Put yourself in the shoes of a rugby hater for a moment. Almost everywhere you turn you are bombarded by earnest, emotional ads from sponsors of the All Blacks or the Rugby World Cup talking about long-awaited victory, national pride, unwavering support and inner belief, while the 'cluster ruck' of domestic broadcasters (Sky, Rugby Channel, TV3, TV One and Maori TV) screening, repeating and analysing the Big Rugby Event (BRE) means it will probably be quite difficult to escape the tournament when it kicks off. No doubt, there is plenty of excitement in the air, but MediaWorks and Special Group have decided to zig while everyone else is zagging with a cheeky, entertaining new campaign for FOUR that references the overkill and positions the channel as 'The Home of Not Rugby'.
Special Group has worked with MediaWorks on a project by project basis and was behind the channel's successful launch earlier this year (the large yellow duck that inhabited the Viaduct for a few days is currently in storage, in case you were wondering). Creative director Tony Bradbourne says this latest campaign isn't really about being anti-rugby, per se, it's more about being pro other forms of entertainment because some New Zealanders, strange as it may seem to passionate footy fans, don't actually get too excited about the thought of the USA playing Georgia.
Youtube Video The campaign includes a few edited clips from TV shows and movies made by the internal creative team that will air on FOUR, a handy guide that offers alternative viewing options for every game of the BRE, from the pool stages right through to the finals, and a nifty wee online ad where scrolling over the box turns what appears to be a rugby ball into the head of Family Guy's talking child Stewie Griffin.
Head of Marketing TV3 & FOUR Amanda Wilson says it's a slightly risky campaign given its sister channel TV3 is showing some the games, but she feels it's a good example of how well the two-channel strategy, which was implemented earlier this year when Jason Paris was at the helm (he's now gardening, apparently), can work.
So far, she says it's so very good for the new mainstream entertainment channel, with better than expected numbers, climbing ad revenue and almost 90,000 fans on the Facebook page (if fans are a gauge of success, then U has 22,000 and TV2 has around 6,000).
Interestingly, Mark Pickering, the main brain at the recently renamed experiential agency Fluxx, says one of the ways non-affiliated brands have benefitted from large sporting events overseas is by hosting events that are explicitly 'anti' that event and are aimed at consumers who simply aren't interested (for example, a non-sponsor booze company setting up a pop-up bar or taking a boat out on the harbour during the final, or a cosmetics brand creating a rugby-free zone in a mall). So, in a way, given the number of New Zealanders who aren't that fond of the national game and the massive fines for companies that break the BRE's draconian anti-ambush rules, it's slightly surprising that it's taken this long a challenger brand to stamp their mark on this space.