David Blecken
May 30, 2019

Don't overlook the Paralympics, and other sporting advice from Advertising Week Asia

Advertising Week: Sports-related sessions at this year's event in Tokyo encouraged brands to be open-minded, adaptable, and realistic about the costs involved in effective sponsorship activation.

From left: Tatsuya Honda of Fujitsu; snowboarder Grim Narita; Masaya Asai of TBWA Hakuhodo
From left: Tatsuya Honda of Fujitsu; snowboarder Grim Narita; Masaya Asai of TBWA Hakuhodo

Brands should not ignore the emotional value of the Paralympics

The Paralympic Games have the power to generate a stronger emotional response from viewers than the mainstream Olympics, according to Grim Narita, a Paralympian who won a snowboarding gold medal in Pyeongchang last year.

Narita, who has a paralysed leg as the result of an accident, said as an able-bodied athlete he used to see the Paralympics as “lower level play” but revised his opinion after competing in it and being struck by the level of empathy from the audience. He said the sense of “distance” between spectators and athletes that is present in Olympic competition does not apply in the Paralympic context.

At the same time, the Paralymics has remarkably low traction in Japan: according to Masaya Asai, group creative director at TBWA Hakuhodo, just one percent of the population watched the most recent competition.

Narita said there was ultimately no difference in terms of the level of sporting quality between the Olympics and Paralympics, and that he hoped people in Japan would revise their view of it. He reiterated his original message for marketers: where the focus of the Olympics is the result, the most important element of the Paralympics is emotion.

“What Paralympians do gives people courage,” he said. “That’s the biggest attraction of the Paralympics for brands.”

Tweak sports-related content for individual markets

Unruly and Brave Bison, a social video content company, discussed how brands can resonate with audiences in diverse markets around sporting events. They drew on an example from Beats, which presented the personal stories of the England and New Zealand team captains.

Phil Townend, Asia-Pacific COO of Unruly, said analysis of the campaign’s performance in eight markets yielded a number of lessons. Firstly, he said, well-considered targeting is critical: rugby’s status as the top sport in New Zealand meant addressing a mass audience worked there but did not in the UK, where rugby is less popular than sports like football and cricket.

Secondly, he said brands need to consider how subtle cultural differences will affect the way people receive a piece of content. The video performed well in markets where people tend to be individualistic. But in a more collectivist society like Japan, “we would recommend focusing more on the team than the captain,” he said.

He said brands should also try to tap into the unifying emotion specific to an event. At London 2012, it was inspiration, he said; at Rio 2016, exhilaration. He said data indicated that pride would be central to the upcoming Rugby World Cup and Tokyo 2020.

Additionally, he said brands should be aware that “the things that drive short term sales are not the same things that drive brand value”. Citing a study conducted in the UK, he noted that negative triggers are often associated with short-term sales activation whereas positive triggers such as amazement are more conducive to long-term gains.

Entertaining around a sponsorship costs more than you think

Companies in Japan have yet to fully understand the potential of corporate hospitality around sporting events for brand building, said Kat Yamaguchi, director of Iluka, an events agency under CSM.

In particular, he said companies often underestimated the budget required after taking on a sponsorship.

“When you do hospitality you need to have sufficient reserves,” he said. “Sports sponsorship is like buying a huge building and then inviting lots of tenants. Just buying the building isn’t enough. You have to provide a good environment, facilities, convenience, functions and other features inside the building.”

Campaign Japan

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