Southampton FC Signature Partnership campaign

Strategy, Identity & Activation

We were approached by Southampton Football Club to help them deliver on their sponsorship revenue and partnership objectives.

Our challenge was threefold.

1. Define and deliver a partner identification strategy, ensuring potential partners were strategically aligned with 'The Southampton Way'

2. Name, create and produce the approach/method

3. Follow up and manage the engagement process through to handover to Southampton Football Club executives

The strategic objective was to not solely focus on the shirt sponsorship deal, but to consider who we could engage and attract potential club sponsors that would fit the alignment model and invest in the club, be it through training, corporate entertainment and events, timekeeping, facilities – wherever there was an opportunity to improve revenue and engage fans that would provide a return on investment to both Southampton Football Club and the sponsor in question.

Strategy

The strategic approach for the project started with an understanding and identification process. We needed to understand what 'The Southampton Way' meant in theory and practice, plus what it looked like in reality. We then needed to research and identify like-minded brands that we felt had shared the same values and working practices.

We created an identification matrix that enabled us to score potential companies against a strict criteria. Starting on a global basis, we identified that success (and a better fit) was more likely to be found in central Europe. Through our narrowing process, we scaled from nearly 30 global companies to 10 European, primarily based in Switzerland, Germany, France and Belgium. All accessible for quick access and the ability to meet the club on a similar time zone.

The next stage was to clarify our engagement method, our approach for follow up and our measurement technique. We decided that our approach needed to not only align with the Southampton Way, but also 'wow' the recipient and showcase a considerable commitment from the club to want to capture their imagination. We also decided that the approach needed to be personal – to the recipient and the business – it had to make them feel like they were special and important to Southampton Football Club. And this should start with a hand delivered item to wherever they were based in Europe.

Identity

To support the engagement strategy, we wanted to create a campaign that not only aligned with Southampton and its philosophy but a campaign that creatively felt connected from first touchpoint to last.

We felt a campaign name would help position the objective. We created the 'Signature Partnership' name and identity. The name derived from football clubs making landmark 'signing's', usually referred to for players, but our campaign logic looked to apply the same value and importance to strategic partners. It related to the partners 'signing' a contract to be a partner, it related to partners signing up to 'The Southampton Way', it related to the partner signing up to a successful and fruitful partnership.

The resulting identity was formed using a bespoke signature as the identity – unique and individual to the campaign and the proposition on offer.

The identity was then translated onto the item the potential partner was due to receive.

Activation

After analysis of premium brand experiences, we felt each recipient should be able to see, feel and truly experience Southampton Football Club. We wanted the experience to have scale, value and 'retention factor', i.e. be something unique that would ensure it would not be discarded without consideration.

The resulting item was a direct mail like no other.

We sent a personalised black paper-over-board box with silver foiling, held closed with a red sleeve, contained with a cardboard engineered mailing carton. On removing the sleeve and opening the box the recipient was presented with 4 core components – a brand personalised, auto-play video articulating the offer and the alignment, a personalised perfect-bound book, tailored to their brand. There was a personalised Southampton shirt to showcase their identity on the famous red and white striped shirt, and lastly, the item of specific value – a Mont Blanc pen, the tool required to make the 'signature partnership' a reality, as well as being a generous gift that demonstrated the commitment Saints had to the recipient.

The inner lining of the box was faux-suede to ensure the texture and handling experience felt premium and matched the Saints brand value.

Delivery and measurement

To ensure the arrival of the presentation pack matched the concept, attention to detail and the commitment to personalisation, we organised for each one to be hand delivered from our premises in Basingstoke to each head office in Europe. Although we appreciated putting it in the hands of the actual recipient would be a challenge, we knew getting it there in one piece and looking pristine would all add to the overall engagement experience we were committed to achieving.

The follow up strategy was planned around a three-call process. One to ensure it had arrived and to field any initial reactions/questions. The second to engage and arrange a meeting, and finally, the third to follow up and push for the meeting if it had not already taken place, or follow up on the meeting, gauge reaction and agree next steps.

The follow up strategy was designed to work in partnership with the internal team at Southampton so we had a trackable method of engagement (who had spoken to who/when) that detailed whose responsibility/action was due and how/when we would hand over to the club.

Outcome

Our final production plan and delivery strategy, most, unfortunately, coincided with the departure of Executive Chairman and project head, Nicola Cortese. Due to the unpredictable position of the club and the plans going forward (both in terms of the owners, the Liebherr family, and any potential incoming CEO) the campaign was paused and ultimately discontinued.

Our frustration and disappointment was immense after a considerable volume of work in a very short period of time to try and ensure we got the packs out to recipients well ahead of the coming season.

We are confident our diligence and strategic planning would have resulted in a very successful outcome. Unfortunately we will never know, but regardless, we are very proud of the work we did and the fantastic relationship we had with those internally tasked with delivering the project with us.

Subsequent projects have included sponsorship video, season ticket enagegment packs and corporate hospitality promotion.

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