Something is changing in sports sponsorship and it is being driven by the competitors themselves. writes Founding Director Chris Broadbent.

Athletes are no longer the mannequins to be dressed up by sporting bodies and events. And they know it.

Sport has always been a hugely attractive platform for marketing. Beyond the official multi-national partners and supporters of Tokyo 2020, brands right down the food chain manoeuvre to gain exposure and be part of international, national and even local attention that only major events like the Olympics deliver.

The traditional approach of buying sponsorship rights, affordable only to massive multi-national brands with multi-billion budgets remains steadfast. Occasionally, some clever guerrilla marketing tactics can break through. For example, Dr Dre’s Beats headphones cleverly gifted to athletes at the London 2012 Games leading to massive exposure..

But the stranglehold is rarely breached, such is the depth of contracted rights that the major names get for their big bucks, including branding across the event, massive brand exposure through international media coverage and the hugely positive association with success and a healthy image that radiates from the world’s best athletes.

But in recent years, the dynamic has shifted. And it is largely to do with the athletes, now more media savvy than ever before. With the explosion of social media, athletes are more aware than every before of their own value, influence and power….it is literally reflected in their numbers of followers.

It was telling at Euro 2020 when Cristian Ronaldo made a point of removing Coca Cola bottles strategically placed in front of him at a press conference. An estimated $4b was wiped off Coke’s shares as a result.

Elite sportspeople have become emboldened and are speaking now more forcefully on social issues like racism and climate change. Tokyo 2020 organisers quickly back pedalled when they withdrew their plan not to feature any athletes at the Games taking the knee on their social channels. Sport and politics, do mix after all.

Events like the Olympics have traditionally been used by major brands as marketing platforms, but athletes are now finding their voice.  And – off the playing field at least – are less prepared to play ball.

Brands who align themselves with elite sport events and organisations, will likely have to be prepared to have their product or service questioned and be associated with an environment where the expression of political and social opinions will become more frequent. They may even decide that a better use of budget is with individual athletes, where the greater influence is heading.

PPC is one of the most cost effective and measurable forms of advertising, yet there are still businesses who neglect to utilise this powerful tool in their marketing operations.

In simple terms, PPC is pay-per-click, a form of search engine marketing in which you only pay each time one of your ads is clicked on. And when we talk about search engine advertising, primarily this refers to the giant that is Google Ads. Other search engines are available, but with 90% of traffic on all devices, Google dominates the market.

PPC is a way of buying visits to your website based on user’s search terms, rather than attempting to earn those visits organically. Often, the impact of PPC can be overlooked by small businesses. It is a less visible, less tangible and not as straightforward as traditional marketing, such as leafleting or newspaper advertising. But not understanding it is no excuse for ignoring it!

It is an essential part of the marketing mix. Search engines are where people – your customers – go to ask questions and to find out about services and products. Think of them as people who are sticking their hand in the air wanting to know more about products and services like yours. These are high quality leads! There is a purchasing interest to their browsing. By ignoring them, you are losing warm prospects or worse still, leaving the way open for competition to engage with them. Indeed, some competitors may even exploit any negligence by “brand hijacking”, ie. paying to advertise to audiences who search for your business name.

It trumps untargeted forms of advertising like newspapers and radio, where you can only hope your target market sees or hears and hope they react to it on their devices. With Google Ads, the consumer is king, the adverts are accessible 24 hours a day on their device at their convenience, relevant for their needs and can be responded to immediately with a click or two.

Most users will spend up to 30 seconds looking at the search results. Therefore, occupying space high in the rankings via PPC, is prime real estate. You need to be seen by eyeballs and under the thumbs of consumers on their devices. PPC is a form of advertising which is non-intrusive to its audience. It is products and services that meet their online query.  That’s why it offers real return on investment in generating enquiries. And for the advertiser, it provides real marketing intelligence tracking the effectiveness of your spend and conversion rates, allowing you to make strategic data-based decisions.

