23 Jul 2013.

Consistency Is Crucial

Interview with Nikola Žinić in Slovenian SPORTO magazine


About half a year ago the Poslovni Dnevnik magazine asked you to choose 10 best commercials of all time. There are 4 sports related ads on your list…
Sport, especially professional sport, means moving the boundaries – faster, higher, stronger… The competition and challenging the human’s ultimate potential are a great inspiration for me. Because of that I love brands that are capable of recognizing the truths of life through sport and its experience. Like adidas with »Impossible Is Nothing« or Nike with »Just Do It«. Their messages are really easy to »translate« in any area of life. It’s impressive and inspirational that people making those strong campaigns knew how to communicate the brand through sport stories.

Certain brands have chosen sport as the core platform for their communication and marketing strategies. Which are some of the best examples in your opinion?
Nike and adidas are close to me for the reasons I’ve already mentioned. Nike, for example, started their successful story decades ago when they gave their basketball boots to professional NBA players. There’s also Visa, an Olympic sponsor for more than 30 years with beautiful communication through years. There are also other interesting examples, such as the Beats headphones by Dr. Dre in London 2012. Beats obviously weren’t an official Olympic sponsor, but they made a great job giving colourful – green, red or white etc. – headphones to some of the sports stars who were seen and followed by millions of fans in front of the TV.

The main topic of our interview and this issue of the SPORTO Magazine is Red Bull with its own unique approach to sports sponsorship and communication…
Red Bull was – if I focus on the Stratos project – sponsoring an idea and the dreams of a single human being who wanted to perform the highest jump ever. They found the perfect way to use that and covered it completely on all communication channels, especially in the final stage, which was the peak of the communication process lasting many years. I only feel that they might have missed an opportunity to also transmit some deeper message, which is what Nike or adidas would have done in my opinion.

Red Bull’s approach became a culture, a lifestyle. It’s about creating unique content, events, and giving added value and relevance to everyone involved. What can we learn from this?
We can learn that the source for funding of our own desires could be found in other fields as well. It’s important to find soul mates in fellow brands that help us co-create our vision, objectives or ideas. Red Bull did it perfectly. Stratos was a huge project, planned for many years, but still had an extremely high degree of risk. Who knows, Baumgartner’s jump could even have ended inglorious. As well as Felix, Red Bull showed lots of courage for supporting the project as they were also risking a lot.

Turning back to Red Bull’s roots, we have to mention two important things: loyalty & focus. The brand always remained loyal to its slogan »Red Bull gives you wings« and focused on small, but extremely loyal target groups. Looks like nowadays »top-shot« sponsorships are simply the consequence of a persistent systematic process …
I’ve been following Red Bull from the very beginning, especially from the strategic side that you have mentioned. What I like most is their consistency that is not changing much, regardless of the outcomes of the previous campaigns and activities. This is a great example of a brand that consistently communicates the same values over the years, and consumers notice that, appreciate it. Their »step-by-step« approach was the right one and from the small Austrian brand grew a global recognizable brand. I believe they could be sometimes also »fed up« with their slogan, but at the same time they are well aware of the fact that they have to stick to their origins.

Advertisers often make the mistake of not following the consistent strategy as they wrongly think they are too narrowly focused, but the truth is actually just the opposite – consistency gives you width. Red Bull is proving exactly that, also with upgrading their sponsorships with a football project, formula 1, air race or Stratos. Can’t wait to see what’s yet to come!

What also makes them unique is their digital channel approach – how to use the power of social media, how to create and share content to gain publicity (earned media) …
Social media is extremely important, which was also shown by Stratos. I personally followed Felix’s jump through various channels, such as Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, as well as on different websites. I was really interested in how Red Bull made such an impact, created such a buzz. But we have to know that at the end of the day good content is what really counts. If there’s no content, there will be no buzz. Eventually the media are the tools that spread the content, but if it’s not relevant, nobody will share it.

If we move to the field of sport brands (sport properties) like athletes, clubs, competitions … Which one drives you most and could be given as a marketing case study?
Lately I’m trying to analyse the impact of football Champions League, clubs like Manchester United, Barcelona or Real Madrid, players like Ronaldo, Messi, Rooney or football itself as a brand. I was impressed with Beckham’s move to Paris Saint Germain; at the age of 37 he’s still a very powerful global brand, which is interesting. Honestly, I still haven’t found the reason but I’m working on it. Anyway, we’re again turning back to the power of quality content, and Champions League – its clubs included – definitely has it.

Let’s make a loop to the Adriatic region, which has always identified itself with sports. What’s the overview of the »landscape«?
We definitely have brilliant athletes! In Croatia we had Goran Ivanišević, we have the Kostelić family, Blanka Vlašić, the footballers. In Slovenia there is Tina Maze, in Serbia Novak Đoković … However, I think those brands are not exposed as they should be when talking about sponsorships on a local level. Brands (sponsors) tend to use them to promote themselves, while joint synergies are not in the first plan. Athletes in the Adriatic region are just a promotional tool and the final messages consumers get unfortunately don’t have any special value to them.

You’ve been directly involved in the SPORTO awarded project »Paralympic School Day« (Croatian Paralympic Committee), the visual identity and communication of which was created by the Bruketa&Žinić OM agency. What are your remarks regarding the project?
It’s a nice example of a campaign that used the stories of Paralympic athletes and them as persons. We were impressed by their energy and desire to achieve great sport results. What we’ve learned from them is that deficiencies actually make you stronger. That’s why we didn’t have any dilemma that this should be the main message of the campaign. It was obvious from the very first moment.

Paralympics are becoming a more and more important movement; London 2012 Paralympic venues were practically sold-out. What are the trends we could expect in this field in the future?
People will always follow the moving of the boundaries, regardless of the sport discipline. This is probably one of the reasons for the popularity of the Paralympic movement. Furthermore, in the last years lots of effort and resources were invested into the promotion and development of the movement.

The author of the interview is Jure Doler, SPORTO magazine

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