Since 2013, Apollo Tyres has made a concerted push to use big-ticket football sponsorship to aid in building a globally recognisable brand.
Apollo is the global tyre partner of Premier League club Manchester United, principal partner of I-League club Minerva Punjab, principal partner of ISL champions Chennaiyin FC, as well as an official partner of the Indian Super League.
In 2018-19, the brand’s objective was to create a unified marketing strategy that aligned all sponsorship properties to create a consistent message to consumers across every medium.
Apollo’s decision to sponsor football properties was an unconventional move, as typically sports sponsorship budgets in India are monopolised by cricket. Apollo Tyres’ biggest domestic rival, MRF, is a dominant player here and has major partnerships with the ICC in addition to numerous ambassadorial deals.
The strategic thinking was that cricket is a ‘me too’ strategy, one that has too much wastage, both financially and in terms of marketing to the wrong consumers.
Territory: Global, India
Agency: Prism Sport + Entertainment
Other organisations: Gravity Entertainment, WAT Consult
Apollo wanted to create a space where it effectively owned a sport in India. Football allowed it to do this, differentiating and providing the perception of Apollo being a premium brand with global ambitions.
In addition, unlike most traditional cricket audiences, the Indian football fan base is comprised of children, teenagers and young adults that are primarily from the ABC1 demographic. This is of great significance to Apollo Tyres who are a premium brand that prioritises technical superiority and quality in a notoriously price sensitive market.
This audience closely matches Apollo Tyres’ target consumer and the fact that they are young provided Apollo with the opportunity to build brand preference among first-time car and motorcycle buyers, which was one of the primary reasons for selecting the sponsorship properties.
To effectively target these audiences and ensure all sponsorship marketing performs under one consistent communications platform, Prism created a global brand campaign born out of the core brand positioning ‘Go the Distance’. The aim of the campaign was to create a dialogue that had inclusive appeal to sports fans, and ultimately inspires them to give the sport a try.
Go the Distance
Central to the campaign was the creation of a content strategy that focused on how footballers ‘Go the Distance’. To play at the top of the game, footballers need to be willing to make sacrifices and be more determined than anyone else.
The brand wanted to celebrate this spirit and glorify how professional footballers embrace a fearless attitude to reach their goals and ‘Go the Distance’, with an aim of inspiring the next generation to reach theirs.
This was achieved in three phases:
- Grab attention and establish a position within the football space
- Champion and celebrate footballers who ‘Go the Distance’
- Encourage fans to be part of the campaign
Phase One: Grab attention and establish a campaign position
To kick-off the campaign, Prism created an anthem brand film ‘Go the Distance’, launched during the 2018-19 season. The piece featured professional footballers from Manchester United (Juan Mata, Scott McTominay and Ashley Young), Minerva Punjab and Chennaiyin FC, plus two freestylers, as well as amateur players in India, each of whom show what they go through to reach the top of their game. The film brought to life what goes on behind the scenes and gave fans an insight into how players go above and beyond.
Phase Two: Reinforce the message
After the success of the anthem film, Prism created additional tailored content to reinforce the campaign purpose across multiple touchpoints.
It optimised outputs specific to the relevant social media channels to ensure our executions resonated with the target audience.
Additionally, short vignettes were created with the footballers at Manchester United (Juan Mata, Ashley Young and Scott McTominay), Chennaiyin FC (Mailson Alves and Jerry Rinzuala), Minerva Punjab (Nongdamba Naorem and MD Shah Jahan), plus the freestylers (Aylin Yaren and Paloma Pujol), to give fans real insight into their own personal ‘Go the Distance’ stories.
Phase Three: Encourage fans to be part of the campaign
The final stage of the campaign was a collaboration with influencers in India who explained how they ‘Go the Distance’. Generating social buzz and trending across multiple platforms, the initiative aimed to encourage fans to share their own stories of reaching their goals.
Buzz for the campaign was created by sharing four teaser videos in collaboration with the freestylers, Minerva Punjab, Chennaiyin FC and Manchester United. The four teaser videos generated a reach of 800,000, with more than 5,500 engagements and an engagement rate of four per cent.
The main video was released with the details of the contest, #GoTheDistance. The anthem video generated a reach of 2.7 million with more than 22,000 engagements and an engagement rate of three per cent.
The campaign included a Twitter Trend activation of the #GoTheDistance hashtag, which saw our community of 430 influencers sharing the campaign content and encouraging fans to share their personal #GoTheDistance stories. The campaign generated more than 8,900 posts on Twitter with a combined reach of six million, and 14 million impressions. It trended at number six and was trending for more than two hours.
The campaign also included a Facebook comments seeding activation on the anthem video which generated more than 90 comments.