At Fruit, we have in-depth experience of local, regional and national PPC campaign set up and management, please contact us today to find out how we can embed PPC into your marketing mix and turbo charge your business’s lead generation.

With a population of around 1.4billion, over 21 times that of the UK, China offers incredible potential for any successful British business seeking to spread its wings internationally. And as business begins to confront the reality of Brexit, many businesses are looking further afield to export their products and services. China is a fascinating opportunity, possibly very rewarding but with significant cultural challenges. At Fruit, we have some experience of marketing in China and taking Western brands into the world’s biggest marketplace and working with Chinese offices.

Before even considering entering China, it is critical to nail down your intellectual property, your value lies in your brand and your credibility. If you have not secured it – or worse still an opportunist in China has already trademarked it – then you could be in for an uphill struggle. The good news if that British brands are held in high esteem – if pitched as a premium offering. Britain has luxurious connotations for the Chinese consumer. Remarkably, some British brands have had success selling tea to China. Far from being a mess of red tape, as some perceive, the barriers are not as big as you might initially fear.

However, what works in the UK and other Western markets will not simply translate to China. Indeed, translation itself is misleading. Forget translation, think localisation. Simply translating a brand can lead to clunky, misleading representations of the brand.

Instead, it needs to be adapted. One of the worst pieces of advice we ever received was to translate a brand’s marketing collateral in Hong Kong. “The gateway to China” we were advised. The result was poorly executed work in Cantonese, rather the national language of Mandarin. With such mistakes, brand can waste money and tank their brand before its even got going.

In localisation, it is also important to build themed marketing activity around prominent Chinese festivals such as Chinese New Year, Lantern Festival, Summer Holiday, and Golden Week to connect with the Chinese consumer. To go into business in China is also virtually impossible without WeChat, the ubiquitous platform that is a unique amalgamation of features we might recognise from Facebook, WhatsApp, Spotify, Uber, Tinder, Apple Pay and others. It is where the Chinese find entertainment, message friends, buy goods and even book a doctor’s appointment. It is integral to Chinese life.

If it is a move you are considering or need some trusted advice on the way for your Chinese venture, please contact us. We are even open on Chinese New Year.

What will be the social media trends of 2021?

Social media has become such an integral part of life, that it is hard to believe it is still in its relative infancy. Facebook, the behemoth of the social media landscape turns just 17 in 2021. Not even old enough to drink yet. Twitter is turning 15 this year, so can at least have certificate 15 films to look forward to. Whilst Instagram will become 11 and is off to big boy school now.

Social media is the place were friends and family interact, it is a preferred source of news and information and brands and businesses’ main communication channels to their target markets. Few businesses can operate successfully without some degree of social media reach and engagement. Yet, with an ever-widening breadth of options and an ever-changing landscape, it is important to stay right on top of your social media strategy.

In the last two years, TikTok has soared in prominence. The Chinese platform has risen from around 20m global downloads in the second quarter of 2016 to 220m in the third quarter of 2019. An estimated 60% of users are Generation Z, ie, born after 1996. Its rise has coincided with the decline in useage of SnapChat, once a preferred domain of Millennials and Generation Z, but with Instagram stories taking a bite from SnapChat’s unique feature, it has slipped in popularity.

Facebook and Instagram remain the UK’s most popular social media platforms.

Yet, such is the volatility of social media, assume nothing. Facebook’s strategic moves towards centralising the leading platforms, with Instagram and WhatsApp both now under the Facebook umbrella, does not find favour in US Politics. Recently elected President Joe Biden said of the American company and its owner: “I’ve never been a fan of Facebook, as you probably know. I’ve never been a big Zuckerberg fan. I think he’s a real problem.”

It’s not unthinkable that the platform could face a reckoning. It has long denied that it is a publisher and has avoided the accountability more traditional media platforms must adhere too. Such is its role in societal discourse, that is looking an increasingly untenable position.

Meanwhile, another Chinese giant WeChat has yet to make a concerted move on Western markets. WeChat combines the functionality of Facebook, WhatsApp, with music app Spotify, dating app Tinder and ApplePay. It is a one stop shop for more than 500m Chinese users. Could it one day play the same role in our lives?

