sym·bi·o·sis any interdependent or mutually beneficial relationship between two persons, groups, etc.
I’d like to share with you a case study of a brilliant coming together of brands, experienced a few weeks ago during a vacation in Barcelona, Spain.
On the one hand we have the Barcelona Football club. Currently the best soccer team out there, and arguably one of the better teams ever. But they are far more than just a soccer team (as stated not so modestly by their Catalan slogan mes que un club.) They are a branded juggernaut, wildly successful in multiple sports from the junior level on up, heavily active in global merchandising, and even subtle supporters of the prevalent Catalan neo-nationalist vibe.
On the other hand we have Sport, a daily sports newspaper based out of Barcelona, and one of four sports dailies with a national reach. Although a reputable and separate entity, they are unapologetically pro-Barcelona FC in their coverage and editorial slant, and have become the go-to source for fans of Barcelona FC.
For years they have dabbled in what I’d call “standard fare” promotional ventures, of the type where you have a chance to win a Barcelona FC backpack, soccer ball, etc. Everybody wins, pretty easy to implement, pretty basic stuff.
But last summer they took it up a notch and established with much success the FC Barcelona-Sport summer soccer camp. For multiple week-long sessions at various sites in and around Barcelona, groups of 150 kids come together to drill, play, practice, have fun, and (quite frankly), be indoctrinated into love of all things Barca and Sport. My kids attended a few weeks ago and it was an absolute top notch operation. A complete blast for the kids, in every way.
From a marketing angle, consider this:
Building Barcelona FC brand loyalty
- From a soccer standpoint the sales pitch is that the kids will begin to learn to play the “Barcelona way” (the team does have a particular, recognizable philosophy of the game, so this is appealing to many.)
- They visit the famous Camp Nou football stadium and the Barcelona FC museum
- They take team pictures alongside the recently won Champion’s League and Spanish League trophies, (imagine your hockey-playing son posing with the Stanley Cup.)
- They get all kinds of cool Barcelona swag, including t-shirts, shorts, a backpack, a watch and a bracelet.
- Instead of being split up into team blue, green and red, they are split into team Iniesta, team Xavi, team Pique, etc. (My son was not impressed when he found out he was on team Busquets! Unfortunately not everyone can be on team Messi…)
- There’s a fancy graduation ceremony, where kids parade down an aisle not to Pomp and Circumstance but rather to the Barcelona fight song. This was done for each team twice, so we got to hear the tune about 20 times.
- Finally, while riding the bus to the pool at mid-day, there was joyful group singing about the burning of their bitter rival Real Madrid.
Building Sport brand loyalty
- The camp is advertised and promoted in the paper in the months leading up to summer
- The kids toured the offices of the Sport newspaper and saw how the paper gets reported and produced.
- Every afternoon at pickup, the kids walked out with their free copy of Sport, which dutifully handed first thing to the awaiting parents.
- Each day there was a full page article in the actual paper with photos of what the kids at the camp had done the previous day. Kids loved seeing themselves on the paper (my kids now quite naturally believe they are famous), and parents…well, I bought 3 extra copies of the Tuesday edition. And all friends and family were alerted to do the same.
So let’s recap: This comes at no cost to the brands (there is a camp fee paid by participants, so that covers expenses); you get a couple thousand kids and their parents every summer paying money to immerse themselves in the love of all things “Barca”; and you build instant awareness and loyalty to the newspaper that covers the club that you now love (and even features your own kids in full color while they’re at the camp!).
Sounds like a win-win-win, with the third “win” being the consumer, who happily forms part of this circle. Not bad!
What can we learn from this? A couple of thoughts to start off:
- You don’t only have to go at it alone: It’s human nature for marketers and advertising professionals to place their brand at the center of the universe, and ideate their plans from there. And this is just fine: you carry the weight and you hopefully reap the rewards. But sometimes there are untapped rewards in going at it with a partner, (first among them that you normally share the expense and the risk). Co-marketing (with notable exceptions such as movies, fast food, toys, and such) is normally a smallish item in the latter pages of the Powerpoint presentation, but it deserves a more robust brainstorm.
- Think win-win-win: don’t forget the consumer as an equal part of the equation, it has got to be good for them. In a good deal everyone should walk out thinking they got a good bargain, so make it worth their while and it will become worth yours. Too often you see joint ventures that make sense for the two brands involved but leave the consumer unimpressed.
- Cost neutral is the Holy Grail: Back to the summer camp example – you get the consumer to pay a tuition fee which offsets fixed costs (facilities, teachers, swag, etc.), Barcelona FC lends their name and image, and Sport does the free advertising and drives enrollment in their own pages. Everybody wins, everybody contributes something of real value to the deal, and nobody really pays outside of what they can easily give. Throwing a ton of money at a deal might be the default option, but think hard about who you match up with and how you structure the deal so that it’s cost neutral and has a positive ROI – selling it in will be easier all around.
In my own case, the only real loser here is my father-in-law, who is a rabid Real Madrid fan, and had to suffer this “indignity” for a week. He’s already online researching Real Madrid soccer camps for next summer.
If you can share some other good examples of brands coming together, particularly those that are win-win-win AND cost neutral, please post in the comments section below. Thanks!