New Balance’s approach to their Proteas apparel Sponsorship
New Balance (NB) took over as the official apparel/technical partner of Cricket South Africa (CSA) and the Proteas in June 2015. Since then it’s been all about deriving meaninful value from their investment and the leap of faith into the South African cricket space.
The brand are fairly new to the cricket market internationally but since their introduction in 2013 it’s been an aggressive arrival that has seen their worldwide footwear and apparel approach (product production scale, logistics and marketing) applied successfully to the cricket market.
A substantial investment made up of VIK, development programme kit contribution and rights fee paid to CSA has resulted in a very focused approach that is driven by providing returns (marketing and sales) to the South African business. Levergy were appointed as their sponsorship agency on the cricket account where their task was leveraging the partnership across various marketing disciplines.
A strategy of concentrating in the digital and PR space using the Proteas and their ambassadors as the platforms in order to drive awareness and demand for Proteas replica and New Balance cricket gear has seen instant success for company.
The key has been in utilising their sponsorship rights in unique ways in order to ensure maximum key messaging exposure for the brand across various channels, and to ultimately drive sales returns of course.
In their first year NB took on a bold, creative approach to leveraging their sponsorship assets with minimal ATL spend. The focus has been on Digital/social, PR and activation. Here’s the initiatives starting with the global directive:
Always in Beta global campaign applied locally
New Balance launched their global ‘Always in Beta’ (AIB) in campaign in July 2015, and New Balance SA were required to integrate it successfully into their cricket assets in a way that ensured key messaging take out with their target audience.
The dynamic AIB campaign of focusing on a never ending drive to improve and succeed as an athlete was applied across the cricket spectrum, with the distinctive edgy design application.
Cricket has been a great platform in South Africa to communicate the AIB proposition, using the world class Proteas team and their renowned athletes (Dale Steyn, David Miller, Morne Morkel, Chris Morris, Kyle Abbot and Eddie Leie).
Social media has been central to driving the campaign home with South African cricket fans.
Social and digital: leading the content pack and resonating with the target audience
New Balance’s social media team (Levergy Pulse) operate as an always-on, real-time machine. A team consisting of design, creative, cricket experts and social media co-ordinators/community managers ensure that engaging, relevant content is always created at the right moments.
The team and ambassadors are used to build up hype leading up to games and to celebrate the team and ambassador successes in real time. Great performances and achievements are authentiquely linked to the apparel and equipment enabler.
The social media approach has been a success with content that has seen the South African team lead the way internationally for New Balance. During this summers cricket season, South African content published from the New Balance international cricket handle (@nbcricket) saw the most reach and impressions by any country worldwide. South Africa’s conversation origin was larger than Australia and New Zealand combined. In addition to that, South African content topped the charts across all engagement metrics on Twitter.
The main reason for this are three important things:
- Clever, aspirational content (design/imagery/animations, captions and copy) that resonates with cricket fans
- Immediate (pre-prepped) reaction to big moments and milestones
- Using CSA to amplify the best content through their social platforms
Digital is central to selling Proteas replica and NB cricket equipment too. A targeted Facebook strategy sees a combination of paid-for posts find their way to cricket fans as well as CSA amplifying the content to their 3.7 million strong Facebook audience.
PR and activation: Unique leveraging of rights saw the brand own the media for a morning with the ‘Proteas takeover’
New Balance decided to utilise their full team appearance right in a unique way. The challenge was having three hours with the Proteas to try and tell the country (targeting cricket fans) that the kit was available in stores nationwide. The objective was maximizing media and main stream awareness of the new kit and driving sales ahead of the new season.
Instead of getting the entire team together at one location as is commonplace, the decision was made to split a team appearance up geographically across the country. Using a full team appearance, we opted to spread the team using a satellite approach. 15 players were deployed into groups of three simultaneously in key (sales) regions across South Africa.
- Five radio stations across the country were secured for interviews with the players on their breakfast shows with the Proteas:
- 5FM (Johannesburg)
- 702 (Johannesburg
Good Hope (Cape Town)
- East Coast Radio (Durban)
- Jacaranda (Pretoria)
- 5 Key Sportsmans Warehouse stores arranged to activate at
- Geo-targeted social media posts for each region went out in the two weeks leading up to the activations
- Use of the Proteas players as social influencers to drive people to listen on radio and get to Sportsmans Warehouse stores
15 December 2015
7am – 9am Proteas radio takeover
- Players delivered replica kits across all three cricket formats to the entire breakfast team at each radio station
- Jerseys were handed to the DJ’s live which prompted them to speak about the kit on air
Players also communicated in the interviews that the new kits were available in stores across the country and that they would be conducting meet and greet sesssions at a store that morning, enouraging fans to come meet their heroes and get their replica kit, including mentioning the two promotions that were happening
09:30-10:30 In-store fan session
- Players went straight to nearby Sportsman’s warehouse stores for a meet and greet, photo opportunity and signing session
- Buy a Proteas shirt and get 4 tickets to the test in their city
- Every Proteas replica or take down shirt purchased would put you into the draw for a one-on-one coaching session with either Dale Steyn or David Miller
This first of it’s kind approach saw New Balance effectively take control of the media in their key sales regions on the biggest breakfast shows ahead of the much anticpated England series. The Proteas in-store sessions also created awareness around Sportsman’s Warehouse (their key retail partner) stocking the kit as well as allowing for money-can’t-buy interaction opportunities with the fans.
The radio station takeover saw New Balance receive 28 minutes of unpaid radio time across 5 of SA’s most popular and relevant stations. It resulted in a radio audience of 6,524,000 with a live airtime value of R693,374. In addition to this an insert was created and supplied to broadcasters which saw R4.4 million worth of TV coverage generated.
The live social media amplified the activations to add an additional 576,651 impressions, with 28,482 engagements achieved and a media value of R144,162 generated.
New Balance sold 49 replica Proteas shirts across the stores in the hour the Proteas were there, breaking their all time daily sales record.
Overall the Proteas Takeover resulted in an ROI of 27:1.
CSI – Amplifying the pink initiaitve
CSA’s go pink for world cancer day initiaitve, AKA ‘The Pink game’ saw New Balance push both the good cause and their sales of the one-off pink replica kit.
Bucking the trend of other sponsors creating their own fundraising mechanisms, New Balance decided to get right behind The Pink Drive’s initiative and focused on amplifying their messaging, where the brand created content (and backed it with paid-for promotion), assisting the charity to raise over R8 million for breast cancer.
They also took advantage of the pink game commercially where they were aggressive in promoting the kit:
- Teaser hype build up (Pink Wednesday)
- Launch and two week social media build up
Win a signed Proteas pink shirt by taking a selfie in the new jersey
It was the first time the pink kit was actually available to buy in stores for Proteas fans. Sales for one-off kit exceeded expectations.
Reaping the rewards
Overall the Cricket South Africa partnership and marketing approach taken has propelled New Balance to the forefront of South African cricket from both a perception and sales perspective.
The sponsorship has seen an impressive ROI of 2:1 on sales alone (excluding media value generated), showing how the investment has provided New Balance with instant returns.
When we take the full media picture into conisderation, the Proteas have delivered an ROI of 12:1 for NB.
The partnership also clearly sparked sales for their cricket equipment range which saw a 51% YOY incease in sales.
The investment in Cricket South Africa and the Proteas, supported by a best practice marketing approach has delivered over and above what New Balance was looking forward. And the case study after year one has demonstrated how sponsorships can deliver desired returns when leveraged well.
Written by Struan Campbell