Other platforms are not searching for world domination, but with their distinct personalities, Pinterest and LinkedIn have attracted tens of millions of users. The former as a visual discovery platform for those seeking lifestyle inspiration for recipes, crafting, home and fashion. The latter as a way of connecting professionals and recruitment.

It can be an overwhelming proposition to get social media right and many companies make the mistake of going scattergun. Instead, it’s important to take a thorough, considered review of your approach. Understand who your market is, which platforms do they inhabit, develop content that they respond to and consistently review and refine.

The transition to the virtual world has been accelerated through the pandemic with event organisers forced to adapt to the realities of lockdown life. But there are indications that rather than a return to normal service after the pandemic, many virtual innovations will be here to stay and for those organisations who have developed their digital delivery through 2020 and 2021, great rewards ahead.

On the face of it, the events industry has been devasted by the pandemic.

Yet, for those who persevered against the odds by pivoting to virtual delivery, there is a blueprint for lowering organisational overheads, reaching, and engaging wider audiences and fresh and lucrative revenue streams. The Virgin Money London Marathon is one such example. As the mass participation market ground to a halt, they postponed their traditional April staging and considered their options. They eventual came up with a model in October that saw an elite-only in-person event taking place in tandem with a virtual event for runners to be part of in their own communities.

It was not without its teething troubles. But they pulled it off with 38,000 ‘virtual’ runners. The brand stayed relevant and with runners peppered across the UK in their London Marathon race bibs, the event had – arguably – a wider reach. They delivered value for sponsors and generated revenue through the virtual delivery. Pre-pandemic, the event was consistently oversubscribed way above its 40,000-runner limit. This year, they have publicly stated they are aiming for 100,000 participants – both in person and virtually, more than doubling participation in a fell swoop.

Other hits (literally) of lockdown have been Gary Barlow’s Crooner Sessions, where has teamed up with the likes of Robbie Williams, Cliff Richard, Jessie J, and many others, striking a chord with millions across YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook. Of course, the Take That national treasure has been delivering the sessions as a pep-up to the nation. But it has provided another indication of the new possibilities of the virtual delivery in all entertainment industries. It is a model that offers theatre and live music huge potential in the future.

In the corporate world, conferences have taken a hit with the traditional trade show and conferences model and their flesh-pressing culture impossible to deliver.

Yet with crisis comes creativity and platforms like GoToWebinar, Hopin and Big Marker have brought the in-person experience into the home. With interactive presentations with Q&A and audience polling features, breakout rooms, digital handouts, and recorded sessions – to ensure that you do not miss a minute, the model in many ways exceeds the in-person experience and is markedly cheaper too.

Of course, when the time comes, there is likely to be a resurgence in the event industry with people desperate for a level of human interaction that has been missing from their lives. But virtual delivery is here to stay with obvious potential in efficiencies, audience reach and the generation of new revenue streams. We expect hybrids model to be the core of event delivery post-pandemic.

Forget all you have heard from other marketing companies. Ignore everything you have been told. We have one guaranteed technique that will turbo-charge leads for your business and drive conversions….is something you will never, ever hear from us. You won’t see us on your social media feed offering simplistic solutions.

Sorry, but there is no silver bullet to marketing. We wish it were that simple.

What you will get from us is solid, honest advice and guidance from our experts with decades of experience. Where we do have a consistent mantra, it is in a multi-channel bespoke approach from client to client. No single marketing technique can work alone if a business is to reach its full potential. Nor will a multi-platform approach that we recommend for one client work as a winning template for a different client.

We will work with you to reach the right people, with the right message, on the right channels at the right time.

We work on a case-by-case basis to fully understand a business, its objectives, its market before plotting a tailor-made approach. It is estimated, according to Forbes (2019), that it requires an average of 7 to 10 touchpoints with a consumer before a sale is made. Which kind of throws that “one simple technique” notion under the bus.

