npower, one of the UK’s “big 6” energy suppliers with around 6.5m residential and business accounts, have just completed the second year of their 3 year title sponsorship of The Football League in England. It doesn’t have the same glitz, glamour and international following of the Premier League, but with 1656 regular season matches and 15 end of season play-offs (including 3 showpiece finals at Wembley), along with annual attendances of over 16 million, it’s a major partnership. The Leader met with npower’s Head of Sponsorship, Emma Collins, to discuss how she has used online channels to digitally activate the rights, including the facebook-based Fanpower Stadium campaign.
Can you describe the traditional aspects of your activation so far?
One of the cornerstones of npower’s Football League sponsorship strategy over the past 2 seasons has been the implementation of a number of wide reaching community programmes to make a positive impact in each of the 72 Football League communities. These have ranged from the npower Kid’s/Girl’s Cup, national 6 a side competitions that aim to get more young people involved in the sport, right through to the ‘What’s Your Goal’ programme, which gives young people the opportunity to undertake football industry related work experience under the guidance of a number of high profile mentors such as Robbie Savage and Karen Brady. We have also run a number of fan competitions.
How have you done digital activation?
There have been 2 major digital activations, one per season, over the period of the sponsorship. Both campaigns have heroed the fans of the Football League understanding that they are the foundation on which everything is built. Their passion for the game and their clubs drives the Football League and indeed our sponsorship. In the 2010/2011 season we launched the ‘Every Shirt has a Story’ campaign, which asked fans to share their personal memories and stories they have with their club shirt. A winner was selected for each of the 72 Football League Clubs with the fans representing the Clubs competing in the 2010/11 npower Football League Play-Off Finals becoming the central figures behind the matchday branding at Wembley and Old Trafford. Entry was primarily online supported by social media and viral activations. The best content was shared with the npower Football League online community after the close of the competition.
This season we have evolved this concept and launched the npower ‘Face of the Play-Offs’.
And what was new for the 2011-2012 season sponsorship?
A big success for this season has been our use of facebook to engage with Football League fans. We’ve recently achieved 100,000 facebook ‘likes’ and have been using this platform to offer fans regular competitions, the latest of which gave them the chance of winning tickets to the Play-Off Finals at Wembley stadium.
The Fanpower Stadium campaign was launched in March at a time in the season where fan engagement is at its peak. With so many promotion and relegation issues coming closer to being settled and the battle for Play-Off places fan conversation is naturally at its most intense as the season enters the crucial final few months. We therefore thought that the timing fitted perfectly with the concept of the Fanpower Stadium.
Can you describe fanpower Stadium?
The Fanpower Stadium gives fans the opportunity to win up to £30,000 for their Football League Club by doing what comes naturally to them – talking about their Club with the football fan universe! It lives online through a facebook application; fans register and take a seat in the Stadium in their Club’s section. Each Club has a target number of seats to fill relating to their average home attendance, the first Club in each League to fill its allocation wins money to be invested directly back into the Club – therefore it is all down to the fans who are encouraged to spread the word to their fellow supporters to help their Club reach the target. There are also secondary cash prizes on offer to the Clubs whose fans make the most ‘noise’ through social media outlets such as facebook and twitter which has been a great success in generating conversation around The npower Football League and the Fanpower Stadium.
And how does the facebook app work?
Fans can track how their Club is fairing in comparison to other Clubs in its division. This league table shows fans how effective their attempts to recruit fellow fans to join up has been and helps create the competitive element that fans love!
There are also a number of ‘spot prizes’, Club specific prizes that fans can win through taking their seat in the Fanpower Stadium. We actually doubled the number of spot prizes available to celebrate passing 100,000 likes on our facebook page to further thank the fans for their participation.
What were the key aims of the campaign?
Overall, to champion the fan as the driving force behind the success of the npower Football League by allowing them to become heroes for their Clubs, and to bring a real benefit to Football League Clubs by providing additional investment that can be used to create a legacy from the campaign. It was also important to engage Football League fans in the digital/social media space and give them a powerful forum to champion their Club.
