, Standard Life Investments' media partners as well as an intimate and exclusive event for CEOs. The captains and senior executives from Standard Life Investments rang the Nasdaq opening bell in Times Square live on American TV with our campaign content streaming on a live billboard – exposure usually bought for $100,000.



So far, we have generated 124 pieces of coverage across both sides of the Atlantic, conducted 15 media interviews with captains generating an AVE of over £1m pounds. The launch sparked conversation across 17 countries and over 10 million social impressions.


British and Irish Lions


As an existing client, Standard Life Investments called on Synergy when an opportunity arose with the British and Irish Lions. The property was there for the taking, but how could Synergy ensure the deal was raising awareness of their business globally, inspiring both their people and their clients, as well as develop a fully integrated launch plan for the partnership?



After negotiating the contract on behalf of Standard Life Investments the Synergy team began working on a launch plan. Across the month of January we delivered a press event, a series of internal staff and client events spanning the UK, created and delivered internal marketing materials and signed-up five legends of the game to represent Standard Life Investments as brand ambassadors.


The launch was met with excitement from the rugby audience, Standard Life Investments' staff and their clients alike. The press event delivered over 350 pieces of coverage across 14 countries. Standard Life Investments' digital channels saw over 14,000 social interactions with over 3,000 posts on Twitter alone driving more than 6,000 visits to the microsite from 51 countries worldwide. Through the ATL it is estimated that almost 25% of the UK population was reached, whilst the internal events with our rugby ambassadors engaged around 3,000 colleagues on the launch of the partnership.

London 2012 – Golden BMWs


BMW was a London 2012 Partner but had no marketing rights to the London 2012 Olympic Torch Relay. How could BMW leverage the national marketing opportunity created by the Torch Relay?



We leveraged UK communities’ excitement about the Torch arriving in their area by touring a convoy of three custom-liveried Golden BMWs around the Torch Relay route a day ahead of the official Relay. Alongside, we created an integrated social, PR and experiential campaign aligned with BMW retailers, including inviting people to ‘Spot, Snap and Share’ on social media their photos of the Golden BMWs to win London 2012 tickets.



We re-imagined the possibilities of Olympic Torch Relay marketing by owning the 24 hours before the Torch arrived. Making the cars the star was equally critical: turning the BMWs gold created Olympic relevance, social media buzz and media appeal, and ensured that BMW was indivisible from the story. The campaign reached over 20 million consumers, inspired almost 50,000 visits to BMW retailers, and increased BMW UK’s Facebook community by 15%.