West Ham United sponsor's Betway are working to overcome the age old sponsorship hurdle of shirt deals delivering value beyond awareness by offering fans the kind of content that they truly want - a unique insight into their club.
Betway has partnered with global media company Whistle Sports and Sky Sports’ flagship football programme Soccer AM to create a new six-part series which offers West Ham fans a rarely-seen insight into day-to-day life at the club.
The ‘Academy of Football’ series follows a group of everyday Hammers fans who have been gifted the opportunity to experience life as a player through training sessions with the club’s coaches and facilities.
Focusing on branded content is a natural reaction to the typical 'badging' tactic which dominates most shirt sponsorship strategies. Instead, the bookmaker is attempting to use its privileged position to tell fans a story while subtly positioning itself within that narrative.
Speaking to The Drum, Betway’s marketing director, Anthony Werkman, said: “We were very cognisant of how we placed our brand within the campaign but I was always certain that the series would be a success because the story we’re telling is genuine.”
While kit sponsorships alone still have their merits, generating huge exposure and TV coverage, they do almost nothing to build sentiment and positive association with the fans. This is why branded content has become increasingly prevalent for sports marketers, it allows brands to portray themselves in a more human light and show that they, alongside the fans, are supporters too rather than just sponsors.
Werkman believes that “content is the best way to introduce the brand to a highly valuable yet difficult–to-reach demographic”.
He said: “It’s not good enough to produce something, share it on your website and social platforms and sit back.
“Direct sales are not the focus. We’re a brand going through tremendous growth in a seriously competitive market. The objective is to create awareness, establish ourselves as a credible outfit and differentiate ourselves in what can often be a crowded ‘me-too’ type sector.”
Werkman added: “The Academy of Football series is rooted in our desire to create memorable content that conveys our passion for sport and understanding of the emotions and bonds fans have with their sport or team. By giving these fans a once in a lifetime opportunity to live the Premier League life we feel Betway has distinguished itself as a brand with a unique tone of voice.”