Manchester City FC is a household name across Europe in the football arena. But football clubs are also big businesses in their own right, and Christmas represents a huge opportunity to secure extra revenue.
We spoke to Absolute, marketing agency behind the Man City Christmas campaigns.
In a nutshell, what defines an effective Christmas marketing campaign?
Chris Hodgen, MD of Absolute: “Christmas campaigns need to be linked to targets. In a lot of cases, the success will be down to brand awareness, engagement – such as through social sharing and comments – press exposure, and actual sales. Often, the more memorable the campaign, the more successful it is. If a campaign gets people talking and sharing it online then it’s more likely to get people buying. With the Manchester City Christmas campaign we worked on, we needed to create something different which would get people talking – and this in turn helped generate sales.”
Simon Allman, Creative Director of Absolute: “Ultimately it’s down to gaining maximum media exposure and social sharing, which in turn, can lead to an increase in product sales – but none of this is possible without originality or a great concept. Christmas can be an overkill of the same ideas churned out year on year, so you have to look at things from a different perspective or even embrace history, humour or culture, which is apparent with the Manchester City campaign and because of this, it achieved all of its objectives.”
Do the rules change at Christmas compared to any other time of the year?
CH: “Christmas is a difficult market, as every brand is fighting for shoppers’ budgets. There’s a bottle neck of ideas to buy into but the memorable campaigns will always win. There’s definitely a different pattern to shopping during the festive period. Over the year, shoppers are generally mission-led, but in the lead up to Christmas they can quickly becoming indecisive wanderers, endlessly roaming and looking for the right present at the right time – with some, like me, panic buying at the last minute on Christmas Eve!
“Consumers’ behaviour also changes the closer you get to Christmas, as the early birds have completed the challenge well ahead of Black Friday. So campaigns during this period have to make a big impact at the right time, as well as stand above the competition, otherwise they get brushed aside.”
If you could state three do’s and three don’ts of marketing at Christmas, would they be?
SA: “In terms of what to do…
“Do be original and have a great idea;
“Do plan well in advance and even create reveal stages to the campaign;
“And do engage with your customers.
“When it comes to don’t…
“Don’t do what everyone else is doing;
“Don’t overkill the concept;
“And don’t launch your campaign too early, otherwise the audience will become fatigued before the event.”
What is the most memorable Christmas advert you have watched? Why was it so striking?
SA: “There’s been a lot of great adverts over the years, most of them in recent times with big budget commercials from M&S, John Lewis and Sainsbury’s, but for me one particular advert from the 1990s stands out. It was from the Yellow Pages and it featured a young boy trying to kiss a girl who was a lot taller than he was. She was holding the mistletoe and he couldn’t reach up to kiss, but he grabs a Yellow Pages book to stand on and gets a result. What’s brilliant about this advert is that agency who got this tough brief managed to take an un-festive product and produce something memorable – ‘Good old Yellow Pages’.”
CH: “It’s got to be one of the John Lewis ones for a lot of people but mine is the Sainsbury’s war advert in 2014. Although being from Bolton, I could easily have said Warburton’s Muppets ad last year!”
What advice would you give to brands looking to implement a marketing strategy across a range of mediums and devices?
SA: “Keep the idea simple. M&S ran with ‘Magic & Sparkle’ for a few years which allowed them to have longevity with the same concept, but enabled them to change the art direction every year, refreshing a brilliant concept and it was easily implemented instore, online and across all media channels.”
Tell me about your Christmas 2015 campaign with Kitbag and Manchester City Football Club. What did you do for them and how was it received?
CH: “We were approached by Kitbag and Manchester City Football Club to come up with a creative idea for a photo shoot to promote the club’s Christmas clothing and gift range. Because it was a Christmas campaign, we were able to have some fun to show the lighter side of the club and its players. Taking the art directional cues from the north’s favourite soap, Coronation Street, we built and staged a typical Manchester family Christmas meal for the players, who were sporting their Christmas jumpers.
“As with any photo shoot, planning, preparation and timing was key. As well as organising the lighting and composition of the room, we liaised with food stylists, venue dressers and wallpaper suppliers to get the set looking just right. The day itself was fast paced, but thanks to careful planning we were able to set up relaxed, humorous shots which communicated the right messages in the right way.
“During the post production stage, we ensured there were versions of the assets made specifically for social media, as well as in the MCFC megastore.
“As well as the images being shared widely on social media, they were also picked up by mainstream media in the likes of the Daily Mail and The Sun. The club even used one of the images for its corporate Christmas card. Overall, the club sold 8,000 units and for every jumper sold the club donated £5 to charity, totalling £40,000.”
How do you measure the success of a Christmas marketing campaign?
CH: “Sales, sales, sales and social engagement leading to more sales!”