As millions, if not billions, of eyeballs focus on the World Cup, brands have prepared campaigns to catch the public’s attention. But done wrong – the fallout from having a marketing crisis on the world stage can do years of damage in just a few moments. Jonathan Barrett, Managing Director, EMEA, Dataminr looks at why monitoring social media is vital for brands looking to capitalise on the World Cup from a brand awareness perspective.
The World Cup has kicked off in style, with fans flocking to Russia to be there and support their teams. It may be the first big event of the season but it’s certainly not the last, with Wimbledon, the Tour de France and the British Grand Prix all set to dominate the hearts and minds of sports fans for the summer months. Events like these are a magnet for international audiences. Those fans who can’t be there in person are following the matches live on TV, streaming online, keeping up to speed via news apps and talking about the action on social media as it happens.
The pure volume of people tuning in makes this big business for brand sponsorship and advertising. This means the best opportunities are of high value and in high demand, with brands battling it out to get in front of the most eyeballs across all platforms and devices. If successful, a brand can be the talk of the tournament, unfortunately though, “brand fails” are often remembered more than any of the successes, and the resulting fallout can destroy a brand’s reputation.
Here are three top tips on how businesses can best manage risk, protect their brand and score a successful marketing campaign during the summer of sport.
1. Spot the problem quickly
One of the key ways that a brand issue can spread, and do so quickly, is via social media. Social media, and Twitter specifically, has become one of the key channels for mass public awareness and acts as a mirror of world events, reflected in real-time. People go to Twitter to share their thoughts, opinion and updates on incidents as they’re taking place. It should therefore be the first port of call for a brand wanting to gauge public opinion.
High profile brand issues expose a company to public criticism and can be extremely damaging, not only to their public image but also their bottom line. A recent example of an incident that has spread quickly on social, to the detriment of a brand, is Nike’s withdrawal of its supply of football boots to Iranian players ahead of the World Cup. Nike maintained the decision was purely based on new US trade sanctions, and commented in a public statement that they cannot supply shoes to players in the Iranian national team at this time because of the sanction. However, Nike had previously ignored the sanctions back in 2014, when the Iranian team wore their shoes during the tournament. The new decision frustrated Iranian players and has led to criticism internationally, a lot of which has been driven on social media. Some Iranians have even started a social media boycott on Nike products, using the hashtag “#NotoNike”.
By using appropriate early detection tools, and truly understanding the data that can be found on social media, brands can gain instant insights into the public’s reaction. This real-time view allows any negative reactions to be spotted and responded to, as early as possible, giving the brand time to try and mitigate the damage, or at least prepare a thorough and informed response, rather than a panicked reaction.
2. Conquer the sudden flash
When you discover your marketing fail, the next thing to do is assess the situation and determine what kind of crisis you’re facing. A ‘sudden flash’ crisis is defined by the speed at which it spreads. The risk of going viral means that minutes, not hours, can make a huge difference between irreparable brand damage or mitigating a crisis altogether. Real-time data and social media alerting is the first line of defence when it comes to brand fails like this.
An example of a sudden flash style crisis can be found in brand sponsorships. Whenever a big sporting event is underway, all eyes turn to the players on and off the pitch (or court), meaning it’s a prime opportunity for brands to affiliate themselves with players through sponsorship deals. As the stars of the show, many fans will follow their favourite players on social media and be influenced by what they wear, drink or endorse – often following suit and helping boost the profit margins for said brand.
This kind of brand association can backfire though. A misstep by the celebrity being endorsed can taint the public’s opinion of the brand, quickly bringing them into disrepute and potentially impacting their bottom line.
In these instances, having a full, real-time, aerial view of social conversations is key to managing a crisis, and helping businesses make the most informed response as quickly as possible. That could be to drop the sponsorship or disassociate the brand with the controversial views that the sponsor has given. In some cases the response may even be to do nothing, rather than draw additional attention to the issue.
Regardless of the chosen response, speed is everything when it comes to knowing about the problem, in order to have more time to decide on your reaction. Effective social media monitoring is imperative for this, as surges in tweets and posts may indicate a significant event is occurring. By having the right solution in place to sift through the data, and spot the crisis early, organisations can handle these sudden flashes quickly and effectively, helping mitigate the fallout by providing a timely and informed response.
3. Avoid the heat of the slow burn crisis
Though a rapid response is right for a sudden flash crisis, the ‘slow burn’ crisis requires a different approach. Though they may start small, these crises can take time to develop, and have the risk of escalating over weeks or even months. This is not ideal when a brand is trying to get cut through at every opportunity during the period of a sporting event.
High profile brands have often had to disassociate themselves from their endorsed celebrities due to personal scandals outside the company’s control. Perhaps one of the most famous examples was the public downfall of cyclist Lance Armstrong. After being the centre of a very public doping scandal, his sponsorship deals with big brands like Nike, Oakley and RadioShack were cut and he was stripped of his seven Tour de France titles. This was a slow burn in the sense that the story and subsequent reputational damage faced by Lance, escalated as the legal case progressed, which kept stoking the fire in the media. From a brand perspective, getting out early, when the first flames start to flicker, could mean they avoid getting their own reputations burnt by association.
Companies that have experienced these types of situations will be all too familiar with “the war room” – a trusted response to a crisis scenario. Senior executives will spend endless hours in a meeting room managing and trying to contain these slow burn crises – figuring out the best response, as well as how to articulate any comment to the media and public. In these high stress scenarios, where it feels like a brand is being attacked from all sides, a siege mentality can take hold. This is when it is beneficial to use social media tools to get a real-time, holistic view of the situation, to prevent a knee jerk reaction.
The more you can learn about the situation as early as possible, the more able a brand is to make informed decisions and set-up processes to manage events as they unfold. The speed, context and situational awareness provided by social media allows firms to launch an attack, defend when in trouble and, ultimately, prevent them from scoring an own goal – much like in the beautiful game itself.
By Jonathan Barrett
Managing Director, EMEA