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How Natwest thrilled cricket fans by matching Freddie Flintoff against Freddie Flintoff

M&C Saatchi was highly commended in the ‘Most Effective Use of Twitter’ at The Drum Social Buzz Awards 2019 with its ‘Freddie vs Freddie’ campaign for NatWest. Here, the agency reveals the challenges faced and the strategies used to deliver this successful project.

The challenge

For 38 years NatWest has actively supported and promoted Cricket in England and Wales. In 2017 NatWest became the lead partner of England Cricket for the first time and launched 'Cricket Has No Boundaries'.

This multi-year campaign seeks to do two things:

  • Make the sport feel more inclusive than ever before – bringing it to new, wider audiences.
  • Make the game even more enjoyable for existing cricket fans – providing greater access, rewards and stoking excitement.

The summer of 2019 promised to be a season of cricket like no other. With the England men’s team heading up the world rankings, the Cricket World Cup was to be hosted on home turf. For both the profile of the sport, and the profile of NatWest’s involvement with the game, this represented a significant opportunity.

The broader NatWest Cricket Has No Boundaries campaign had a suite of objectives around giving groups who have traditionally been excluded from the game an opportunity to participate in it.

However, we identified a single-minded role that we needed a hero piece of social content to perform against: increasing NatWest brand affinity among cricket fans, with minimal media spend. To this end, we needed to create something that positioned NatWest as enthusiastic experts in cricket, as opposed to just another ‘cheerleader brand’.

The strategy

Most social content only engages its audience at the point that it’s distributed – after it has been produced. We wanted to do things differently.

We invited cricket fans to help determine what they wanted to see. Alongside tech company Bola, we had created a machine capable of exactly replicating the pace, line, length, swing and spin of any ball bowled in cricketing history. We realised that with this piece of technology, we could bring legendary cricketing moments back to life.

In a nod to the 38 years that NatWest has supported cricket, we created a Twitter poll asking the public to vote for which legendary over from the last four decades Freddie Flintoff should attempt to face.

The campaign

The poll captured the imagination of cricket fans on Twitter. The response was huge – with ardent cricket fans making the case for which historical over should be brought back to life.

Unsurprisingly a healthy debate ensued in the form of hundreds of comments. But a winner emerged - much to the delight of many of the fans. It was Freddie’s own legendary over from 2005 against Australia. So, cricket fans had elected to see Freddie on the receiving end of arguably the finest moment of his own career. We knew our audience was going to be fascinated by the outcome of this, because they’d asked to see it.

The resulting content was touching and funny in equal measure – and culminated in Freddie hitting ‘himself’ for six runs. The popularity of the Freddie vs Freddie film on Twitter resulted in us having the opportunity to air an edit of it on TV immediately before the World Cup final. As a result, an even broader audience of cricket fans started seeking out the content on social to watch in its entirety and share.

While countless other brands posted ‘cheerleader’ content on social over the summer, we showed that NatWest was able to really connect with cricket fans by capturing their imagination, inciting a bit of debate, and getting them involved in directing what we produce.

More than in most other sports, cricket fans care passionately about how the game is portrayed. It matters to them that the sport sheds its traditional, rigid image. They’re frustrated with the game being portrayed as stuffy and old-fashioned, when their experience of it is anything but that. By bringing innovation and personality to the way the brand engages with cricket, we were able to strike a real chord.

The results

• More than 88,000 votes on the Twitter poll of what historical over the Bola machine should replicate.

• 1.8 million unique viewers reached with Freddie vs Freddie content, with minimal media spend and a live period of just a few days.

• Freddie reposted content to his 2 million followers on Twitter.

• Strong engagement rate of 0.46%, versus a benchmark of 0.30%, with 10,161 clicks through to the full-length version of the film.

• Strong ad recall rate of 6.95%, versus a benchmark of 5%.

This project was highly commended at The Drum Social Buzz Awards 2019. Click here to register your interest in 2020’s event.

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