Market Insight: Moving to their own Beats

14 March 2016 |
Misha Sher, head of sport EMEA at MediaCom, considers the brand strategy of Beats by Dre, a company whose clever marketing has disrupted the status quo.

2016 has only just kicked off, but there is no shortage of opinions being shared on what it will take to win battle of the brands in what is a major year for sport. From the Uefa European Championship to the Copa América Centenario to the Rio Olympics, brands are gearing up to capture the imaginations of the millions of consumers who will be tuning in to follow their favourite teams and athletes. The question is: will the official partners make their involvement count? Or will they be upstaged by an outsider?  

Time and time again we see brands that, through deep understanding of consumer behaviour and clever marketing, are able to elevate themselves beyond any official partners and disrupt the status quo. It may have started with Nike, but the mantle surely now belongs to Beats by Dre.  

It’s been a fascinating rise for a brand that few people knew about before the 2012 London Olympics. Then came the Games and Beats’ clever idea of giving athletes a free pair of headphones in their countries’ colours. They became the talk of the Games. Such was the power of the marketing that Olympic athletes waited in long lines outside of Beats’ Shoreditch House headquarters during the Games to get a pair of their own. This was a brand strategy executed to perfection. It was a movement and everyone wanted to be a part of it. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) may not have been happy, but Beats knew it was on to something. 

Anyone who knows music would tell you that Beats are far from the best headphones on the market, but that hasn’t stopped the brand from becoming the biggest in the world. Like Nike, Beats is a representation of a lifestyle that many of its customers aspire to and the brand supports that message through everything it does.  

In 2014, Fifa weren’t going to allow a repeat of London 2012 but it made little difference. By signing some of the world’s biggest stars featuring in the tournament, Beats created some of the most shared content highlighting pre-game routines. It put the product at the heart of emotional stories, further solidifying Beats presence within popular culture and connecting with millions around the world in the process. 

It was a similar story around last year’s Rugby World Cup, where Beats took emotive storytelling to another level, demonstrating once again that the brand knows exactly how to connect with its consumers.   

Such has been the impact that many have begun talking about the value of ‘official’. If Beats could have such an impact as a renegade, is ‘official’ dead?

Judging by the brand’s recent partnerships with soccer clubs Bayern Munich and Chelsea, the answer would appear to be a no, but it’s more nuanced than that.

While major sporting events attract huge global audiences, the ability to leverage association as an official sponsor is largely limited to a very short time window. That’s why the IOC is developing a digital proposition that will allow its partners to drive value from the partnership 365 days a year.

Official sponsorships like those that Beats has recently signed provide brands with year-round marketing vehicles that not only deliver consistency in brand presence, but the ability to leverage unique attributes that these properties provide. 

In joining forces with Chelsea and Bayern Munich, Beats has the opportunity to build on the story it’s created in recent years, by bringing its products closer to the game and leveraging the pull these clubs have in the brand’s key growth markets. 

Rights holders are well placed to address the ‘official’ v ‘non-official’ question by offering value that far exceeds anything that a brand can achieve through ambush.  

With the Euro and Olympics only a few months away, we’ll know shortly whether Beats has embarked on a new strategy or will once again dominate the brand battle around these two major events. Whatever happens, we can be assured that they will hear, and do what they want!

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