Fox Sports: keeping Bundesliga fans engaged out of season through social media
Fox Sports and the Bundesliga worked together to create this unique challenge, winning an award for 'Best Global Brand Strategy' at The Drum Marketing Awards 2017. Here they explain the strategy they used and the challenges they faced with this campaign.
The Bundesliga, like several of the other top football leagues, takes a lengthy winter break. Fox Sports, owners of the global broadcast rights for the Bundesliga, wanted to fill the gap.
We needed to keep fans paying attention to the Bundesliga, even when there wasn’t football to watch. We also set out to connect the brand and the network, and showcase Fox Sports' position as the league’s exciting new global broadcast partner. This meant creating a campaign that could be used by every Fox Sports region around the world as well as the Bundesliga itself. As a further challenge: there was no media spend behind this, so the strategy would need to be highly shareable. Everything we developed would be distributed through partners: the Bundesliga, the 18 football clubs, and the individual FoxSports regions.
Our research showed that one of the Bundesliga’s defining characteristics was that it has the most goals of any major professional football league. This made for an appealing USP: goals are the most exciting part of the sport, and can be appreciated by seasoned fans and newcomers alike. To Bundesliga’s defining characteristics was that it has the most goals of any major professional football league. This made for an appealing USP: goals are the most exciting part of the sport, and can be appreciated by seasoned fans and newcomers alike.
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To capitalise on this insight, we created #18toWin - the world’s biggest penalty-shoot out.
Each Bundesliga club filmed a penalty in secret over the winter break: 18 in total, featuring star players from every club. After several weeks of teasers - including behind-the-scenes content from the training grounds - we unveiled the challenge.
#18toWin challenged fans to predict the results of all 18 penalties on Twitter and Facebook by using emoji. They needed to share (on Facebook or Twitter) a combination of 18 football and hand emoji, using the #18toWin hashtag to register their guess. They could also compose and share their predictions using our microsite and Facebook app.
#18toWin launched on 22 January. Fox Sports regions rebranded their social channels around the world to celebrate, and the #18toWin app was added to all the Bundesliga clubs and Fox Sports Facebook pages.
For those taking the challenge scientifically, there were infographics packed with stats about penalties. For those looking to find a new favourite team, there were gifs and interviews with players. We kept everyone educated and entertained with video and image content.
Overall, we created and shared over 150 pieces of original visual content, including more than 40 videos. Each individual asset was also translated into seven languages for global use.
By using social listening, we were able to identify people making #18toWin predictions within each region, and send them reward content or ‘thank you’ tweets from their local Fox Sports Twitter account.
On 5 February, we revealed the results. Each club released a bespoke video at the same time. An hour later, Fox Sports shared the complete results in a single compilation video, shared around the world.
#18toWin was a global campaign, with a presence in every single Fox Sports region, including the UK. The Bundesliga clubs and Fox Sports channels distributed our content through their local channels, partners and feeds, with our team coordinating their efforts centrally. Participants hailed from over 100 countries, with fairly even distribution across Europe, Asia, North America and South America.
There were several major challenges to creating a global strategy at this scale.
Creating simplicity: We needed a single strategy that would reach fans (and fans to-be) all over the world. That meant an incredibly simple user experience; something that could be easily localised and universally accessible. That’s why #18toWin participants played using emoji. It made the experience visual and universal, without relying on complicated text or instructions.
Ensuring local buy-in: We created a compelling story for stakeholder use, explaining how we were creating a true global first, and that the rewards for participation would be substantial. We listened to the markets and clubs as well, making sure that the strategy wouldn’t undermine local efforts, and could be adapted to fit each market’s levels of resource.
The strategy’s key messages and content were all delivered through international networks: Fox Sports’ regional channels and the Bundesliga clubs. We provided the content and messaging. This included everything from Facebook covers to press releases; infographics to video interviews; gifs to on-air promos. The regions and clubs then put the materials or messages ‘live’ through their channels, as per the global coordination schedules that we created.
The campaign was constantly monitored using social evaluation tools like Audiense and Pulsar, as well as platform analytics (Twitter and Facebook). The apps and microsite were monitored through Google Analytics. In-market PR, partnership and promotion was monitored by each region.
We collected all the information and provided daily snapshots and weekly ‘deep dives’ showcasing what was, and wasn’t, working. When particular types of content were seen to perform well (for example, animated gifs), we would produce more. When entries or engagements dropped off within a region, we would work with the inmarket teams to help them better deliver.
The entire campaign was delivered with zero paid media – relying on engaging, shareable content delivered through partners and influencers.
We set ourselves ambitious targets – we wanted a social reach of 300m, with 30,000 participants. We also set a specific engagement objective – at least 33% of engagement to come from new fans.
#18toWin smashed its targets, achieving an organic social reach of over 650m, with 100,000 participants from over 100 countries.
On Twitter alone, #18toWin had an organic reach of over 200m, and generated over 4,700 hashtagged tweets - excluding tens of thousands of retweets and favourites. Over half the tweets shared one of our videos or images as well, showing fan engagement in our content above and beyond the game itself. There was an increase in engagement over the campaign period for every single club Twitter feed (including language variations) – and this was over the winter break!
On Facebook, there were over 100,000 non-video engagements on the public posts, and an additional 2.8m video views. Over 50,000 people played #18toWin through the Facebook app alone.
Although we did not create content for other social channels, excited fans and partners spread the campaign for us – and #18toWin content appeared on YouTube, Vimeo, Google+, Instagram, Tumblr and even LinkedIn. The campaign was shared (and played) by regional sportscasters, fan clubs and players. The prediction challenge spread across digital and traditional media, with over 80 pieces of coverage from glossy magazines to football blogs, from Hollywood Reporter to Web Adictos.