Walkers Crisps on UEFA sponsorship and keeping its Gary Lineker ads fresh

As Walkers Crisps kicks off the second year of a three-year UEFA sponsorship campaign The Drum caught up with UK brand manager John Savage to find out the benefits of backing football and how, after over 20 years of working with Gary Lineker, it keeps its ads fresh.

Two years in to your sponsorship of UEFA how beneficial has it been for the brand? Is it a relationship you see continuing past the three year deal you currently have?

It’s the perfect platform for the brand, as great sporting events always bring together friends and families, and snacks are often a part of these social occasions. I would definitely say that the sponsorship has brought great opportunities for us and also our retailers – and right now, we’re focusing on maximising those opportunities for 2017.

The Champions League is becoming increasingly global and also the way people consume live sports is changing, how does that affect your marketing and how much of your focus is now going into digital rather than TV?

There is certainly greater recognition for the role of digital, particularly within sports marketing – and our new on-pack promotion, Snap & Share, is the perfect example of how we’ve tailor-made a promotion for social media. Instead of entering codes like in previous campaigns, we’ve made the mechanic all about sharing, social media and having fun. Simply snap a selfie of your face with one of our promo packs and share it on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram with #WalkersUnited for a chance to win UEFA Champions League prizes every day.

You have been working with Gary Lineker for a long time, what is it about the relationship that keeps enduring and how do you keep the advertising fresh?

In fact we celebrated our 20th anniversary with Gary last year. He’s been a consistent thread throughout our marketing campaigns during this time, and has revelled in playing a particular role that the nation will be familiar with. The key for us is keeping him true to this role, but placing him in different environments and situations – take for example our new TVC, where Gary poaches a pack of crisps from a fellow pub-goer while they’re all engrossed in the game.

How is Walkers adapting to the changing tastes of consumers who might be after more premium products and how is that affecting your marketing strategy?

It’s important that we deliver against these changing tastes. A good example is our new Walkers Mediterranean launch, which is a new premium crisp range cooked in 100% Spanish olive oil. We’ve launched with two flavours - Lightly Salted and Cracked Mixed Pepper and we think it will appeal to shoppers looking for simple, tasty crisps with premium credentials.

You’re running an influencer campaign for the UEFA tie up, can you explain more about that? How important is that space for you now and do you see more spend being shifted that way?

It’s an interesting space, and one which is developing at pace. Because our Snap & Share promotion is essentially about having fun and sharing online, we felt that influencers were ideal to drive this message – and because they do so in their own unique way, it provides a variety of fresh takes on the promotion.

What else can we expect from Walkers in 2017?

Big plans, of course, and we’ll come back to you once we’re in a position to share more details. Needless to say, UEFA Champions League remains a big part of those plans, and we look forward to using the #WalkersUnited positioning to delight the nation.

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