As its title suggests, Ideal Boilers is in the boiler business, manufacturing an array of products from its base in Hull. Over the weekend, the brand underlined its commitment to its core brand ethos (boilers) while plumbing new depths in football banter via a bizarre mascot – Boiler Man.
Its contribution to the rich football zeitgeist was a man parading around the pitch in a boiler suit during the side's 2-1 defeat by Bolton.
Predictably the mascot gained attention in the media and online, and the brand used the buzz to touch upon hot topics, like heating and water solutions.
Boiler Man's appearance highlighted a two-year shirt sponsorship deal between West Brom and Ideal Boilers. The move meant Baggie, the Baggies' long-standing bird mascot, was temporarily sidelined for a household appliance.
Ideal Boilers is now the principal partner of WBA, sitting atop the likes of Puma, 10 Bet and Coral. In May 2017 when it partnered the club, Ideal Boilers’ chief executive, Shaun Edwards, said: “We think there is an exciting journey ahead and I’m delighted Ideal will be there supporting them every step of the way."
As the deal was signed, West Brom chief executive Mark Jenkins promised fans the “start of a new journey for the club”. And if Boiler Man is anything to go by, he didn’t lie.
Ideal Boilers' marketer Jo Shepherd said there has been "an overwhelming response worldwide" to the stunt. Without lifting the lid on future activity, she said "the best is yet to come".
Shepherd cited experience working for a football team in the US and running a marketing and sponsorship activation team in helping to deliver the stunt.
"The reaction to Boiler Man has been phenomenal, not just nationally but worldwide. I don’t think any of us could have anticipated such an overwhelming response.
"Within the boiler industry we already have strong brand awareness with our installers who trust in our high-quality product range with extended warranties. However, the online sensation of Boiler Man has enabled us to catapult ourselves into the consumer market and has had a tremendous effect on our consumer brand awareness. With the help of Boiler Man, we hope that Ideal Boilers will become the number one boiler brand choice in the UK."
Shepherd added: "It’s all about the activation. Any brand can sign a sponsorship agreement with a sports team, but what really makes the difference is having a strong, comprehensive activation plan that reaches out to supporters on all levels. It’s important to consider different forms of engagement across the board, whether it’s in-stadium activities or digital marketing support. The most important thing is to have a little fun with it and push the boundaries without taking yourself too seriously."
Fans were directed to bespoke Twitter and Instagram accounts to follow the exploits of Boiler Man, none of which appear to have any live activity yet - hinting at things to come from the mascot.
West Brom is not the first UK football club to have a sponsor come in and install a funny mascot. Glasgow’s Partick Thistle became renowned for its mascot Kingsley, a design abomination from artist David Shrigley marking a six figure partnership with a Californian investment firm Kingsford Capital Management.
The Drum had an encounter with Kingsley to mark the one year anniversary of the deal being announced in June 2016.