Lessons from Kinsey Wolanski's pitch invasion

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This year’s Champions League competition has been one of the most memorable, exciting and compelling in its history. But for all the fireworks on the pitch, a hugely anticipated all-English final failed to live up to the billing in terms of excitement. One of the biggest talking points was a first half pitch invasion by a scantily clad blonde model. The streaker is Kinsey Wolanski and the motive behind the stunt was to promote her boyfriend’s adult website Vitaly Uncensored. While, we’ve no interest in glorifying the actions (and certainly not the product) of this stunt, are there things that official sponsors could learn from Kinsey and Vitaly? Here, we take a tongue in cheek look at five things sports marketeers could learn from the pitch invasion.

Underdog Sports Marketing reflect on Vitaly Uncensored's stunt from the Champions League Final.

  1. The importance of having a clear call to action:. How many times do you see an ad campaign where you’re not sure what to do or feel after being exposed to it? The recent Lloyds ‘M Word’ creative had me puzzled, for example. Yes, it’s difficult to talk to your family about money but how are you helping me? Likewise, in relation to Champions League, I’ve spent lots of time since 2012 wondering why none of the pubs near me serve pints of Gazprom. The Vitaly Uncensored stunt was crude but had one clear aim, to stir up controversy and get people to visit their channels. While we don’t have the analytics for the website, their YouTube channel put on 130k subscribers over the weekend, compared to a little over 1k the weekend before suggesting that primary motive had worked.
  2. Capture fans’ attention and give them what they want: It’s really sad to report than in 2019, sex still sells. Reports on the exact figure vary but it’s widely believed that Wolanski added between half a million and a million Instagram followers following the final. Why? Because a semi-naked, model appealed to a decent chunk of the audience. The wider lesson here is not to go down the provocative route but to start by thinking about why fans should care about your campaign, rather than what you’re trying to sell them. In my 10 years in sports media, I’d say 80% of the briefs I’ve seen say that their main objective is to appeal to fans. Finding a reason to make them care is always the most difficult part.
  3. Make the most of your assets: Assets is perhaps an unfortunate choice of words given Wolanski’s choice of outfit. Nonetheless, sponsors get unrivalled access to merchandise, hospitality experiences and most importantly tickets. It was well documented ahead of this year’s final how hard it was to get hold of tickets. Fan groups from both clubs worked together to appeal to sponsors to relinquish their ticket allocation in order to allow genuine supporters to attend. This may have been ambitious thinking but what a story it could’ve been, for one of the official sponsors to make it possible for fans to get their hands on tickets. Not out of the goodness of their heart, but think of the PR and storytelling potential...Priceless (cough cough).
  4. Guerilla still works: Nike has done it for years, concentrating on the athlete rather than sponsoring the event. Paddy Power has captured attention using its sense of mischief over the years, ranging from the playful (Nicklas Bendtner’s pants) to the meaningful (working with Stonewall on Rainbow Laces). Sometimes the ability to get creative and tell an interesting story can outperform the access to tickets and constant exposure that being an official partner provides.
  5. Adopt a platform neutral approach: Once upon a time, a streaker ran on the field and the cameras turned in a different direction offering little exposure in both senses of the word. In this case, it was captured on TV, by those in the ground, shared on social and both protagonists created social media stories around the stunt to ensure that it would gain maximum traction. Wolanski even trolled Tottenham midfielder Harry Winks suggesting her antics distracted him from the task at hand. Since the stunt, her Instagram has been suspended. While it’s unclear what the reason is, it does suggest that there are consequences after all.

Epilogue: The ultimate lesson

As mentioned in the intro, this is a tongue in cheek article suggesting that there’s room for official sponsors to be a bit braver with their activations. The ultimate lesson here is that your marketing only gets you so far; you need to live and die by your product. Vitaly Uncensored looks, at first glance to be exactly the kind of base entertainment that we don’t need anymore of. An unpleasant and brash mixture of titillation and pranks. Seemingly, prepared to do anything in order to get views. Whether or not this website survives is perhaps a much bigger question of societal taste. But if your marketing should reflect your product, then this brash stunt probably hit the nail on the head.

Our clear call to action: Underdog Sports Marketing is a company designed to help brands create sporting partnerships that excite fans and deliver actual business results. Let us see if we can help you unlock the power of sports marketing and claim your free consultation here.

Ged Colleypriest is the founder and director at Underdog Sports Marketing.

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