The campaign is great as it gives real benefit to the winning clubs but also gives something back to the fans. For npower we get to start a conversation with those fans and build a dialogue which hopefully means they put us ahead of our competition when they come to choose their energy supplier.
How have you promoted Fanpower Stadium?
One of the main successes has been the level of buy-in from the 72 npower Football League Clubs. They have been incredibly supportive in communicating the Fanpower Stadium to their fans through various platforms. We have also used our traditional sponsorship assets such as progamme adverts, perimeter board messaging etc to promote it – the npower Football League Play-Off Finals gives us a great platform to promote the Fanpower Stadium through such assets.
We also filmed a viral advert with Chris Kamara and Robbie Savage that helped create a buzz around the launch of the Fanpower Stadium.
How did you balance digital and traditional activation in this year’s sponsorship strategy?
Fan behaviour has clearly evolved dramatically over the past few years. The fan experience is much more dynamic, people want to be able to discuss their Clubs when and where they want and interact with other fans in a more social way. It is therefore vital for brands, and especially sponsors, to embrace social media and enter the conversation in a way which enriches the fan experience. Brands have to adapt to changing consumer habits and the growing importance we are placing on social media is a recognition of this fact.
The key is finding the right balance. Traditional activation will always remain key in building awareness and association, and will always provide engagement opportunities if approached correctly. As a sponsor you need to get the most out of all your assets and therefore traditional activation will always play an important role. However it is true that digital activation is becoming ever more important due to the reasons previously mentioned. It will therefore naturally become a more central pillar throughout npower’s sponsorship strategy.
What digital activation did you do around the play-offs?
We have run a competition in conjunction with TALKsport radio called, ‘The Face of the Play-Offs’, which selected 2 fans per Play-Off club to become their club’s representative. We held photo shoots during the semi-finals with these fans and their images have been used on the branding all over the stadium, including the front cover of the match day programme as well as a giant banner on the front of Wembley Stadium!
How have you worked with the FL and how have you leveraged their digital/social assets?
The Football League has been extremely supportive of the campaign. They have helped promote the campaign through their website and social media feeds that both attract significant online traffic. They have been closely involved with the development of the Fanpower Stadium and have been especially supportive in selling the campaign into the Clubs.
What has made the campaign a success?
The campaign has been successful as it taps into genuine insights into fan behaviour and how they interact with the game and their Clubs.
What were the big obstacles?
The strength of the Football League is also the major challenge; namely the number of stakeholders there are to deal with when activating a campaign such as the fanpower stadium. With 72 clubs of all shapes and sizes we have to be careful to ensure our campaigns are flexible enough so that every club is able to get involved and benefit from them. Thankfully the clubs have all been great and really got on-board with the campaign; the Football League also help us to co-ordinate activity.
So what can we expect from npower in the future?
More of the same but hopefully even bigger and better! Every time we run a campaign such as the Fanpower stadium we learn more and we put these learning’s into our future campaigns. One element you can bank on is that at the core of any future campaign will be the Football League fans, these are the true stars of football and we will continue to hero them in our campaigns.
Emma has worked at RWE npower for 5 years as a Campaign Manager and now Head of Sponsorship.
She was interviewed by Leaders Head of Content, Stephen Dobson.
THIS MONTH’S ARTICLES:
BEN GALLOP (BBC SPORT): THE DIGITAL OLYMPICS
CARLO DE MARCHIS (DELTATRE): THERE IS NOTHING LIKE THE OLYMPICS
MATTHEW TRUMBLE (SUPER LEAGUE & RFL): RAISING AWARENESS OF OTHER SPORTS IN A FOOTBALL WORLD
GIULIANO GIORGETTI (AC MILAN): SOCIAL MEDIA STRATEGY AT AC MILAN