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#NeymarPSG – The View From Brazil

Brazil is naturally buzzing about Paris St Germain’s swoop for Neymar. Even with the Brasileirão at full throttle and the Libertadores reaching its knockout stages, Brazilian football has had to share the spotlight with the latest in the #NeymarPSG news cycle.

The soap opera, as Brazilians call these long player negotiations, lit football afficionados (ie everybody!) and the media on fire. There is a consensus that PSG is paying an obscene amount of money. Fox Sports pointed out that Neymar’s world record price tag would buy every player in the Brasileirão’s top four clubs. And a UOL columnist highlighted that for the same money PSG could buy the other ten first choice players in Brazil’s national team.

Santos fans, however, couldn’t wait for the move to happen as they will receive a sell-on fee from Barca having previously sold Neymar to them in 2013!

Fans and the media have also been discussing Neymar’s motivations for leaving Barcelona.

Alongside, obviously, the money, most also agree that being the star at club level, as he is in the national team, and stepping out of Lionel Messi’s shadow, have played their part. It’s also assumed, in most people’s view, that this will give Neymar a better chance of winning the coveted Ballon D’Or.

As to Neymar’s image in Brazil, although he gets criticism from some for being spoiled and a bragger, he is still worshipped by most Brazilians, and if he maintains his on-field performances for the national team, his status as the country’s top sports icon won’t be affected, and may even increase - depending, in particular, on how Brazil performs in the 2018 World Cup. And as a PSG player Neymar’s exposure in Brazil will stay high, as the Champions League is shown free-to-air here.

Meanwhile Neymar’s move does inevitably impact Barcelona’s positioning in Brazil.

The long list of Brazilian stars that have worn the Barca shirt have helped make Barcelona Brazil’s most popular international club. How much Neymar’s exit will affect this is hard to predict, but will surely depend on the club’s recruitment of other Brazilian stars.

Meanwhile PSG will surely look to leverage Neymar and their other Brazilian players to sign Brazilian companies as sponsors.

Neymar’s father’s company, who together with the agent Wagner Ribeiro represent Neymar, are in pole position for this contract. They have previously represented Barca in Brazil, closing deals with local brands like Tenys Pé. And only this week, Centauro, the biggest sport apparel retailer in Brazil, announced an exclusive partnership with the club.

A new era of Neymarketing is about to begin.

by Guilherme Guimarães of Ativa Esporte, Synergy’s partner in Brazil

Investigating the commercial landscape of women’s football and why it’s in better shape than ever

"There is a very strong brand and economic case for why a brand would sponsor women’s football. One in five women are the main breadwinners in the family. There is a fast growing female economy - women have increased financial stability and, huge buying power – and yet our research shows that women don’t believe they are being represented in brand marketing. Football in particular is a brilliant and powerful metaphor for what women can achieve.”

Read the full article here.

EURO 2020: Why Brands Should Set Their Field of Vision Beyond 2016

As UEFA EURO 2016 reached its conclusion, over 300 million football fans tuned in to watch Cristiano Ronaldo and his supporting cast claim the Henri Delaunay Cup in St Denis. But for brands and potential sponsors, eyes should now be trained on a different footballing prize: the opportunity to sponsor UEFA EURO 2020 and the associated UEFA national team competitions.
Following the co-hosted tournaments of 2008 and 2012 – in Austria–Switzerland and Poland–Ukraine respectively – EURO 2016 saw a return to traditional single market hosting. 24 teams, their fans and the eyes of the football world zero-ed in on France for a Gallic festival of football. Its successor, four years hence, will have a very different flavour.Michel Platini may have been suspended, but his 2020 vision remains – a ‘EUROs for Europe’. The 16th edition of the tournament, on its 60th anniversary in 2020, will visit 13 cities in 13 different European countries. It will be the first major football tournament to span more than two countries. Truly, a European Championship.

“The EURO will never have better lived up to its name. It will be a EURO of unity and
shared experiences…and with one single language: football.”

Michel Platini

Unsurprisingly, the idea has polarised opinion. Some have questioned Platini’s motivation – the commercial potential of an enlarged and expanded tournament? Political expediency given the paucity of credible bids to host in 2020? Or ensuring a wide European power base in his now discredited bid for the FIFA presidency? Critics have also been quick to highlight the logistical complexities, the cost for fans wanting to follow their team across the continent, and the loss of the local flavour and ‘host nation spirit’ that often defines international tournaments. Sepp Blatter, of all people, argued that it would ‘lack heart and soul’ – in contrast to Russia 2018 or Qatar 2022, no doubt.

