Hays has signed a four-year partnership extension with Manchester City in a bid to boost awareness and prove it can “punch alongside brands everyone has heard of”.
The company is also adding Japanese football team Yokohama F Marinos, which is part owned by City Football Group, to its sponsorship roster as it looks to extend its footprint into other international markets.
While a tie-up between a recruitment firm and Premier League football club might seem like an unlikely partnership, Hays believes there are many more parallels between the world of elite sport and people’s everyday working lives than they might initially think. Part of the sponsorship opportunity is recognising that association.
“It’s critical we use our assets to blend the principals of performance in sport and in work,” Hays’s CMO Sholto Douglas-Home tells Marketing Week.
Earlier this year, Hays ran a series of videos featuring Man City men’s and women’s players as part of its ‘Match Your Ambition’ campaign. The interviews explored the personal attributes and skills required to forge a successful career in football and were designed to encourage professionals to develop their own career, using inspirational stories and messaging from the players.
“We operate in all the main industry sectors you can think of and our audiences will be either people looking for a job or hiring managers in organisations. That’s why the exposure we get from Man City via the Premier League is perfect because we don’t need to be too narrowcast in our demographic targeting,” Douglas-Home says.
Hays is a relatively long-standing partner of City Football Group having sponsored Man City’s men’s team since 2013 before adding the women’s team in 2017. The company also joined forces with New York FC in 2015.
Douglas-Home says the initial partnership was the result of a recognition that Hays, which serves as the club’s official recruitment partner, had an awareness and engagement opportunity at Man City. As part of its activations, Hays has created a ‘player CV’ that reflects the real life journey of Man City star’s and how they got to where they are today, while listing their skills and previous experience.
“There are two ways [we can tell our story]. We can engage Man City’s fan base using their platforms, which is where we might want to leverage their help in explaining why we are a partner, our capabilities and our skills,” he explains.
“The second way is engaging through our platforms. Sure, we can’t match City’s reach and follower base but [LinkedIn] is where the juxtaposition between league sport and professional work talent plays very well together.”
Companies our size have not thought they can genuinely put their name on a global stage, punching alongside brands that everyone has heard of.
Hays will also work with Man City to curate new digital and social content over the next four years in a bid to fully use the partnership to reach audiences across the globe, which is one of the company’s main challenges.
“We have a strategic theme around our relationship with Man City which is about building winning teams. This is why we’re renewing, because City is a phenomenally successful team. Fan engagement is a lot easier when we have success,” he adds.
Not just for the ‘big boys or girls’
The Hays brand doesn’t have the same pull as global brands such as Coca-Cola, Barclays or Nike – all of which are major sports sponsors. Douglas-Home is the first to admit Hays is not “a big company from a marketing perspective” and that Hays is unusual in having signed a deal with a Premier League team.
He believes the seven-figure price tag and added expense of a large activation bill stops many businesses from trying out sponsorship. However, Douglas-Home says the amount of social exposure outweighs the need for a large activation budget.
“Companies our size have not thought they can genuinely put their name on a global stage, punching alongside brands that everyone has heard of,” he adds.
“When you add all of those things up, there are organisations of our size around the world that think, ‘Oh Man City? Don’t be stupid, how could we afford that? How would we run it?’. Mid-size companies are not realising just how powerful the sponsorship is in terms of staff loyalty and pride. Sponsorship isn’t only for the big boys or girls.”
The ability to better track the impact of sponsorship has also opened it up to more, and different types of, companies. Douglas-Home believes that 10 years ago sponsorship suffered from a perception of “not being scientific”.
That was because it was being used mainly as an awareness builder, which was harder to measure. Now, however, Hays sees the sponsorship as a content-driving platform, which enables it to track effectiveness more easily.
He concludes: “Over the last two to three years engagement has become such an important part of sponsorship so the ability to track and measure is much better. This is one of the main reasons sponsorship is finding it much easier to demonstrate its value and prove its value than it did before.”