Even as it gains strong positions in India and Southeast Asia, Chinese smartphone brand Oppo is casting its eyes further afield to the European market as its key focus area. From racing to have retail tie-ups across APAC, the handset maker has built out a series of partnerships with mobile operators to expand its presence in Europe, in an attempt to chip away at the dominance of Apple and Samsung in the region.
In the past year, the brand sewed up alliances with Deutsche Telekom, Vodafone and Orange to boost its presence in this geography, where it is now present in 10 markets and has several more lined up. Using these alliances, Oppo wants to position itself as a premium handset player in Western Europe, a distinct shift away from its mass-market appeal elsewhere, especially in APAC markets where it is traditionally strong.
In Europe, Oppo (and fellow Chinese brand Xiaomi) have benefitted from the decline of Huawei's fortunes after it became ensnared in geopolitical conflict. Instead, consumers appear to have gravitated to other handset makers, with these two Chinese labels benefitting.
To make the most of this shift, Oppo is doing two things. First it is racing to tie up with as many mobile operators as it can. And second it is attempting to shift perception away from being a vendor of mid- and low-level handsets to being a premium brand.
“If you want to sell premium phones you need the trust of your carrier partners in order to do so, because it's embedded in this whole ecosystem,” Oppo’s overseas CMO Gregor Almassy (pictured above) told Campaign Asia-Pacific. “You need these kinds of strong carrier partners to successfully launch products in the western market.”
To build out brand Oppo, Almassy has taken the unconventional sports marketing route—in the middle of a pandemic. The firm’s sponsorship of the French Open tennis tournament and its work with FC Barcelona are highlights of this push.
While the brand began 2020 expecting to make a big splash at Roland Garros, the venue of the tennis tournament, the pandemic put paid to these plans. Instead, Almassy used the opportunity to showcase the Find X2 Pro model's capabilities (especially using 5G networks) at a virtual call it hosted.
While a series of outdoor, distanced events were planned in France by Oppo, the pandemic surge meant that it had to switch to plan B quickly. As part of its pivot, the brand hosted calls with Guy Forget, a former top tennis pro and current tournament director and leading junior talent. In addition, an OPPO booth and the OPPO Photo Gallery were shot entirely on the Find X2 Pro by official photographers.
“I think consumers welcome … new innovation, (and a) new product is coming into the market,” Almassy contends. “We have a good entry point and now we have to build our presence in western Europe.“ According to a Counterpoint report, Oppo has some ways to go; the firm’s share was barely 1% in Q2 2019, and this increased to 3% in Q2 2020.
According to some media reports, Oppo wants to have 10% to 15% market share in Europe in the next two or three years. “The awareness of the brand comes with a larger installed base,” Almassy says. “So, the more you use the phone or a certain product, the bigger the awareness for a brand.
In Europe, Oppo has been busy outside of the French Open too, as it seeks to widen its brand’s visibility. For example, it has launched a campaign with storied Spanish football club FC Barcelona, building on a five-year association with the team (the longest for a Chinese brand and a European football club). Elsewhere, Oppo in September this year opened up a pop-up Cinema in London.