Even if you don’t buy Platini’s ideological rhetoric, it is easy to see why many National Associations and their fanbases are supportive. Nations who would never have had the stadia, infrastructure or finances to contemplate hosting a tournament – particularly the enlarged 24-team version – will now be able to stage a number of EURO matches. Denmark, Hungary and Romania are among the nations hosting three group games, plus a round of 16 games – a fantastic prospect for their local economies and football supporters.

Amid these differing perspectives, what of the opportunity for brands? Initial reaction from existing UEFA sponsors was relatively guarded – adidas commented that ‘we see a lot of potential in UEFA’s plans for EURO 2020’, and Carlsberg described the plans as ‘interesting’. Neither exactly a ringing endorsement, but there is no benefit in showing their hand too early, or too publicly. Clearly there are significant operational challenges for brands in managing a tournament sponsorship across myriad markets, but there are also plenty of reasons why CMOs should give EURO 2020 serious consideration.

MORE THAN A TOURNAMENT

The reinvention of EUROs goes beyond the evolution to a city-based model for 2020. The whole structure of National Team football in Europe is being reinvented. Out go the majority of meaningless friendly matches, in comes a new competition called the UEFA Nations League, a UEFA Nations League ‘Final 4’ tournament, a streamlined qualification process, and a more centralised UEFA-controlled rights programme. It may take a while for brands, and fans, to get their heads around the changes (explained in detail here), but the implications are clear: more competitive and meaningful matches; headline tournaments over three consecutive summers (Final 4 in 2019, EUROs in 2020, Final 4 in 2021); and ultimately a broader brand activation platform with more ‘tent poles’ over a four-year cycle.The new structure requires long-term planning and lends itself to a considered strategic approach, both over time and across markets. How should activation be prioritised across Nations League, Final 4, qualifiers and the EUROs? Are the subsidiary opportunities testing grounds for EURO campaigns, or do they require different insights and strategic considerations? Waking up to the opportunity a year out from EURO 2020 will mean you’ve missed much of its potential.It may take time to build equity in the Nations League, and for winning the ‘Final 4’ to develop prestige and cachet. But brands prepared to take a slight leap of faith, rather than stand on the side-lines, will no doubt be rewarded. Fingers crossed we can bid farewell to consolidated perimeter board purchase across European football – those largely unstrategic media buys for brands wanting instant exposure – and that those federations who have retained some control of some inventory will reserve such assets for their long-term brand partners.

SIZE MATTERS

It is almost too obvious to state, but the new structure means more matches, featuring more nations, hosted in more countries, engaging more fans. It is hard to see how that wouldn’t create a greater opportunity for brands, particularly those with commercial interests across the region. It will certainly help that four of the traditional ‘Big 5’ markets – England, Spain, Italy and Germany – have been selected for EURO 2020 hosting duties. Having 13 host markets presents a far more balanced activation opportunity than traditional tournament structures, where there is an inevitable concentration of value in the host market. And it potentially makes the investment decision that much easier, with fair share contributions from all host market budgets, without one market having to stump up the lion’s share.

“Getting your message across the whole of Europe is more attractive, it’s more effective.”
–Karen Earl Chairman of the European Sponsorship Association

More host nations means more stakeholders with skin in the game, on the hook to stage a successful series of matches. So, more governments supporting their federations, more tourism agencies championing their host cities, more federations mobilising members, volunteers and schools. There may even be a hint of competition between the hosts to deliver the most celebrated EURO 2020 experience. It all adds up to a very broad stakeholder group, and broader engaged communities, with new budgets, collaborations and partnerships for brands to explore and exploit.

IDENTITY CRISIS

The perception of EURO 2020 will be all-important for brands signing on UEFA’s dotted line. Will the tournament lack a coherent identity, and should that put sponsors off? Tournaments are often designed in their host’s image, taking stylistic cues from the national identity of the host market. But that often leads to a creative straight-jacket for sponsors, and some pretty generic approaches – see 2014 FIFA World Cup for the proliferation of ‘Brazilian’-themed campaigns.