Getting the customer journey right to ensure that your businesses delivers touchpoints in the spaces your target market inhabits is key to prospect marketing. When it comes to delivering your messaging and visual branding, its critical that there is strong consistency across all platforms to reinforce brand recognition and – with effective messaging – nurture positive sentiment among your target customers.

We won’t find you one answer…because there isn’t one. But we will work with you to find solutions that work for your business.

For a technology that has been around for over 25 years, the QR code has had a chequered history (sorry, we could not resist that one!).

It is a feature of marketing that arrived with great fanfare, but not with widespread acceptance in the UK. It’s not quite a comeback that excites like the Spice Girls or Take That. Yet, yet this is one 1990s return that could actually be ‘back for good’.

Ironically, the pandemic has been the catalyst for the potential of QR codes finally being realised by UK businesses and their marketing departments.

As of December 2020, the NHS COVID-19 app has been downloaded over 20 million times in the UK and over 750,000 posters with QR codes have been created through the Government’s services to service test and trace. In short, we have suddenly become a nation of QR code users. It has been a long time coming.

Heritage sites across the UK were among the early adopters to utilise QR codes as a way for visitors to quickly access further multi-media information on site in the early 2000s and enhance the customer experience. But they were underused with uptake limited in the UK.

It is not the pattern globally. In China, consumers are reliant on QR codes for digital interactions, to make financial transactions, to access further information, and to authenticate their identify – all supercharged by the giant WeChat social media platform.

In India too, the QR code has become embedded in consumer life with retailers embracing the technology in their millions. QR codes use is also surging in parts of Europe, USA, Africa and the Middle East. It is inevitable to surge in the UK and is a technology that marketing professionals will need to urgently review.

Modern day marketing is grounded in data and analytics. Digital media has enabled businesses to track consumer behaviour and provide a true measure of their marketing activities, which threatened more traditional printed marketing channels such as advertising, leaflets and posters. After all, if you can’t measure the return on investment on a marketing channel, how can you be sure it is working?

However, the QR code changes all that and will enable businesses to make fuller informed decisions on marketing budgets – and perhaps lead to a comeback for traditional marketing channels?

As consumers become more open to the QR code, it provides businesses with a fresh avenue to reach customers, to better understand their behaviour, to better inform them of their products and services, to better interact with them and ultimately, to sell to them. Perhaps those 1990s trends were not so bad after all?

January is always a time to refresh, reset, reimagine, repurpose. If you are a business seeking to reach a new customer base or concerned that you are losing relevance to your existing customers, a time to review your brand.

With lockdown 3 causing a slowdown in operations across many sectors, now is an opportune moment to bring some of the bigger projects off the shelf to be tackled for the longer-term strategic success of the business. Does your brand still articulate who you are, what your business can offer its customers and what makes you different?

Some businesses and organisations may even come to the realisation that a business needs a wholesale rebrand.

This could be when a business has evolved, and the existing brand has limited connection with customers it would like to reach. It could be that the current branding it is outdated and recollects a past era, either with colours or fonts that have fallen from favour.

Sometimes a rebrand can almost be forced on a business – when its reputation has been hit by some bad press or a poor reputation. It is also critical for any successful business to clearly articulate how it is different from its competition, its brand must therefore stand apart.

If it does not, then it can cause confusion and risk its relationship with customers, worse still, lose them to a similarly branded rival.

A brand has many elements beyond simply a logo, colour scheme and fonts – although those are a crucial part of the brand’s identity. It’s vision, values, narrative, tone of voice and messaging are all elements to be fed into a brand and bring clarity to what you deliver.

One of the most iconic rebrands of recent years is Compare the Market’s introduction of Alekxandr Orlov, the Russian Meerkat. The attention to the backstory and the clever use of the business name’s close resemblance to the much-loved creatures was a wholesale winner.

In the sporting world, one of the most contentious brand alterations was Cardiff City FC. Known as the Bluebirds with and 104 year history, their kit was changed from blue to red at the behest of new Malaysian owner Vincent Tan in 2012.

