Snappy marketing for a false society

At just one event – the Champion’s League Festival of Football in Hyde Park  – I counted 12 ‘opportunities’ to pose for a photo and – typically – to have it uploaded to the Internet. The most popular photos at the event, judging by queue length, were standing with the trophy itself, closely followed by the adidas match ball, perched lightly on a velvet cushion, closely followed by a the only original take, a Matrix style 3D action shot provided by Ford’s Focus Cam. These were good photo moments that the fans engaged with.

After that there were mascots to pose with, and faux Wembley stadium backdrops to stand next to – Victorian Blackpool Pleasure Beach shots reinvented for the sharing online ‘society’.

Once upon a time sampling – which will always be a very good marketing technique – became such a must that samples were machine-gunned into hands, a numbers game that only devalues the product and kills the conversation. And that is now assuredly the case with the lowest common denominator ‘photo’. The ‘photo’ has become a requirement for any low grade event marketing exercise that wants to prove to the client that hard work and endeavour has gone into the marketing exercise, and that numbers have been reached. At its worst a simple thoughtless photo op is billed back to the client as ‘experiential’.

How memorable are these photos for fans in the aftermath of Messi’s incredible goal? In most cases the answer is surely not very? A ‘yet another’ photo is online wallpapering – just the issue that you went live in the first place to cut through.

The deception lies at the heart of ‘social’ media which often isn’t social at all, a world where to look is to ‘like’ and where clicking is as natural as breathing for many. Like breathing, it is hard to remember precisely when you did it.

At the Football Festival the worst culprit was Mastercard. Did you ‘like’ your Mastercard ‘me with a cup graphic’ upload? In social media terms you did if you shared it into the tinnitus of Twitter. A crafty agency can package that back to their client – how inexpensive it was to achieve so much chatter. Chatter that is, amongst friends of the desolate Manchester United fan who somehow bothered to share his latest gurn with a click whilst the real hubbub and media attention moved onto Barcelona’s open top bus parade.

The difference between Mastercard and Ford at the Festival ran deeper than the effort and investment they made to engage through photography. The vast chasm of energy, creativity and attention between the delivery and concept of two photo ideas was led by the brand’s desire to engage with football fans. Ford wanted to engage, Mastercard gave the impression that they felt obliged to. Presumably UEFA wanted/insisted that all leading sponsors be on display. Mastercard seemed happier processing ticket sales than meeting the hoi polloi.  Ford embraced the whole occasion. They were right to do so, as the pre-match atmosphere at Hyde Park was a true celebration with fans of both clubs soaking up the glory of the great city of London in advance of one of the most anticipated matches of all time. The crackle of expectation in the air was palpable. The clip below shows how Ford, with agency Imagination, captured the moment in time and the energy bottled up inside the eager fans.

As a ticketing sponsor, let’s hope that Visa make a better fist of the important sideshows to the main event when next year’s massive sporting bandwagon rolls into town.

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