EURO 2020 is more of a blank canvas, and ‘European-ness’ a less tangible characteristic. You could argue that it is more a political than cultural construct, particularly in light of ‘Brexit’, and there could certainly be some interesting geo-political considerations at play for brands talking up the power of football to ‘unite’. Regardless, the tournament should provide a creatively liberating opportunity for brands to anchor their insights and creative ideas in the traditional themes of football, unencumbered by an overtly national tournament identity.“(EURO 2020) will be decidedly continental and profoundly European.”
–Michel PlatiniPress coverage has a huge influence on the tournament perception, and this is another area where EURO 2020 could break the mould. There is a fairly established news agenda around major international tournaments – successful hosting bid announced; concerns raised over the cost of staging the event; nervousness about readiness of stadia; post-event harping about the financial burden, the white elephant stadia and the dreaded ‘L’ word. With EURO 2020, there have been no grand promises to create a lasting ‘legacy’, not one new stadium built, and the financial burden has been spread 13 ways. There may be other issues that render the event a journalistic punching bag, but brands can hope for a much more positive dialogue around their showpiece sponsorship property.

INNOVATION AND FLEXIBILITY

Two words not often associated with global rightsholders. However, the restructuring of European National Team football could be seen as an indication that UEFA are prepared to rip up the rule book and embrace new ideas and approaches. Certainly, our recent discussions with UEFA suggest a genuine willingness to explore new rights and opportunities. The fact that they have been consulting brand-side agencies such as Synergy to sense-check brand requirements ahead of the sales process augurs well.

On a practical level, UEFA are unencumbered by any existing sponsor relationships. The current cycle ends in 2018, so it is a clean slate for brands champing at the bit for a piece of EURO action. Apparently all categories are fair game, so we could see a dethroning of erstwhile EURO partners such as adidas, Carlsberg and McDonald’s, and those traditionally locked out given access to the biggest party in European football. The sponsorship structure is still to be confirmed, but there will certainly be packages across the entire UEFA National Team Partnership portfolio, and specific EURO 2020 packages would make sense. It will be interesting to see whether UEFA countenance more flexible brand partnerships – such as localised deals specific to individual hosting markets, or title sponsorship of the Final 4 tournament. The ability to prioritise investment according to business footprint and priority markets would be a strong selling point for many brands.

WHO CARES?

Arguably the most important question for any CMO will be ‘Is my audience interested?’ EURO is a proven concept, with interest and viewing figures on an upward curve. EURO 2012’s reach of 1.86 billion was a 30% increase on 2008, with estimates for 2016 sitting at 2.1 billion. The EURO final attracts a live global audience of 300 million, with the average EURO match at 150 million – higher than the Super Bowl. In the UK, the audience for England–Italy at EURO 2012 (20.3m) eclipsed even the highest sports audience for the London 2012 Olympics (17.3m). Sizeable numbers, and evidence that the showpiece tournament floats many a boat. The live cumulative audience across the entire 2018–2022 term – with the new National Team proposition – is estimated in excess of 8 billion.

Yet most assessments of fan interest to date have focused on qualitative, not quantitative, aspects – and many of them negative. The argument goes that fans will be disadvantaged by the cost and complexity of following their team across the continent, and the disparate nature of the tournament makes it far less accessible. Sure, the fans who want to follow their team throughout may have to navigate numerous European cities, but without wanting to belittle the importance of such avid fans, this is a tiny proportion in the grander scheme of things.

In fact, EURO 2020 is arguably the most accessible tournament ever: many more fans will be in relative proximity to a hosting venue and will be able to contemplate attending; matches are being hosted in major cities with excellent transport links (unlike many 2012 and 2016 host cities); and every qualified hosting nation will have two group-stage matches in their own country. Using the teams qualified for EURO 2016 indicatively, that would mean 16 ‘home’ matches played in front of local fans at EURO 2020, as opposed to the three ‘home’ group-stage matches for the French team at this year’s tournament. Creating matches with more meaning – through the Nations League – and a EURO structure that ramps up the local fervour in host markets, should ensure a highly engaged fan base for potential sponsors.

Pepsi’s UCL Final Show: Was Alicia Really Key?

The 2016 UEFA Champions League Final, held in the San Siro Stadium in Milan, may have featured many of the household names of world football, but it looked and sounded very different to previous events. Pepsi, as part of its UCL sponsorship activation, presented a live performance by US artist Alicia Keys as part of the pre-match entertainment.

With the eyes of the world focused on Milan for a moment of such sporting – if not cultural – significance, I found myself torn by Pepsi’s decision to activate the entertainment rights. On the one hand, I really wanted to see music and sport coming together on the biggest European stage, helping prove that successfully blending these twin passions was not the preserve of US sports. It would have been brilliant for everyone: the fans, the music industry, the world of sport, and – of course – the brand behind the moment.

