Welcome to the Jungle

September 17, 2008

Presentation Summary

Sports is the greatest show on Earth. It has the power to unite nations. This speech presented at the 6th Annual Relay Worldwide Sports Sponsorship Symposium highlights how brands can become Lovemarks. Kevin talks about the need for brands to connect individually with fans, and stresses how fundamental such loyalty is to sports.

Manchester City fans

Sport is a world-changing field. It lifts lives, powers economies, stops countries and forges nations.

History’s most successful sponsor was a prison convict, an amateur boxer, a lawyer and a president.

Nelson Mandela sponsored the future of South Africa. He needed a sports field and a clash of titans to do it. He:

  • Understood that sport can define who we are.
  • Stared into the eyes of all blacks and whites.
  • Switched their adored symbols – a shirt / a song.
  • United the country for the first time in three centuries.

Mandela is a global Lovemark, a captain of all hearts, a man who instills Loyalty Beyond Reason, wherever he goes.

This is your single challenge in marketing through sport, to create loyalty beyond reason.

Sports marketing is a US$250-billion industry worldwide. The sports industry is a raging bull, almost bear-proof. The reason? Sport is life, and always on.

People are competitive, people are passionate, people are local, people love to win and none of us like to lose. George Orwell said: “Sport is just war minus the shooting.”

Vaulting off sport makes sense because you plug into passion, that which matters most, and passion pulverizes commodification. Bill Shankly, ex-manager of Liverpool Football Club: “Football’s not a matter of life and death; it’s much more important than that.”

How do you sponsor sport and win? Five starters:

  1. Give power to the people because the people are the new power brokers. The shift is from brands to fans. Build every association for and around the audience.
    Note: The most loved advertising at the Olympics was about the audience, not the athletes.
  2. Get closer to the people. Mass reach and scale are history. Information and knowledge are table stakes. Empathetic Insight and creative foresight win. Go Xploring, not data mining.
  3. Be authentic, true to who you are and who they are. Does the sponsor stand for the sport and the people who love it?
  4. Be bold, fast-moving and responsive. Winners don’t hesitate. Daniel Snyder. Roman Abramovich. Tiger Woods. Nothing excites the fans like a bright future.The way to hit a sweet spot is to fail fast, learn fast, fix fast.
  5. Make it fun. Winners run risks, share joy, and become valued loved friends.

Example: Castlemaine beer campaign: “Aussie’s don’t give a XXXX for any other lager.”

The field of play for marketing has been relocated.

From Information Economy, Knowledge Economy, Interruption Marketing (aka the Mass Market), Permission Marketing, the Experience Economy, Attention Economy to the ATTRACTION ECONOMY.

This shift profoundly changes how retailers, how business, can connect with shoppers, with families, with communities in the coming decades.

Interruption Attraction
Directors Connectors
One-to-many Many-to-one
Reactive  Interactive
Return on Investment Return on Involvement
Marketing at Connecting with
Consumers Audience

In the Attraction Economy “like” is not enough. Brands have to be loved.

Seven Ideas to Build Loyalty Beyond Reason around sport:


Martin Luther King did not say: “I have a mission statement.” Saatchi & Saatchi’s Dream? “To be revered as the hothouse for world-changing ideas that create sustainable growth for our clients.”

Dreams are the basis of Peak Performance. With academic colleagues, I wrote a book on this based on our studies of sustained sports success stories, the world’s greatest sporting franchises.

Whoever dreams big, wins big, whatever the sector and whoever the partners and players:

  • In software – think Google
  • In entertainment – think Peter Jackson
  • In travel – think Richard Branson
  • In architecture – think Frank Gehry
  • In luxury – think Gucci Tokyo

Sports marketing is not about chasing return on investment, but sharing return on involvement. It’s one team, one dream: sponsor, owner, player and fan.

Dream teams start by sharing common ground.

  • Nike / Jordan – Mike is Nike
  • KR Steinlager / All Blacks – credible linkage
  • US Eagles – amazing determination

Dream teams are made up of Inspirational Players, not managers. They connect inside and across and outside organizations. They are the go-to people.


