INDUSTRY Viewpoint

Steve Curnow, Sponsorship and licencing manager, FA Premier League

Football is big business.

Over the past five years the sport has witnessed extraordinary growth in a number of ways, not least the large number of companies keen to associate their brands with the game.

Littlewoods and pools betting has long been an established part of the game. However, it’s a difficult brief to make betting on football scores exciting. Littlewoods and DMB&B were faced with a challenge: how to make the pools fun, exciting and relevant to an increasingly affluent and well-educated football consumer.

The Littlewoods ads are an attempt to draw the brand closer to the game, and in doing so make the pools more up to date and exciting than previously.

Football has many positive brand values: it’s fun, colourful, exciting and slightly irreverent. Through its campaign, Littlewoods has attempted to draw on the sport’s values in the same way as a well-executed sponsorship.

The choice of Ian Wright was a piece of good fortune. Too often companies have fallen foul of badly-timed associations with individual stars. The timing in this case could not have been better – the Arsenal striker is hot property. Ian Walker’s smile at the end of the Tannoy ad, and the look of despair on the face of Wright give the ad personality.

Part of the success of the campaign comes from its ability not to take itself too seriously. The Wright goal attempt is a wonderful parody on the all-too-serious kit manufacturer commercials – up to the final frames we could think we were watching a well photographed Nike commercial.

Real players and real clubs create a greater relevance for football consumers; Littlewoods becomes a credible brand that understands the game, and becomes an integral part of that game. But only a true football fan would appreciate the humour behind the stony-faced comments of Alan Hansen.

There are now too many smiling, newly-created millionaires in our tabloids for Littlewoods successfully to take on the National Lottery and its marketing millions. By wrapping the brand around the sport, Littlewoods has created a real point of difference. If the objective of the campaign was to reach into the very fabric of the sport, it is difficult to criticise its execution. Its observations are humorous, knowledgeable and contemporary, and are sure to strike a chord with the large number of consumers who follow the game.

No matter what happens this season, the faceless and much maligned tannoy announcer will live on in people’s memories. Burn the flat caps and retire the whippets, the pools has arrived in the Nineties.

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