On the other hand, I was concerned about the approach that Pepsi had taken in activating its moment: namely by its choice of artist and the material played. At our 2016 #TalkinRevolution event (where we covered the future of music and brand partnerships), we highlighted the fact that successful brand-led music campaigns generally start with the idea first and the artist second. So: was Alicia Keys chosen before or after Pepsi decided on this activation?

To be clear, I have no issue with Alicia Keys; on the contrary, she’s a loved, accomplished and highly talented artist, and the single she was promoting, ‘In Common’, is a beautiful song. She has a significant digital footprint, with 34m Facebook fans (nb. It was 38m at the original time of writing this) and 24m Twitter followers, so from the perspective of a brand ‘media buy’, the thinking is easy to understand. Reach, however, is no longer the key metric. Depth of engagement is far more important, and I don’t believe there is (or was, on the evening) a deep, authentic engagement between Alicia and the UCL’s overwhelming football fan audience. Sure, her Italian heritage may have provided Pepsi an angle for choosing her, but other than that, what was the fit? Having spent time working at Sony Music, I know for a fact that Alicia is naturally more fitting for a female audience, yet both the TV viewers and stadium spectators were largely male…

On top of this is the set-list performed by the artist. In order for music to speedily connect with an audience on an emotional level – in the limited time available at such events – what is ideally required is either a level of pre-existing familiarity with the material, or a simple, catchy hook. At the 2014 FIFA World Cup, I co-wrote and delivered the tournament’s official anthem, which played out as winners Germany were handed the World Cup Trophy. Seeing 78,000 spectators jumping up and down in unison to the track we produced was testament to the emotional engagement that the right beat or lyric – let alone choice of artist – can deliver. What Alicia focused on, however, was a performance of mostly new tracks from her recently launched album. This meant that TV viewers and the stadium audience alike were hearing predominantly new, unfamiliar music, with no in-built engagement properties, which, rather than setting an epic tone for the UCL Final, risked their pre-match set-piece generating indifference or even negativity.

The right choice of artist and the right type of material may well stem from one place: the right contract with management and/or the record label. It’s clear that the thought of audiences from 220 countries tuning into her performance at the Final would have been music to the ears of Alicia’s label, RCA (though perhaps not so much for the fans), but was this a case of the tail wagging the dog?

The UEFA Champions League Final could have been European football's equivalent to the Super Bowl Halftime and Pepsi's investment should have had measurable KPIs and a high ROI. In fact, it should have become a case study for brands to take note of. If this kind of approach is going to work for Pepsi in the future, I would suggest that the sound and feel of both the music and artist values must match the target market and the mood / state of mind of the fans and viewers. Additionally of course the brand values of the artist should mirror – or at least feel appropriate to – those of the sponsor brand. The good news is that even the mighty NFL can get it wrong: Coldplay’s back catalogue at Super Bowl 50 couldn’t compete with the upbeat, floor-filling energy of performances by Bruno (Mars) and Beyoncé.

The future of music (and related brand partnerships) at major European sport events depends on campaigns like this working. Let’s hope brands start to approach music in a more strategic manner soon. There are some incredible opportunities to make music work extremely hard for brands. It simply needs the right thought through approach.

You can hear Alicia Keys new single on Spotify here.

Why winning the Premier League is more than just priceless to fans

Leicester City are three points from writing their own happy ending to one of the greatest sporting stories of modern times. What’s more, their closest rivals to claiming the coveted silverware are not one of the traditional ‘Big Four’, but Tottenham Hotspur. An unlikely pairing and an unlikely tale for the richest football league in the world.

With a new name set to be engraved on the trophy, an exciting new avenue of commercial opportunities is set to be opened up, but who’s set to benefit from this?

THE CLUBS

Put simply, the club will make more money. Considerable amounts of money.

Let’s start with the basics – the winners of the Premier League will not only take home the trophy, but will also bank a £24.7m cheque for their efforts. Plus, with UEFA Champions League revenues to come for both clubs next season, they can look forward to anything between £10m to £55m of additional income. To put these figures into perspective, Leicester City’s commercial and sponsorship income in 2012 was just £5.2m.

The financial impact goes beyond just prize money – the real commercial win comes through an expanded fan base, both at home, and, more lucratively, abroad. The recent trend has seen Premier League clubs spend their pre-season on money-making tours in the Far East and America – emerging markets where they can capitalise on both fan engagement and brand investment.

Winning the Premier League will undoubtedly gain Leicester an army of new fans across the globe (their story has already won them hearts on home shores). If you don’t believe it, just look at the differences between the Twitter exchanges – both in terms of language and pure numbers – when Leicester announced they were safe from relegation in last season, to when they announced they had made the Champions League this season.

