Whenever Manchester United and Liverpool play against each other, the focus is purely on the game between these two behemoths. But from Sunday it’s completely different. Yes, there was a big focus on the teams and the result, but the limelight was well and truly stolen by Paul Pogba, through a cohesive online and offline activation.
If you don’t know what we’re talking about, feel free to read more about it below.
The #Pogba Emoji
A Pogba emoji was launched on Friday at approximately 5pm (GMT) with a simple tweet from Pogba himself, and the emoji activated using #Pogba. Within two hours, close to 80,000 tweets featuring #Pogba were posted before it trended worldwide.
Almost predictably, the next post featured content promoting his new hairstyle, but also highlighting the reveal of his new logo and launch of his signature range with Adidas. The club supported with their own tweets of support using the hashtag as did Adidas.
So far so good, and whilst mildly exciting, we still had not seen the full showpiece.
Nevertheless, this activity divided opinion, some Manchester United fans celebrated Pogba and his ego, whereas many fans were left embarrassed by this new era of marketability and showmanship around a player’s image.
There are 3 important issues about it we would like to highlight.
1) Online Vs Offline. Or both?
Firstly, this once again is a great showcase within sport for an aligned online and offline approach using traditional media approaches, which neatly conforms into owning the football buzz across a number of days.
Manchester United and Adidas are not the only ones to do this, but like them or loathe them, with the Pogba launch over the summer they have executed two player and brand focused campaigns with aplomb and have set the benchmark.
What is fascinating is this is one of the only occasions where the direct impact of LED messaging within a stadium can be truly tracked and identified (through Twitter at least).
Whilst the use of #Pogba had slowed down through Saturday and Sunday, we can see a huge spike of up to 70k tweets between kick off at 4 pm and 5 pm. We believe this is an indicator of the impact and conversation started around the #Pogba digiboards, which stimulated discussion and use of the hashtag online.
This will no doubt come as some relief to those who may have started to doubt the impact of traditional sponsorship assets such as LEDs.
2) Player power
Secondly, we can see the growing status and importance of player power, over and above the salaries that usually dominate conversations.
With the ever increasing marketing priorities around top tier players, there are reasons to believe that the LED time could be something that was written into Pogba’s Manchester United contract.
Probably this could be seen as a possibility as although the club will have a need to promote their star asset, it would be an interesting move to do this ‘voluntarily’ mid-season and communicating messaging which alienates the squad.
Whereas, a contractual obligation enforced by Pogba’s agent wanting to exploit his commercial saliency and ensure he becomes the world’s #1 commercial athlete would make a lot of sense.
What will this hold for player power in the future? As salaries rise and players demand for global marketability continues, we can see this being the start of a more common theme amongst the A-List.
3) True partnerships
Lastly, this was a great demonstration of collaboration and true partnership between 4 distinct parties, Manchester United, Adidas, Twitter and Pogba.
There seemed to be a benefit to all parties through this activation, which based on its impact is refreshing and something often overlooked within sports marketing activations.
For Pogba, Adidas and Manchester United the chance to once again challenge sports marketing traditions on such a global scale proves the value and marketability for each party.
Following the theatre around the Pogba transfer announcement over the summer, Adidas are clearly pushing Manchester United to be bolder and play more within Adidas’ boundaries, something Manchester United never truly did with Nike.
So what is the conclusion?
The activation is Marmite, that is Pogba’s style and that is the reputation Man Utd embrace (you either support them or you don’t), but what they did do is get everyone talking about one moment and one player. They made people feel either way, which is certainly the mantra we push here at Social Chain.
Don’t be afraid to collaborate
Four strong parties collaborated for one big impact so explore these opportunities for mutual benefit and maximum results. Through careful strategy and calculated risks the true synergy of all involved can be explored.
Push the envelope of traditional
This activation went to show that although typical assets and media are being used, by being innovative and having a cohesive plan, in this case talent, a social first, product and scale, this melting pot can bring about something much bigger and much more exciting.
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