Sponsorship is about the fans. It’s about connecting with who and why they are. The fastest way to do that is through their emotions and sport is emotion on fire, adrenaline pumped in from the outside.

People are 20% rational and 80% emotional. The more immeasurable a feeling is, the higher its value.

Neurologist Donald Calne tells us why emotion matters: “Reason leads to conclusions, emotion leads to action.”


What puts Lovemarks way ahead of brands?

  • Brands are built on Respect. Lovemarks are built on Love and Respect.
  • Brands are owned by managers, marketers and dealers. Lovemarks are owned by the people who love them.
  • Great brands are Irreplaceable. Lovemarks are Irresistibl, for example:

MP3s irreplaceable / iPod irresistible
Suzuki irreplaceable / Harley irresistible

  • Brands create loyalty for a reason. Lovemarks create Loyalty Beyond Reason. Beyond result too. I’m talking Nascar fans, New Orleans Saints, Chicago Cubs.


Love Respect Axis Lovemarks


Low Respect. Low Love. Commodities and utilities. US Airlines. Endorsement respect bombs, from Kobe Bryant (assault) to Michael Vick (dog fighting) and doping in cycling.

Low Respect. High Love. Short term fads.

This can be a great launch pad for massive growth if you can convert. Mobile phone texting started here.

The more positive emotional fit between brand, athlete and winning, the more sustainable you are.

Most celebrity hook-ups lack emotional credence. Sean “Diddy” Combs and the Donald for Macy’s? The consumer is not a moron, she’s your wife.

High Respect. Low Love. “e-r” words: faster, bigger…cheaper. Brand land.

High Respect. High Love. Lovemarks. The future. Sustainable differentiation.


  1. Attract with Mystery, the power of the unknown. The more you know about something, the less you want to know. Dreams and metaphors, icons and surprises, stories revealing past, present and future.
  2. Attract with Sensuality through all five senses, portals to the emotions.
    Example: Beckham sold a mountain of underpants and shirts with metro-sensuality.
    Example: Starbucks was built on sensuality, and became the fastest-growing retail story of all time.
    Example: Nintendo Wii dominates the games console market by playing with all the senses (OK, not taste).
  3. Attract with Intimacy. Intimacy is empathy, commitment and passion.

Lovemarks are passionate about what matters.

IDEA#6 – SEAL IT WITH sisomo

Big successful brands need big exciting ideas that:

  • Grow and evolve.
  • Cross categories and media.
  • Inspire breakthrough innovation and product development.

Fact: Americans spend almost 5 hours a day watching TV.

Start with an idea, not a TV spot, and take it into the Screen Age, across screens your audience loves. The experience has to travel.

TV is part of a bigger idea we call sisomo – sight, sound and motion on screen.

The screen is our global commons. It will be interactive, social, networked, mobile, in-store, controlled by the audience. The sports screen is the most emotional one, the ultimate sisomo experience.

Opportunity is massive. Virtual workouts, online video, interactive banners, digital displays, social networking, interactive kiosks.

Sports fans are “owners”. They are the water cooler, so you get viral velocity. Give them something to rave about. Sponsorship is about innovation, not plastering your name everywhere or bolting on celebrities. Who do you believe? Angelina Jolie or your best buddy?


Peak Performance is driven by loosely connected Inspirational Players chasing down a dream. The teams that make it:

  • Act like families not corporations.
  • Create conditions for Flow.
  • Are champions of the people.

The role of business is to make the world a better place for everyone. What is the social, cultural and environmental profit your dollars fund? What does the deal leave on the table for Joe Baseball and family?

Example: In 2006 FC Barcelona finally put a logo on its shirts. They rejected money offers, reversed the sponsorship and backed UNICEF.

Sport is the greatest show on earth, with power to unite and transport us to a better place. You came here today as managers and marketers. Leave here tomorrow as Inspirational Players, create a Lovemark, and you will win.

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