Big brands sponsoring sports teams is nothing new. But Argentina's Banco Hipotecario and Buenos Aires agency Madre took a different approach to the team sponsorship model by not including the bank's logo on the players' jerseys.
The bank has the people-friendly positioning of "Creator of Owners," and when opportunity to sponsor Argentine team Racing came along, the agency says it wanted to do something that was in keeping with this persona. So, rather than be another garish logo cluttering up team uniforms, the bank sponsored pristine jerseys, or as the agency puts it, gave "the shirt back to its true owners: the supporters and the players."
An unusual move but perhaps the kind of brand initiative that will be more common as marketers look to add value, rather than clutter.
More on the project from Madre creative director Carlos Bayala .
Was this idea hard to sell through to the client?
In the beginning It was a very difficult project to be approved; it was very hard to convince a big institution like a bank to do something that risky with their own moneys. But it´s paying off. Ana Gazcon, our main client, loved the idea from day one, but the board was naturally skeptical. When we explained to them that this would set a really big and positive precedent (no one had done it before), a precedent that would give us a good excuse to truly connect with football fans, they started to realize the potential.
We didn't do much offline advertising about it, we published a big newspaper ad in all the main papers and sport magazines in Argentina and then we let Facebook, Twitter and the press to take this to the next level. The very first match was great, the players came out on the field with clean shirts and they simply took their team picture next to a billboard that simply said "RACING: OWNER OF ITS SHIRT"
The beauty is that the initiative is growing to the point that for the last two games of this tournament we are letting fans to write their own phrases on the shirt, so they can actually put that ownership to work. It was a really bold and scary move, but it´s proving that sponsorship as it is, when challenged, works ten times better.
With the ubiquity of advertising, do you think more marketers are starting to look at exercising restraint instead of blaring messages?
I think ad pollution and marketing pollution are producing a hugely negative effect in brands, an effect that people don´t really notice until one brand does it in a different , friendly way.
Marketing desperation for brand presence is suicidal; brands should not bombard people anymore. It´s the old paradigm and it worked to some extent but now we HAVE to be smarter than that. Now, it´s simplistic to state that brands could change this immediately: it´s not easy, it requires communication efforts and brains to let people understand why as corporations we need to change the logic and the way we communicate, even if it means a sacrifice in our economic benefits in the short term.
I think in the long run, when corporations are not desperate and genuinely think what is best for their public and for people in general, it pays off. And that positive spin is bigger than ever now through social networks and electronic worth of mouth. But it takes brains and balls.