Creativity is the pearl of great price in the COVID-19 era, formed under grit and pressure. Brands are finding new ways to get in front of their customers as standard outlets like news and social media are loaded with misinformation and just plain disturbing news.
More specifically, this surge of creativity is being seen in four areas: sponsorships, contextual commerce, eCommerce and partnerships.
Sponsorships, perhaps more than any other marketing area, have been turned on their collective heads. No NBA. No MLB. No PGA events. That means a lot of sponsorship money is going unspent. “If there’s no fans in the stands, then, from a sponsorship perspective, there will be a race to who gets TV inventory, TV-visible inventory, which is roughly half of the value to sponsorships,” said AJ Maestas, founder and CEO of Navigate Research, a sports and entertainment research firm. “So half of the value you’re trying to replace, or make good, you know as a marketing term, with very limited television inventory, because usually it’s close to sold out in a healthy economy.”
Some of that money is being moved into non-traditional areas. For example, Mastercard has working with Riot Games for esports, which owns League of Legends online, and over the past two weeks sponsored the League of Legends U.S. championships. “We had unprecedented viewership on that,” says CMO Raja Rajamannar. “We have been one of the first brands to have gone into esports at a global level, and with League of Legends we have an exclusive partnership.”
Contextual commerce: Contextual commerce was very much in the news this week as Zynga announced a collaboration with Amazon to bring free content to Twitch Prime and Amazon Primemembers in Words With Friends. Prime members can claim free mobile game content and players will be shown banners showcasing Zynga offers.
“Consumers are still spending in many areas, but the news on TV and online right now is so alarming that most business owners would be forgiven for thinking that consumer confidence has collapsed altogether and that they need to take drastic decisions to protect their business,” says Alex Timlin, senior vice president, verticals, Emarsys. “Before taking those decisions, I would implore those business owners to arm themselves with the right contextual information about consumer spending and behavior. Then you can make the right decisions to mitigate the damage of COVID-19, and navigate the uncertain times ahead a little more easily.”
As Timlin alluded to, the eCommerce consumer journey is changing and retail needs to change with it. With non-essential retailing reduced mostly to eCommerce standard forms of reaching that shopper are cluttered. For example, research company GoodFirms surveyed more than 100 specialists from the top eCommerce marketing companies to determine the marketing tactics that work best. The participants were asked to pick from pay-per-click (PPC) ads, content marketing, social media marketing, and email marketing. Around 82 percent said PPC ads were effective and 76 percent voted for content marketing. That’s a lot of clutter.
Some of the more creative examples of marketing within the digital shift include Adidas. It has shifted resources toward digital for an improved customer experience. For example, it is offering consumers free access to its premium running and training apps. The brand says its #hometeam campaign, which it launched using virtual events and games in response to the coronavirus outbreak, has been its “most effective ever” at engaging consumers.
Partnerships: Brands will need to look past their usual suspects to get noticed in the right context. For example, U.K. cinema group Curzon has partnered with Uber Eats. On weekends users can order a “home cinema bundle” from Curzon via Uber Eats which will include popcorn, a hot dog and movie snacks. The kit is worth £35, but can be ordered for the £3.50 delivery fee using the code “HOMECINEMA.”
“Right now brands are trying to figure out how to market in our new-not-so-normal world,” Stacy Jones, founder and CEO of Hollywood Branded, said in a Forbes report. “No one wants to misstep and risk offending. Yet brands have this fantastic opportunity to respond to this crisis with both purpose and humanity, and with actions that will be remembered for years to come. We are smack dab in the middle of two paths of marketing leadership – the current path which fosters community unity and positivity, and the near future path which engages and inspires.”