For the last 16 years, the ANZ has been inextricably linked to Cricket New Zealand as part of a long-running sponsorship deal (originally through National Bank). And, rather unsurprisingly in the fickle world of cricket, things haven’t always been easy for the bank.
This stint has included a loss of by an innings and 324 runs to Pakistan in 2002, a 215-run loss to Australia in 2007 and as recently as 2013 many of the heroes who led the team to the final of the Cricket World Cup were bowled out by South Africa for 45.
“We’ve been through the bad and the good,” says ANZ’s head of sponsorship Sue McGregor.
And while McGregor admits that some of the patches of poor form have at times led to peripheral fans tuning out and thereby reducing the reach of ANZ’s marketing activities, she says that the bank always takes a long-term approach to sponsorship.
“You can’t just jump in and jump out—sponsorship is usually most successful when there are long-term relationships,” she says.
“If you see consistent poor performance over a period of time, everybody gets jittery and there is a concern that the sponsorship is damaging the brand. But the key to it is: are people still interested in cricket? So you might have people criticising the team performance, but we don’t actually sponsor the team; we sponsor cricket in New Zealand. So as long as the grassroots of the game is healthy and people are playing it and as long as we can still deliver, then it’s okay.”
Generally, in the lead up to major sporting events, the star players take centre stage when it comes to promotional material. However, in its campaign leading up to the Cricket World Cup, ANZ continued to focus on the grassroots side of the game with a TVC that showed ordinary Kiwis narrating a tear-jerking poem while amateur cricket scenes played out.
This overarching campaign was then tied into the ‘Dream Big’ initiative (developed by True), which saw ANZ bring fruition to the wishes of five cricket fans around the country.
“The whole campaign was focused on extending what we usually do with our sponsorship. We’ve got a grants scheme that we run every year, and that’s about providing value to those who participate in cricket. Dream Big started with a call to entry saying, ‘Tell us what your dream is and we’ll help you achieve it’. So it was really just the grants scheme on steroids.”
McGregor says that ANZ already provides over $100,000 to the cricket community every year, but they wanted to up the ante for the World Cup. As the hype increased in the months leading up to the tournament, ANZ travelled around the country bringing life to the dreams of Kiwis who had sent in requests.
James Wear, the general manager of commercial and marketing at New Zealand Cricket, says that this approach did more than just drive support for the team.
"ANZ’s campaign was great for Cricket in New Zealand," he says. "It helped profile cricket throughout the country, not just at the Black Caps level but from Grassroots up. The campaign highlighted the reach of cricket in New Zealand, how it is ingrained in our community and also our history. Brendon [McCullum] asking New Zealand to ‘Dream Big’ helped to build hype ahead of the tournament but, more specifically, asked New Zealanders to jump on board and get behind the team – which they certainly did."
But sponsorship isn't only about lifting the profile of a sport; it also serves a commercial purpose in improving the perception consumers have of a brand. So, to ensure that the campaign was reaching as many people as possible, ANZ distributed its 'for good' content filmed as part of the campaign via its social channels.
“It’s really important for people to see what we’re doing in the community,” McGregor says. “It’s not just about TV and above-the-line advertising; it’s about getting people to see the good that we’re doing in the community. Otherwise, you’re not hitting enough people with your delivery.”
As explained by Google Creative Lab creative director Tom Uglow in an interview with NZ Marketing last year: “… ‘for good’ is effectively branded content. It’s content that people feel comfortable engaging in. And it makes everyone in the process feel good about it … and that’s where it’s about value for these brands.”
But, as is the case with all branded content, it has to be broadcast across media channels if the stories are to reach anyone beyond the people immediately affected by a campaign or an initiative.
McGregor says that sponsorship is “just like any other marketing activity” and it should also bring value to the brand.
“We want to enrich our brand and we want people to improve their consideration of the brand—those are our marketing metrics,” she says.
“And the question is how do we do that in an authentic way rather than just running a promo and giving away free stuff. It’s about an authentic demonstration of support and then doing that in a way that’s interesting for the consumer, so that they actually want to consume it.”
‘Authentic’ has become something of a buzzword that many marketers invoke when talking about campaigns that feature real people rather than the permanently smiling models that have always typified advertising. This so-called authenticity is seen in YouTube stars being commissioned by brands; it’s in reaction videos that show onlookers responding to an experiential installation; and it’s also in promotional videos consisting entirely of user-generated content.
