Campaign: Sport - Pay what you like for football game

Campaign: Championship Manager 2010 launch
Client: Eidos Interactive
PR team: Hill & Knowlton
Timescale: July-September 2009
Budget: £50,000+

PC video game Championship Manager 2010 was to launch in September 2009 with the marketing proposition of allowing customers to choose what price they paid for the game. This was the first time this had been done in the video games industry. The idea was to reinvigorate the brand, as Championship Manager had not had a release for two years and has lost market share to a competitor.

Objectives

- To develop the message surrounding the 'pay what you want' proposition

- To launch Championship Manager 2010

- To drive traffic to the Championship Manager online store.

Strategy and plan

Hill & Knowlton hosted a press conference at Aston Villa Football Club, a strategic partner of Eidos Interactive. The aim was to communicate the release date and raise awareness of the new features within the game, predominantly by talking to football fans through the sports pages. Former football managers Alan Curbishley, Joe Kinnear and Gordon Strachan were recruited to appeal to the sports media and help communicate key messages.

Radio pundit Mark Pougatch, from BBC Radio 5 Live, was recruited to launch the press conference and help create content for the launch, including recorded content and a behind-closed-doors press conference to be targeted at social media.

The launch coincided with former Newcastle manager Kinnear confirming that he had been offered a two-year contract with the club. The story dominated the media and helped aid the launch.

H&K media trained the Eidos spokespeople, focusing on the key messages of the 'pay what you want' launch. The PR team sold stories in to a range of media and used Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to raise awareness online. A video of the 'behind-closed-doors' press conference was distributed via YouTube to the Championship Manager community as well as gaming and football bloggers.

Former England manager Glenn Hoddle was brought on board to drive further awareness and media outreach.

To keep the momentum going the PR team decided a stunt was needed. A Manchester-based artist was commissioned to create portraits of Manchester United and City managers Sir Alex Ferguson and Mark Hughes out of pennies, and photographs of the images were released to the media.

Measurement and evaluation

The campaign generated more than 250 pieces of coverage across national print, online and broadcast media. Highlights included live radio interviews on BBC Radio 5 Live, talkSPORT, BBC Radio 2, Absolute Radio, GMTV and lead news stories on Yahoo!, The Sun online and a number of gaming websites. The official unveiling of the penny portraits appeared on Sky One's Soccer AM.

Results

The pay what you want launch drove more than 279,000 unique users to the Championship Manager website on the day of the launch announcement alone.

Second Opinion

Dan Clifford, Director, Haslimann Taylor

This campaign is a great example of the balancing act that needs to be struck when using celebrities to seed brand and product mentions.

The press conference at Villa Park with Gordon Strachan, Joe Kinnear and Alan Curbishley led to some great back page angles (particularly Kinnear's revelation that Newcastle had offered him a two-year deal while Alan Shearer was waiting in the wings), but the product mentions tended to be footnotes to the pieces.

As a viral/social media tool it worked fantastically, though, and there is nothing a 'virtual manager' likes to hear more than respected professionals talking up the realistic decisions and challenges presented by the game. (It gives credibility to our theory that if you gave us a crack of the whip at a Premiership club we'd get the job done!) The three managers were clearly very well briefed and talked with authority on the intricacies of the new game.

Without doubt my favourite part of this campaign was the 1p portrait story, which was creative in its conception and perfect in its timing. For the picture to be used on the cover of weekend sports supplements crediting Championship Manager was a huge success - tying in perfectly with Mark Hughes' spending spree at Man City and linking to the age-old pub game of 'If money was no object for your club who would you buy?'

Which brings me back to my Coventry City Championship Manager side, which contains Gerrard, Messi and Torres.

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