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Iris unveils sports marketing division to do away with strategies that only cater to ‘middle-aged men’


By Seb Joseph, News editor

March 24, 2016 | 4 min read

Sponsorships aren’t catering to younger audiences in the way other parts of the marketing mix do, so Iris has launched its own sports marketing division to bring brands closer to that untapped audience.

Iris unveils sports marketing division to do away with strategies that only cater to ‘middle-aged men’.

Dubbed Iris Sport, the division promises potential clients activations that are “more provocative” and “more challenging” than what’s currently being invested in, pushing them beyond the inventory led plans that define traditional strategies.

It’s pitched as the antithesis to all that is wrong with sports marketing today. And all that can be traced back to measuring the success of sponsorships, which the division believes should derive from whether it drove business or brand value not impressions.

Iris Sport will be led by Simon Yoxall, group account director, Nico Tuppen, managing director and Benj Chilcott, the chief executive of iris Concise. (see pic from left to right).

"Currently, agencies in this arena either do the science bit really well, or the creative bit really well – but can't quite bring them together with any impact. What makes iris Sport genuinely different, is the ability to credibly deliver both the art and science," said Tuppen.

To that end, Iris Sport will offer a breadth of services, spanning rights evaluation, activation and creative in a bid to champion an integrated but cost-efficient way to foster partnerships between brand and rights holder. Some of these services have been used by the likes of Adidas and Barclays for some time though the specialist unit is the first time they been offered in a separate proposition.

“Sports marketing is still stuck in a 1970s world. It’s still middle-aged men talking about passion and glory, trying hard, and the joy of being a fan,” said Tuppen.

And while sponsorship still has some way to go before it matches the sophistication of other parts of the marketing mix, advertisers are increasingly likely to demand their investments creative value. Other sponsorships talk a similar game, yet Iris Sport's attempt at the market is being spun around It’s understanding of the 'slash generation', a term used to describe those In their mid-twenties to early thirties - the babies of the eighties If you will.

“This is where the real difference (and benefit for clients) lies; our approach with Iris Sport actually understands the real commercial return of sports marketing,” added Tuppen. “It's this unrivalled blend of resource, experience and capability that ensures our clients sports activations always win. We have already seen what we do completely transform our clients business and approach.”

The agency will roll out globally across the Iris network and will dovetail with its sister Concise business to overlay CRM, data and insights when needed. Concise is being moved to the forefront of Iris’ offering as the business chases accounts that have would have traditionally been the domain of management consultancies like Accenture and Deloitte. Last month, an executive team was put in place to oversee the shift that effectively positions the agency closer to more strategically focused brands rather than just communications.

Iris Sport will have it’s work cut out to establish itself in a market where agencies like Two Circles and IPG’s Octagon have forged reputations on the potency of their sponsorship models. Indeed, Two Circles, a data-driven sports marketing agency, has been rapidly expanding its international presence after WPP acquired a major stake last year.

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