A global fan base can lend itself to a new approach to sponsorship – dividing up regions and sponsor categories to allow for the monetisation of countless deals. Manchester United claim an ‘Official Casual Footwear Partner for South Korea’, Chelsea boast an ‘Official Whiskey Partner in Myanmar’, while Arsenal have an ‘Official Telecommunications Partner in Indonesia’. Could we soon see these types of deals for Leicester?

In terms of adding fans, there isn’t just a global benefit, but a local one too. Leicester’s average attendance in the League two seasons ago was 24,990, which is close to 10,000 fans below stadium capacity. This season, you can’t get a ticket for love nor money at the King Power Stadium, with reports that touts are selling tickets to Leicester’s final game of the season for £15,000. The demand to watch the Foxes live – and be a part of the fairytale – is greater than ever.

Leicester don’t just become more attractive to potential sponsors because of the additional reach and bigger fan base. The authentic money-can’t-buy narrative will have brands falling over themselves to be part of it. In sport, the greater the odds of success, the greater the story, and the odds have never been greater in the Premier League. A Cinderella rags-to-riches story that provides a welcome relief from past rhetoric of wealth that surrounds the likes of Manchester City and Chelsea.

THE PREMIER LEAGUE

The Premier League will be delighted at how the season has played out. Now, they can rightly claim back their title of being the most exciting league in the world. In Spain, just three different teams have won the title over the past decade, with FC Barcelona dominating with six wins in the past 10 seasons. In Italy, again it’s just three teams, with Inter Milan and Juventus splitting the success between them, and AC Milan winning once.

This season, by contrast, the Premier League has been entirely unpredictable. The likelihood of Leicester finishing top of the table was almost impossible in August, and only a fool would have placed any money on their starting odds of 5000/1 to win the league. Don’t we all wish we were fools…?

And that £5bn the Premier League sold the broadcast rights for? It increasingly looks like better value for the broadcasters that shelled out. This exciting season has captured the imagination of fans around the world and will have re-inforced the unique appeal of English football..

As the Premier League seeks global domination in search of more riches, stories like that of Leicester City can only help. Historically viewed as the flashiest, most commercial, most money-obsessed league (both in terms of wages and ticket prices), this season has turned this stereotype on its head. Riyad Mahrez and Jamie Vardy cost the Foxes less than £1.5m combined. In fact, Claudio Ranieri’s entire squad cost a total of £54.4m – one eighth of big spending Man City, and still one third of their nearest title rivals Tottenham Hotspur.

A huge PR win for the Premier league, and let’s face it, you can’t buy coverage like this…

Yes, that’s Leicester City Football Club, on the front cover of the Wall Street Journal – heady times for the club.

THE PLAYERS

Where once Wayne Rooney, Didier Drogba, Sergio Aguero and Luis Suárez were the darlings of sponsors, these household names may soon be replaced by younger, fresher names like Alli, Kane, Kanté, Vardy and Mahrez. Players catapulted from relative obscurity into the limelight, not burdened by huge deals and with the ability to make the most cynical football fan appreciate their talent. It’s reasonable to assume that they will soon be boosting their earning power exponentially through personal sponsorship deals. As an example, Rooney is estimated to be making around £5m a year from private endorsements alone.

And it doesn’t stop there. Vardy’s meteoric rise from Non-League to Premier League has been likened to that of a Hollywood script…and media reports suggest that this could actually happen. When you consider the only other movies in recent times about football careers were about the Class of ’92 – charting the most successful team in English history – and Cristiano Ronaldo, it highlights how enraptured the public are with Vardy’s story.

ENGLAND

Most of the ‘Golden Generation’ have retired, having disappointed fans with their underachievement for over a decade. There has been a noticeable lack of excitement and enthusiasm for the national team…until this season.

Leicester City and Tottenham Hotspur boast English talent like Harry Kane, Dele Alli, Jamie Vardy, Eric Dier, Danny Rose and Danny Drinkwater. These new names have revived a nation’s hope and expectation with their young, fresh approach to the game (and beating Germany in their own backyard didn’t hurt).

This fresh crop of England players, not tainted or weighed down with past failures, will shift shirts in huge numbers before EURO 2016, which is great news for Nike. Fans have once again been drawn back towards the national team and it’s these players’ names that will grace the back of England shirts up and down the country – even Rooney’s kids want Vardy on theirs.

Mars, Vauxhall, Lidl and other England sponsors will also benefit – they have seen much of the cynicism around their prize assets disappear this season, transformed into newfound hope and positivity around the team.

