PR Team: Hill and Knowlton
Campaign: Launch of Prince Naseem sponsorship
Timescale: May 1996
Budget: pounds 50,000
Earlier this year Adidas struck a sponsorship deal with undefeated
professional boxer and youth icon Prince Naseem Hamed. It asked its
agency Hill and Knowlton to create a launch event in keeping with the
scale of the partnership, which has been reported as worth between
pounds 5 and pounds 7 million to the pugilist.
To link Naseem to Adidas and position the brand in the youth market.
Also, to communicate the special emphasis Adidas attaches to sponsorship
and underscore the company’s heritage in boxing - it has sponsored many
famous names in the sport including Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier. By
joining such select company, Naseem could also be positioned as a future
The sponsorship was kept under wraps while a theme for the campaign was
developed. Naseem is known for wearing leopard skin print apparel (would
you have the courage to tell him it looks absurd?) so it was decided to
incorporate the Adidas branding on gear of this sort and use the
campaign theme ‘Leopard changes his spots...to three stripes.’
The launch was held at the hip Brixton Academy in south London, chosen
as it fitted in with the boxer’s youth appeal. A boxing ring was erected
at the venue with press seating at its side. The media were not given
full details of the announcement prior to the event.
A three-minute film opened proceedings, followed by a choreographed
dance routine performed by dancers clad in Adidas boxing wear. To add to
the spectacle, Naseem then appeared through a trapdoor in the boxing
ring and shadow-boxed before the assembled media to the accompaniment of
pounding music and indoor pyrotechnics.
Thereafter, TV personality Normski acted as MC and the media was given
access to the fighter. Creative photography and leopard-print press
packs were made available.
‘It was a big launch and a lot more glitzy than most launches,’ says H&K
account director Dan Holliday. ‘But it had to be because Naseem is not
only a great sportsman but a great showman. It was important that the
event reflected that.’
The national tabloids gave the sponsorship announcement significant
coverage on the day after the event, most with Adidas branding featuring
prominently in the pictures they ran of the boxer. There were 24
features in the regional press and broadcast coverage on GMTV, Sky
Sports, Sky News, Live TV, Channel One and Capital Radio.
‘We had massive coverage in the tabloids,’ says Adidas UK and Ireland
managing director Bob McCulloch. ‘You couldn’t do better, to be honest.’
The combination of a big money sponsorship deal, an extravagant and
slickly stage- managed launch and Naseem’s larger-than-life personality
ensured knock-out media coverage. Events like this don’t come cheap, but
every indication is that it was money well spent.