How O2 plans to use its new marketing campaign to sweep England to victory

O2 is using animation for the first time in a marketing campaign as it looks to broaden the appeal of rugby beyond die-hard fans and bring the nation together to support the England rugby team and help sweep them to victory at the upcoming Rugby World Cup.

The wide-ranging campaign, created by VCCP, has been in the works for more than a year. The process started last summer when England head coach Stuart Lancaster briefed O2 and its agencies on how he hoped the brand could help the England team.

He recounted the experience of losing to Wales in the 6 Nations tournament in 2013 when, he said, it felt like they were playing the whole Welsh nation rather than just the 15 members of the team. He believes the power of support can help to deliver an extra 10% in terms of performance, according to O2’s marketing boss Nina Bibby.

“O2 wants to galvanise the nation behind England. This is a moment when the nation comes together, 2015 is another Olympic moment,” she said.

The campaign kicks off today (9 September) on social media where O2 is running a “flock to unlock” Twitter campaign. When enough people have clicked on the Twitter ad to show interest it will unlock an online film which Bibby said will be the “touchstone” for the campaign.

It features three England rugby stars – captain Chris Robshaw as well as Mike Brown and Courtney Lawes – who grow in size and turn into giants due to the power of the support for them. It will debut on TV on Friday (11 September) as a call to action for people to physically show their support – whether by wearing an England rugby shirt, a rose badge or by tweeting or posting their support on social media using the hashtag #weartherose.

Marketing Week understands that O2 is spending around £8m on media through a campaign put together by Havas. Out of home and digital activity will react to tweets, showing real time updates of what people are saying across social media.

O2 will update the creative as the tournament progresses using the animated characters. People will also be able to create their own avatars in the style of the animation.

The aim is to get 5 million people to show their support, with the numbers counted on a “totaliser” on the O2 website. So far it has counted almost 500,000.

Bibby told Marketing Week that the campaign aims to be “very reactive”. O2 is setting up a newsroom so that the brand can respond to comments and activity as it happens.

“One of the advantages of having animation is that we can change and adapt content on the fly, we don’t need the rugby players themselves to make content so we can be very reactive and active on social media. It will be very much real time in terms of response. This is about supporting England to be giants,” she said.

She describes the campaign as more of a “movement”, aimed at widening participation and encouraging people to get involved.

“The idea is this is reciprocal. This is not just an ad you watch. People need to contribute to the cause.”

O2 itself is taking the lead there. It has changed the signage on all its stores for the first time to show the rose, as well as on its website and social media channels.

This year also marks 20 years since O2 began its association with rugby, starting when the brand was still BT Cellnet.

Bibby said the association still works well because of that heritage and because of rugby’s broad appeal, which matches O2’s. While the brand won’t actually feature on England rugby shirts during the tournament because it isn’t a Rugby World Cup sponsor, Marketing Week understands the brand will still be very visible within the stadium.

“We know already that our association with rugby generates positive attitude to the brand and an emotional connection. We hope to see even more of that,” she explained.


What having the Rugby World Cup on home soil means for brands

Alison Millington

With the Rugby World Cup set to kick off in September in host cities across the UK, brands such as O2, Coca-Cola, Heineken, Canon and Toshiba tell Marketing Week how they’re making the most of having the tournament on home soil through local events, city tours, partnerships with retailers and a focus on real-time digital marketing.