QUIDS IN

It’s clear that pound signs will be flashing in the eyes of the winning club, the Premier League, the players, the FA and sponsors. The big question is whether this is a one-season wonder or the start of a new order. Can Leicester build on this and become truly dominant forces on the pitch in England and Europe, and around the world commercially?

Even Spurs, should they finish second, will have stepped out of the shadow of the dominant clubs in the Premier League and stand to gain financially off the pitch. One thing’s for certain: if Leicester and Spurs manage to continue their charge in the UEFA Champions League next season, the Big Four could start to shift uncomfortably in their boardroom chairs.

Success & Scandal: The Inspiring Early History Of Women’s Football

Goodison Park was packed to the rafters as 53,000 fans watched Alice Kell – captain of Dick, Kerr’s Ladies – score a hat trick in her team’s 4-0 win over St Helens Ladies. By all accounts, the 14,000 supporters turned away from the stadium missed a great game of football. The day was Boxing Day; the year, 1920.For the best part of a century this game stood as the record attendance for the women’s game. It wasn’t till London 2012 when 70,584 saw England beat Brazil 1-0 that this dusty record was broken. In recent years – and especially in the wake of the England’s heroics at the 2015 World Cup – women’s football has been experiencing an extraordinary rise in popularity. England’s semi-final against Japan peaked at 2.4m viewers on BBC 1 and Round 7 of The FA WSL in July 2015 experienced record crowds. Moreover, the Women’s FA Cup – boosted by SSE’s historic title sponsorship – drew 30,000 to Wembley.A challenge for the game’s champions and sponsors is to consolidate and grow this fanbase ahead of the European Championships in 2017.

Given compelling stories celebrating brands’ pasts are often the backbone to strong campaigns, (see Johnnie Walker and Lloyds), perhaps the same strategy could be applied to women’s football, given its fascinating and tumultuous history…

In 1894, feminist Nettie Honeyball founded an unprecedented entity – the British Ladies Football Club – with the aim, she said, of “proving to the world that women are not the ornamental and useless creatures men have pictured”. It was a radical idea and led to the first official recorded game of football between two women’s teams. This took place in 1895 when a collection of players from North London took on their Southern counterparts.

A “huge throng of ten thousand” travelled to Crouch End to witness the spectacle. There followed a series of games, raising money for charity, around the country. Some reporters were sneering, “the laughter was easy, and the amusement was rather coarse” (Jarrow Express); whilst others were supportive, “I don’t think the lady footballer is to be snuffed out by a number of leading articles written by old men” (The Sporting Man). However, by the time the year was over, crowds – apparently blasé to the novelty – had petered out and the women’s game disappeared.

Twenty years later, with World War I raging on the Western Front, The FA suspended the Football League as players joined the ranks in the trenches. Meanwhile, 900,000 women were sent to work in munitions factories, where kicking a ball around at lunch breaks was a welcome respite from their dangerous job. From these kick-abouts, ‘Munitionette’ teams from various Northern factories were formed.

The most famous and successful of these was from Dick, Kerr’s & Co. in Preston. The team’s first match drew a crowd of 10,000 but this success was unlike the short-lived successes of 1895. Dick, Kerr’s Ladies went on to play numerous matches, raising £70,000 (£14m in today’s money) for charities supporting ex-servicemen and other causes. True, there were mutterings of the game’s unsuitability for women but the crowds continued to pour in even after the war ended – 35,000, for instance, saw Alice Kell’s team play Newcastle United Ladies at St James’ Park in 1919.

Alongside Alice Kell, Lily Parr was Dick, Kerr’s Ladies star player. One local newspaper wrote that there was “probably no greater football prodigy in the whole country” and it is said her shot was so hard it once broke the arm of a professional male goalkeeper. Parr’s 31 year playing career saw her score over 1,000 goals, 34 in her first season in 1920… not bad for a 14-year-old.

1920-21 represented the peak of Dick, Kerr’s success. In 1920 they represented England, beating the French women’s team on both sides of the Channel and finished the year at Goodison Park in front of 53,000 fans (by comparison 50,018 attended the men’s FA Cup Final that year). Meanwhile, 1921 was packed with 67 fixtures in front of a cumulative audience of 900,000. Yet, 1921 was also the year of the second downfall of the women’s game, courtesy of a directive from The FA banning female teams from all FA affiliated stadiums and grounds.

