ZAK Agency won an award for "New Product/Service Launch Strategy of the Year" at the 2017 Drum Marketing Awards, for their work with New Balance Football. They explain the strategy they used to make this award winning football boot design.
We rewrote the rules of a boot launch for New Balance Football with the launch of Audazo. The odds were stacked against New Balance successfully launching a new product for the small-sided game with the Audazo boot due to no previous credibility in the sector, limited distribution, comparatively low social reach, far lower budget than other boot launches and no professional players in the sector. Instead of letting these factors limit the ambition, we took a radical, yet deceptively simple, approach to the launch.
The campaign was built from audience insight gleaned from search data. This showed that there were a number of ‘How to’ search needs that weren’t being met by the competition. There was a lot of content out there that showed small-sided tricks, but no one was showing how to pull them off. This is what the Audazo ‘run the game’ campaign was built around. The campaign was designed for social with short, easily digestible content, including social video. But the budget didn’t stretch to enough paid distribution to get the campaign seen.
This case is the story of how we successfully launched ‘Audazo’, New Balance Football’s boot designed for the small-sided game. New Balance Football were successful despite only launching into the highly competitive global game of football a year before. Despite having no previous credibility in the small-sided game. Despite having limited distribution. Despite comparatively low social reach vs competition. Despite having no professional players to launch it with. And lastly, and importantly, despite having significantly smaller budget compared to our usual boot launch campaigns. A big challenge for the Audazo launch then!
New Balance Football launched into the highly competitive global game of football in Summer 2015. By this we are referring to the sales of football boots for 11-a-side football to be played on grass, astroturf or 3G surfaces. Boots for this are studded to give grip and traction on often soft or broken up surfaces.
New Balance launched Audazo, a boot designed for the small-sided game, just one year later in Summer 2016. Small-sided refers to 5-a-side or futsal football to be played either inside on hard courts or outside on gravel, astroturf or 3G surfaces. Boots for this are flat rubber soled, to give grip + maneuverability on hard, often slippy surfaces. So, is it just boots without studs? The short answer is no. Not only are the boots engineered differently, but the audience that plays the two games are different, with different motivations and different measures of success. Because of the differences in the new sector and the hurdles we faced in launching meant we had to take an innovative approach to launch Audazo into the small-sided game.
The starting point for the Audazo strategy lay in truly understanding the audience and what they were really looking for.
The small-sided player enjoys the game for the social side as much as the sport. What sets the small-sided game apart from its bigger brother is not just the scale of the pitch, but the style of the play. Small-sided game is much more about flair, style and tricks. It’s not just winning the ball or scoring a goal, it’s about doing it in a way that shows off just how good your skills are. The lads that play small-sided are far more street savvy and love to show off to their mates. We call them the ‘Social Boss’.
We used social search data to explore what they really wanted to know. What this highlighted loud + clear was that tricks were a key search term for these lads. But they weren’t looking for examples of the best tricks, they were searching for ‘how to do a pop panna?’ or ‘how to do a step over’. There was a clear need here. What we discovered was that other brands weren’t meeting this need.
Everyone was showing them tricks. But no one was showing them how to pull them off. The thing with many small-sided tricks is that they happen so fast, and often appear gravity defying, that it’s hard to tell from just looking how to recreate them. This became the heart of the campaign: don’t just show tricks, show them how to do them.
A typical football boot launch is a big affair. Each brand has a number of professional players signed to the brand who represent each boot. A typical boot launch leans heavily on these professional players and leads with a big press launch event hero-ing the pro player. We didn’t do this.
We had a smaller budget than usual New Balance boot launches. We needed to think smarter and act smarter. Instead of relying on professional players or big media spends, we did two things:
1. We signed fresh young freestylers with their own social community and involved them in the campaign creation.
2. We leveraged their channels as well as New Balance’s to outperform the competition.
The ‘Audazo. Run the Game’ campaign was shot in conjunction with these young freestylers. We didn’t just show them doing amazing tricks, but we then replayed them, slowing it down, and walking you through how to pull it off, step by step with on screen instructions. The freestylers weren’t just talent, we built the idea around them and involved them in its creation, we didn’t just employ them like other brands. The content was designed to suit our audience and how they use social – it was short, snackable and useful whilst being entertaining. The campaign utilized multiple social channels (Instagram, Social video (inc boomerangs), Twitter, Snapchat). It was designed for social and designed to be spread through NB channels, and through the chosen freestylers own social networks. This choice of talent meant that we had heroes for the content who also served as media channels in their own right.
This campaign was about so much more than giving our ‘Social Boss’ great boots or showing a player they could aspire to. We were giving them the tools to become a better player for themselves. What happened? In short, the campaign smashed targets.
1. Great social reach + engagement The social reach + engagement levels smash targets based on previous launches + budget level.
For Audazo New Balance Football achieved: 836,677 people reached through Facebook. 733,753 Twitter impressions. 313, 563 video views (Instagram, Facebook, YouTube + Twitter). And 131,491 direct engagements with the campaign content. The results were all achieved organically on New Balance channels, with just a £1k paid boost on Facebook Compared to a comparable boot launch for New Balance Football the Audazo campaign achieved a 47% to 235% uplift (depending on metric). This social reach achieved on New Balance Football channels was extended by the reach of the young
This social reach achieved on New Balance Football channels was extended by the reach of the young freestylers social networks. To take Instagram as an example, New Balance Football video views of 99k was extended to a total of 285k views by the freestylers on Instagram alone.
2. Content that worked better than competitors
This reach didn't just come from choosing + involving young influencers, it was also creating the right kind of content that they were happy to share and their social communities welcomed.
An example of how our content resonated stronger than competitors comes from one of the influencers we used: Mo Omar (@M.omar10 on Instagram). This freestyler had previously created content with Adidas Football and shared on his own account.
When he shared the Adidas video of him showing off his tricks it got 15,874 views. When he shared the New Balance Audazo content just one month later it got 57,750 views. An increase of 264%.
3. Boot sales above targets Because New Balance are a privately-owned company we can’t reveal exact sales figures. But boots sales hit targets in all our key markets. This momentum has continued with Q1 2017 sales already 80% of the 2016 total volume, with a full year increase of 60% YOY predicted.
4. Real players loved it This campaign wasn’t just about sales. It was about starting relationships with new audiences who can help the brand grow. And based on the responses we saw our target small-sided players love it!
The solution came from finding + using young freestylers in the campaign who had their own social communities. The results smashed targets. Online social reach and engagement beat previous similar campaigns. The content was genuinely better received than competitor content and boot sales were phenomenal. This case shows what you can achieve when you smartly turn limitations into opportunities and keep digging to find what your consumers are really looking for.