Gabey Goh
Mar 24, 2016

Iris launches sport unit to bring sports marketing "out of the dark ages"

SINGAPORE - Creative network Iris has announced plans to launch a dedicated sports marketing division, Iris Sport, aimed at addressing the opportunity gaps in the market.

Nico Tuppen
Nico Tuppen

The new entity already has teams in place in Sydney and Singapore, according to the company.

Iris claims that the “uncomfortable truth” is that sports fans have changed and the channels they operate in have been transformed, but mainstream sports marketing is still “in the dark ages.”

Sports marketing is still stuck in a 1970s world, Nico Tuppen, managing director of Iris Sport said in a statement.

“It’s still middle-aged men talking about passion and glory, trying hard, and the joy of being a fan,” he added. “A whole new generation of male and female sports lovers is bored of this. They want sport to be colourful, diverse, entertaining, social.”

The network said that brands and sports properties aren't harnessing the opportunities available to them, with many prioritising traditional media approaches. They are favouring the ‘chairman’s choice’ rather than real innovation, and not evaluating whether activity or assets are driving any real business or brand value.  

“It's more than being passionate about the game or displaying loyalty to a team. We believe it's as much about culture as it is about sport—and should resonate with what we describe as the ‘Slash Generation’; an audience that wants brands, assets and campaigns to be more creative, more provocative and more challenging.”
Iris Sport will work closely with the micro-network’s consulting, CRM, data and insight team, Iris Concise, to add commercial rigour across all activity, from identifying the right partnership or influencer, to evaluating the activity and proving its worth.
Tuppen said that this is where the real difference and benefit for clients lies.

“Our approach actually understands the real commercial return of sports marketing,” he said. “It is this blend of resource, experience and capability that ensures our clients' sports activations always win. We have already seen what we do completely transform our clients business and approach.”

The company boasts some notable sports marketing work, including its seven-year partnership with Johnnie Walker in Singapore for 'Step inside the circuit', Adidas' 'There will be haters, and the 'Force of black' activations for the All Blacks at the 2015 Rugby World Cup.

It also worked on opening the exclusive Ferrari garage (digitally) to F1 fans for the first time with Shell. 

Update: Iris replied this afternoon to questions Campaign Asia-Pacific asked this morning before initial publication of this story, providing more details of its APAC operations and strategy.

From left: Hunter, Henderson, Reid

Ross Henderson will be leading Iris Sport in Asia. He currently leads Valencia C.F.’s brand positioning and their push into Asia from the Iris Singapore office, with previous experience in the Iris London sponsorship team.

Richard Reid from Iris Concise will be working closely with Henderson, with notable work on assessment and measurement of success done, including Barclays’ sponsorship of the English Premier League.

Grant Hunter, regional executive creative director of APAC, will lead the creative output of Iris SPORT in the region. Hunter has been the creative lead on many large scale Sports properties such as adidas' football activation across Southeast Asia in 2015, adidas' work with the All Blacks for the past five years, the creation of the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic mascots, and led Johnnie Walker’s sponsorship of the McLaren F1 team for five years.

According to the network globally existing clients include adidas, Speedo, Shell, Shock Absorber and Barclays. It also has a wide variety of large clients throughout the region.

The growth and positioning of Valencia C.F. in Asia will be a key push for Iris SPORT from the outset, giving a Spanish club a global voice, harnessing the passion for football across the region. The agency is also continuing the momentum with other existing clients. 

Henderson said that the team sees a lot of ‘National Service’ sponsorships in Asia. Big Sporting events in this part of the world are prime examples of this, such as the Singapore Grand Prix.

“Although there are sometimes effective activations, you can’t help but see the mandate that big local companies are given to take on sponsorships of this sort,” he added. “These large companies already have strong brand recognition thus can and should be delivering more than associating their name with an event.”

Reid shared that at the moment, the majority of Sports marketing decisions are being made with little or no thought for how assets will be used to drive overall marketing objectives.

Given the region’s lack of maturity in the Sports marketing sphere, our key aim will to be convincing our clients of the need for commercial diligence when selecting and activating sponsorships,” he added.

Asked about additional challenges, Reid said that there is also the issue of how to activate assets that exist in disparate regions and timezones and how to make them relevant locally when viewership of the event itself will be low.


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