The perennial complaint against women’s football – and the excuse used by The FA – was that it was harmful to female health. In 1895 the British Medical Journal had declared “We can in no way sanction the reckless exposure to violence, of organs which the common experience of women had led them in every way to protect.” Now in the ’20s, Harley Street’s Dr Mary Scharlieb wrote, “I consider it a most unsuitable game, too much for a women’s physical frame”.

However, one might argue that these medical opinions were merely a pseudo-justification for The FA’s real fear that women’s football represented an uncomfortable shift in society’s hierarchy. Now the war was over, here you had female teams – “in knickers [shorts] so scanty as would be frowned upon” – attracting more fans than many men’s games being played on the same day.

What’s more, the women’s football matches, which had raised thousands for charity, were now supporting the struggling families of miners during the 1921 Miners Lock Out – a politically charged dispute where miners were had been banned from working in the coalfields, having refused significant wage reductions.It was a lethal combination: Women flouting the role dictated to them by social convention to play a scandalous sport that drew bigger audiences than their male counterparts, whilst raising funds in support of anti-establishment trade unions.

The FA’s ban effectively squeezed the sport into obscurity. Whilst teams such as Dick, Kerr’s continued to play, their banishment to nondescript playing fields meant that never again would they be cheered on by thousands in Goodison Park or St James’s. Years in the wilderness followed until the FA ban was finally lifted half a century later, allowing the game to begin its slow recovery. Although that’s another story for another time…

Back in 2016, with the women’s game reaching the popularity levels of the 1920s, the challenge is to maintain its upward trajectory ahead of, and beyond, forthcoming major Tournaments. The stories, characters and controversy from women’s football’s intriguing past are potentially a real starting point from which to catalyse powerful campaigns around the sport.

SOURCES:
Shelley Alexander, ‘Trail-Blazers who Pioneered Women’s Football’ (BBC)
John Simkin, ‘British Ladies Football Club’ (Spartacus Educational)
John Simkin, ‘History of Women’s Football’ (Spartacus Educational)
‘The History of Chelsea’s Stamford Bridge’ (The Guardian)
‘WW1: Why was women’s football banned in 1921?’ (BBC)

Roman’s New Empire: Why Chelsea’s New Stadium Bucks The Trend

Chelsea’s new stadium by Herzog & de Meuron


Towards the end of last year, Chelsea (finally) submitted plans for their new stadium on the Stamford Bridge site – something of particular interest to me as both a fan and architecture graduate. The release of the designs was followed by the now obligatory social media backlash. A run through comments on various news sites brought up comparisons with a slinky, an ash tray, a filter and, my personal favourite, an egg slicer. Factor in the Gherkin and the Cheese Grater and London is one Baguette away from a rubbish sandwich.

But despite these ‘creative’ insights, I like it.

The UK is littered with identikit stadia, distinctive for their plastic facades and truss supports. In the Premiership, Swansea, Southampton and Leicester’s grounds are almost indistinguishable. The story is much the same in the lower leagues. Reading’s stadium, for example, sticks out on the town’s outskirts like a grey Lego/K’NEX hybrid toy.

I will concede that these teams have an excuse. Many old grounds were in need of an overhaul and the ‘off the shelf’ nature of these pre-fabricated stadia appear the most cost-effective way to improve the match day experience. However, that excuse holds less weight when you consider the super rich teams at the top of the Premier League.

The Emirates stadium cost £360M to build and, whilst impressive in scale, is largely a bland mass of coloured plastic and glass. The Etihad bowl isn’t much better and it looks like Tottenham will be heading the same way too.

There are lots of examples of great stadium design out there. However, the sad fact is a lot of them rarely get used.

The most interesting venues seem to be saved for one-off tournaments – the Olympics and World Cups. It was great seeing 80,000 people pack into London’s iconic Olympic Stadium to watch ‘Super Saturday’ and witness the enthusiasm for football across South Africa’s impressive array of World Cup venues. But there is an under-lying problem. What happens to these stadia following the tournaments’ conclusions?

The notorious issues of legacy and spiralling budgets seem an inescapable side-story to international tournaments. Brazil’s organisation of the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics, both mired in debt and political controversy, is a very current case in point. Montreal’s Olympic Stadium, the debt of which was only paid off 30 years after the 1976 Games, another.

In the UK at least, football is the only sport both lucrative and popular enough to fund such ambitious design, with the Olympic Stadium viable proof. For all Lord Coe’s rhetoric of a strong athletics legacy, we needed West Ham to step in as permanent tenants (landing the deal of the century in the process) to justify the construction cost.