In overriding the club’s history, the clubs fans were alienated, a disconnect was created between the club and their audience and – inevitably, the kit sales plummeted. Three years later and the club reverted to their traditional colours.

A brand that has made subtle shifts over the years is market-leading crisps Walkers. Without jarring loyal customers, they have consistently evolved to stay relevant. Their most recent incorporates a subtle Union Jack in the background of the logo to communicate the brand’s ‘Britishness’.

If you are interested in a brand review, contact the team at Fruit Marketing – we have experience of managing some of the UK’s most prominent travel, food and drinks, leisure and professional services brands.

Stories create connections between people – they appeal to our emotions. No one is immune to a gripping tale. Whose ears haven’t pricked up or moved to the edge of their seat when someone says “Hey, I’ve got a good story for you.”?

People are emotional beings and their behaviour reflects it, including what they buy and what they don’t buy. Being a distant, faceless business with a good product has never been enough, particularly in today’s digital landscape. So many options are at the end of our fingertips, screaming for you attention, a little human touch goes a long way.

Who are you? What makes you tick? What’s your story? How do I connect with you? Finally, why should I give you my hard-earned money?

A brand’s narrative is a critical part of any organisation’s branding strategy. It must be grounded in truths – authenticity is essential. Every brand must have a clear purpose meeting needs of people. It needs to be relatable to win hearts over and create an emotional bond and loyalty between the brand and the consumer.

A good narrative gives your customers reason to buy your product or service. Every brand has an interesting story behind it, it just needs to be effectively and engagingly articulated. A great brand narrative can maximise your business’s reach, engagement, impact and profit.

Apple are a great example of a brand whose story has enabled it to become a market leader.

Apple still has a lot of the DNA of its co-founder and former CEO, the late Steve Jobs embedded its brand narrative, be it covertly or overtly. Despite being a multi-billion dollar corporation, it still has a brand that evokes a slightly maverick, but entrepreneurial spirit with an obsession to put the users (customers) needs first.

It is still a brand that commands enormous loyalty from its audience, that few others in the tech industry emulate. Largely, it’s down to its story. They have built a connection with their customers and from that, an enormous business.

Turtle Tots is one of the world’s leading baby and toddler swim schools. With over 50 franchises across the UK and Ireland, it is a network of successful businesses that helps thousands of families by teaching babies and toddlers the benefits of swimming.

Launched in Bristol in 2011 by founders Caroline Sparks and Gabby Lixton, the business quickly grew with the franchise model enabling others to build their own flexible and rewarding businesses.

Their award-winning programme, begins with aqua-natal yoga lessons for mums-to-be, and continues with specialist and progressive baby swimming lessons from birth, and toddler/pre-school lessons. In 2019, around 13,000 babies and toddlers swam every week with Turtle Tots.

Every Turtle Tots teacher is trained to the highest international standards with Swim England or the Swimming Teachers Association (STA) and is endorsed by Professor Greg Whyte OBE, Olympian and Sports Scientist and board member at Sport Relief and Comic Relief.

Turtle Tots makes a difference in the lives of every family it touches. But they go a step further, every single franchise donates at least 1% of their revenue to charity.

Fruit Marketing has been proud to work with Turtle Tots for nearly three years, including developing Local Marketing Guidelines for each franchisee and delivering national campaigns for their classes. From 2018 to 2019, we helped increase their weekly client base by 11% and their year on year revenue by 11.7%.

As with anyone operating in the leisure industry, 2020 has been a challenging year for Turtle Tots. But they were recently awarded the gold award at the prestigious Approved Franchise Association 2020 Awards. With strong foundations in place, it is a business that is expected to bounce back strongly in 2021.

Co-founder Caroline Sparks said: “Fruit have been able to offer us the experience and knowledge that our franchising business model requires. Not only do they have a vast amount of experience in the sector, they creatively put together and manage our consumer campaigns, and perhaps more importantly are able to produce meaningful statistics showing the return on investment of our campaigns.

“On a personal level, it’s a pleasure to work with them, and I would have no hesitation in recommending their expertise and services.”