CAMPAIGN: Mitre viral gives club balls a comic twist

Mitre has been supplying balls to the 72 Football League clubs for more than 25 years. For the 2007/08 season, it developed 24 balls, one for each club in the Championship...

Mitre: ‘Pass It On’ campaign relied on PR alone with no advertising spend behind it
Mitre: ‘Pass It On’ campaign relied on PR alone with no advertising spend behind it

Campaign Mitre, Pass It On
Client Mitre
PR team Pitch PR
Timescale May-August 2007
Budget £2,000

Pitch PR devised ‘Pass It On’ – a viral video campaign combining comical swipes at big brand, big budget ads and classic terrace ­humour. Pass It On relied solely on PR, with no advertising spend to support it.

OBJECTIVES
To launch the club-specific balls in a way that would engage fans of Championship sides and drive sales via the 24 club shops. To achieve media coverage in key regional titles and demonstrate Mitre’s appreciation of the ‘real football’ associated with the Championship. To raise brand awareness.

STRATEGY AND PLAN
Pitch and Mitre approached the 24 Championship clubs, requesting a player or manager from each for filming purposes. Although the work was unpaid, some of the league’s highest-profile names agreed to be take part.

Scenes included twists on previous promotional videos and scenarios designed to appeal to specific fans – Stephen Hughes of Coventry City was picked up by a fan of arch rival Leicester City and Iain Hume (a Canadian) of Leicester City played ice hockey with the ball.

In less than six weeks Pitch had filmed at all 24 clubs.

Contacts from key media were invited to appear in the video. Matt Smith, presenter of ITV’s The Championship, featured in a scene, which ITV later ran at the end of the first show of the new season.

The video was posted on YouTube so the number of views could be coun­ted. Four weeks prior to launch, Pitch set up ‘Pass It On’ pages on social networking sites Facebook and MySpace.

MEASUREMENT AND EVALUATION
On the day the video launched it rec­eived 18,000 hits. After seven days, it had passed the 50,000 mark and had peaked as the week’s 11th-most watched video on YouTube.

The video seeding was backed upby more than 50 pieces of national, regional, web and TV coverage – inc­luding The Sun, The Guardian, Soccer AM, Sky Sports News, ITV, Virgin Radio, Zoo, Maxim, Match and Monkey, which referred to Pass It On as ‘the best football video ever’.

The video was also shown at all 24 club grounds during the first two games of the 07/08 season.

The video link was posted on more than 11,000 websites, including thousands of fans’ pages for clubs in the Championship.

RESULTS
Return on investment for coverage alone was more than five times the initial outlay from Mitre.
More than 20 per cent of the views  were click-throughs from Mitre’s website, and the company was bombarded by requests from fans asking to buy their club’s ball – more than 15,000 orders were placed by the 24 clubs in the four months since the video launched.

Football League marketing man­ager David Malkinson said: ‘The campaign provided a superb platform to launch Mitre’s new club-specific balls and helped us promote the new season.’

SECOND OPINION

Alun James (l), managing director, Four Sports, Arts & Sponsorship:

Mitre operates in a very competitive market, against brands with bigger budgets and more extensive sponsorship portfolios. Rather than avoid this, Pitch has confronted it head on.

The campaign draws on the belief that the Football League is the ‘true’ heartland of football, with fans that support their club through thick and thin and have extensive knowledge of their team, its players and its rivals. The PR team also spotted that football fans are habitual users of internet chatrooms and, increasingly, other social networks, so could be steered towards online video content.

The campaign also featured a dig at the expensively produced, star-studded ads of the top-tier leagues and a studied avoidance of the overly technical messages about the aerodynamic qualities of the ball and the perfect roundness of its shape.

Finally, there was the ‘Soccer AM’ factor. The media loves to bask in its own limelight, so featuring ITV’s Matt Smith was a smart way to generate coverage with the league’s broadcast partner.

The chosen channel – the viral video – has all the requirements to make this campaign successful. It has humour, tribalism and one-upmanship packaged in a simple, but clever, instruction – ‘Pass It On’.

It is also one of those campaigns where it is possible to isolate and track a well-publicised piece of content directly to sales. A 5:1 return on investment is very creditable.

However, five minutes is overly long for a viral video. And if I were Nike, rather than seeing this as a ‘dig’, I might argue that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

 

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