A pivot away from sexy and suggestive creative along with a redesign and a Wimbledon tie-up with Björn Borg helped the tournament’s official sponsor Häagen-Dazs deliver its “biggest ever sales period” last July, according to marketing lead Arjoon Bose; now the brand is marrying influencers with experiential as it looks to set a new record for 2018.
From setting up an ice-cream academy to investing in a Bompas & Parr-curated sensory experience, the ice-cream brand is no stranger to experience-based marketing. However Bose, who oversees marketing for the snacking division of Häagen-Dazs’ parent firm General Mills, explained that this year “influencers were going to play a big role” in helping drive the brand’s Wimbledon push even further.
For Häagen-Dazs, influencers come in the form of high-profile global brand ambassadors like sixth seed challenger Grigor Dimitrov (who got knocked out of the tournament last week), micro-influencers with smaller instagram followings or players who want to unofficially partner with the brand like Sloane Stephens or Laura Robson.
Throughout Wimbledon, the brand has been running a ‘Champion vs Challenger’ campaign. Devised by Space it centres around Dimitrov introducing his favourite ice-cream flavour cookies and cream as the disruptive “challenger” to tournament “champion” strawberries and cream. World number four Stephens is backing ‘team strawberries’.
Fans are being asked to declare their own preference, while over on platforms like Instagram the brand is looking to drive sales of its ice-cream tubs and sticks through a carefully planed campaign that will see it build out relationships with other creators and rising stars.
“We moved away from a broadcast model with our influencers to more of a social model where we work with them to ensure they have a very engaged fanbase rather than just driving for fame and reach," said Bose.
“Working with people who millennials love, who have a strong personality and in-tune fanbase is the way we’re seeing Wimbledon go forward for us," he added.
Following a rallying cry by Unilever's Keith Weed to clean up the influencer industry last month, brand marketers have revealed how they're already policing the medium to ensure they get value for money.
When pressed on how Häagen-Dazs was making sure it get value from influencer buys, Bose said it picked influencers on a campaign-by-campaign basis.
"We work with micro-influencers when it comes to supporting experiential events and it allows us to amplify to an engaged audience - we choose them in a way that let's them make native content for us. Micro-influencers really talk about the brand and the campaign and then celebrity influencers are larger scale and event-focused so we work with them only if we're hosting them at Wimbledon and giving them the full experience."
He went on: "We work very closely with our PR agency and specialist influencer agencies to make sure we're making the right selection... to be honest it's a journey we're learning as we're going."
Despite going big on Snapchat last year, Bose said it wasn’t allocating any spend to the app this year, instead choosing to focus on Facebook and Instagram Stories which are a "better fit" for this campaign.
While the £1m campaign comprises signifcant social investment it doesn't mean experiential has fallen to the wayside.
In the build-up to the championships the brand has also activated the ‘Champion vs Challenger’ series around LTA events, including at The Queen’s Club and an event which saw Grigor himself and the Women’s Tennis Association’s (WTA) play 'Tennis On The Thames' in London at the foot of the OXO tower.
The Champion vs Challenger campaign will also be brought to life on site at Wimbledon's Häagen-Dazs parlour at The Championships where guests can take part in face-off between "champion" ‘Wimbledon’s Strawberries Sundae’ v the "challenger" inspired ‘Grigor’s Cookie Serve’.
While it has previously used Wimbledon's famous queue (affectionately known as 'The Queue' among fans), this year it will take more of a "tactical place" in Häagen-Dazs' plan - being used for sampling, rather than trading.
"The Queue has always been an intrinsic part of Wimbledon and what we've learned is that it's not a great station for selling, but it is a great place for sampling and quick brand engagement.
"Having a permanent spot there only works if you're a food or drink brand, it's not a great place for people to buy a luxury ice cream as they're not really focused on dwelling, they want to get out of there."
"People aren't really taking in brand experiences and they're precious about keeping their place, but it's a great place to get audience reactions and to understand fan sentiment as opposed to offering experiential events there."