But some commenters aren’t enamoured with the ubiquitous use of the word and call into question whether it should ever be employed in a business context. As far back as 2009, industry analyst and author Joseph Pine had this to say during a TedTalk titled ‘What consumers want’:
“… you have to understand that there is no such thing as an inauthentic experience. Why? Because the experience happens inside of us. It's our reaction to the events that are staged in front of us. So, as long as we are in any sense authentic human beings, then every experience we have is authentic. Now, there may be more or less natural or artificial stimuli for the experience, but even that is a matter of degree, not kind. And there's no such thing as a 100 percent natural experience. Even if you go for a walk in the proverbial woods, there is a company that manufactured the car that delivered you to the edge of the woods; there's a company that manufactured the shoes that you have to protect yourself from the ground of the woods. There's a company that provides a cell phone service you have in case you get lost in the woods. Right? All of those are man-made artificiality brought into the woods by you, and by the very nature of being there.”
The very fact that businesses endeavour to fabricate authentic experiences in their promotional material is an oxymoron. But Pine doesn’t necessarily see the fake authenticity as a bad thing, and uses the example of Disney World to make his point:
“Disney World … is a fake real, or a fake reality. Right? It's not what it says it is. It's not really the magic kingdom … But Disney World is wonderfully true to itself … When you are there you are just immersed in this wonderful environment. So, it's a fake real. Now the easiest way to fall down in this, and not be real real, right, the easiest way not to be true to yourself is not to understand your heritage, and thereby repudiate that heritage. Right, the key of being true to yourself is knowing who you are as a business. Knowing where your heritage is: what you have done in the past. And what you have done in the past limits what you can do, what you can get away with, essentially, in the future. So, you have to understand that past.”
In its ‘Dream Big’ campaign, ANZ didn’t jettison its past due to the hype associated with the World Cup. Instead of taking the obvious route of commissioning cricketers to awkwardly act out contrived scenes, the campaign continued to focus on the community initiatives that have for the last 16 years formed the crux of its sponsorship activities.
And McGregor says that this approach saw the campaign resonate with local audiences, leading to the content being shared across social media channels.
“Interactive and engagement wise we had close to two million engagements—and that’s people watching the video content all the way through or sharing, liking or commenting on it,” McGregor says.
In addition, she says that the 52 percent of Kiwis surveyed said they were aware that ANZ was involved in the campaign—a figure she describes as “a good result in New Zealand,” particularly in the cluttered context of sports sponsorships.
In December 2013, following frustration due to lack of exposure, Telecom (now Spark) pulled its All Blacks sponsorship, with former general manager Kellie Nathan saying: “For Telecom, the All Blacks sponsorship didn’t work. We didn’t feature strongly enough in our tracking as an All Blacks sponsor to get the attribution we needed to justify the investment. There are so many others involved who have done a lot of work to build up a presence. So rather than be one of many, we said let’s own something and develop it from the grassroots up.”
Since then, Spark has shifted its investment to community development projects such as ‘The Boroughs’ and the telco is now (literally) constructing its own sponsorship space far removed from the nation's rugby stadiums.
Wear says that Cricket New Zealand has over the last two years reworked its sponsorship structure so that it's clear where each sponsor sits.
"The likes of ANZ, Ford, Tui and Powerade appreciate that clear category space," he says.
But a major sports sponsorship, particularly during a World Cup year, the a risk of ANZ being drowned out by the noise of all the other partners was still there.
“When I first started talking to the ICC about their sponsorship structure, it did seem quite cluttered,” McGregor says. “But when we finally made the decision, we weren’t looking at it from a global reach perspective. It all came down to how we could use it in New Zealand.”
Rather than trying to cut through at the stadiums (already occupied by Tui and host of international brands), ANZ worked with Spark PHD to develop a media plan that would get the campaign in front of as many Kiwis as possible.
“There are people going to the game at the stadium, but that’s a finite number depending on stadium size. You’ve got to be where people are, and with the Cricket World Cup a lot of people were consuming it on TV. So, we had to be there.”
So, instead of grappling for stadium space, ANZ bought strategic ad slots on Kiwi TV channels.
“The broadcast sponsorship was uncluttered, so we bought the airtime around that, and gave us a good level of ownership in association with the tournament,” explains McGregor.
In addition, ANZ also distributed the ‘Dream Big’ stories through its own channels, giving the campaign added reach and helping to ensure that the ANZ brand was associated with it.
“Sometimes when you have too many sponsors, it does get cluttered and people do get confused. It reduced the recall of the global sponsors, but because we chose the right support channels and the right mediums, we achieved cut-through.”
And while a sound creative idea, effective media strategy and long-standing heritage all play a role in determining success of a sports sponsorship, McGregor adds that sometimes things beyond her control also influence impact of a campaign.
“The players are also increasing the appeal of cricket. We are fortunate to have what is probably the best-looking team in the sport.”
- McGregor will be speaking at the PREScom Champion Speaker Series on 27 May.