‘The Big O’ designed by Roger Tallibert


You may question why the design of a stadium is actually that important, considering its principal function is purely to seat fans and showcase the sport. However, I would argue that the best venues in the world – iconic landmarks such as the old Wembley, Lord’s and Fenway Park – accomplish much more than pure function.

The reality is most people who encounter these huge arenas do it from the outside and never actually enter, particularly in a prominent city location like West London. Therefore, exterior form and contribution to the local area are crucial.

Looking at Chelsea’s new stadium, the brick piers are the most prominent feature and, in my mind, also the most successful. They give a sense of occasion and celebration which typifies a football match. Two thousand years ago the Romans needed an arena with the grandeur of the Colosseum to do its festivals justice. In the 19th Century, the Victorians advertised their industrial prowess through magnificent train stations, which we still use today.

Monumental brick piers at the new Stamford Bridge

Sport has an equal social impact on our generation. It is part of our national culture and deserves a significant legacy. Somehow I don’t see the Etihad stadium lasting the next 100 years. At least the robust piers of Chelsea’s new stadium look like they might.

The Chelsea project is also in safe, responsible hands. Herzog & de Meuron (the former an avid football fan and player) are excellent architects with an outstanding track record in stadium design. The Bird’s Nest in Beijing is their most famous work but the new stadium in Bordeaux is equally stunning. Add to that the colour changing Allianz Arena and it makes for a fairly impressive portfolio.

Of course premium design comes at a price, so good on Mr. Abramovich for splashing out on bricks over plastic. Not everyone will like it but at least it makes a statement. A stadium is more than a way to make money from fans. It is a club’s home, steeped in heritage and history, a pilgrimage destination made by thousands every week. Chelsea deserve huge credit for bucking the trend and giving their fans an interesting venue to come to. It might even do some good for the reputation of football, and wouldn’t that be nice for a change?

adidas & Manchester United: Keeping Their Eyes on the Prize

Back in late 2014, Synergy cut through the wave of commentary on the record-breaking £750m adidas kit deal with a value-based view on whether the deal would be worth it.

According to adidas CEO, Herbert Hainer, it has.

However, in a recent interview with German newspaper Suddeutsche Zeitung, Hainer appeared to place equal emphasis on United’s style of play, saying “Business with Man United is going very well, we sell more shirts than expected. We are satisfied….even if the current playing style of Man United is not exactly what we want to see.”

And, sure enough, it’s Hainer’s comments on the United playing style which have hit the headlines…with many football fans agreeing with him.

But as adidas CEO, responsible for maximising value for shareholders, aren’t Hainer’s remarks concerning the £ value added to adidas’ bottom line more interesting? Is it not more remarkable that a £750m deal, regarded by many sports marketing experts at the time to be too expensive, is in fact outperforming sales expectations? As I’m sure Manchester United manager Louis Van Gaal would insist, sports marketers and newspapers should focus on the value-based facts and figures like:

- “… we sell more shirts than expected” (Herbert Hainer, adidas CEO)

- “Many adidas retail partners have reported a 200% increase in day one sales vs. last year’s kit launch” (Steve Marks, adidas’ Director Of Sports Marketing for Manchester United)

- Sales of the club’s shirts broke the existing Megastore record by almost 50% (Manchester United)

Though Hainer’s single comment on the United playing style hit the headlines, the adidas CEO is clearly keeping his eyes on the prize – profit. Whilst adidas’ Manchester United kit sales are off to a strong start, this is a marathon, not a sprint. Only with time and effective measurement will we know whether adidas have created lasting value for their shareholders over the full 10-year term.

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.

Work

UEFA Champions League

BRIEF

Deliver MasterCard’s ‘Priceless’ positioning and add media reach and depth to MasterCard’s UEFA Champions League partnership by taking the story of the MasterCard mascots into the media in the lead-up to the UEFA Champions League Final.

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SOLUTION

Walking out onto the pitch at the Champions League Final is a ‘Priceless’ experience for the mascots, so we treat them like stars. This has included creating a ‘Champions League Mascot Training Camp’ with Deco, featuring little lookalikes of global stars such as Ronaldo and Rooney, with Deco coaching the mascots how to shake hands, how to line up, how to behave for the cameras and more, and Michael Ballack presenting the mascots with their kits for the Final on stage at a press conference for the world’s media.

RESULTS

By re-imagining a traditional asset we have turned it into a newsworthy story which delivers MasterCard-owned media coverage across multiple countries year-on-year as well as fun, shareable content that racks up hundreds of thousands of views.

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