4 months ago
After weeks of what must have been extraordinarily tense internal discussions at the IOC, the decision has finally been taken to postpone the Tokyo Olympics until 2021. This is something of a watershed moment. Tournaments and competitions have tumbled like dominoes across the sporting calendar, as governing bodies have rushed to postpone or cancel their events in the face of an unprecedented global pandemic.
The IOC had been steadfast that the Olympics would continue as planned, on-time and with full participation from all countries across all categories. A glimmer of hope to those still in denial about the extent of the coronavirus emergency, who thought it would be over in a matter of weeks and that we would emerge from our makeshift home offices and be invited to the ultimate summer party of sports after months in enforced quarantine.
With the admission that the Olympics would be unachievable under current conditions, it seems that party invitation has been rescinded. The crown in the sporting calendar has fallen and as all sports events grind to a halt, sponsor brands around the world, and by extension hundreds of agencies and production companies, are left asking… ‘What now?’
With millions of people stuck indoors for the foreseeable future, television audiences and social media users have already shot up. That means more eyes waiting for content.
But whilst the need is there for brands to help entertain people during a dark time, when it comes to creating content off the back of a devastating pandemic no-one wants to appear – quite rightly - to be profiting from a global crisis. Linking to a public health scare is sensitive territory. And continuing to pump out content as if nothing has happened appears tone deaf. A rock and a hard place indeed.
So, what type of content could brands make as we adjust the ‘the new normal’?
Brand relevant content
The first question a brand could ask themselves is ‘do we have a genuine association’ with the subject areas that resonate in a coronavirus world. A fast food chain trying to temporarily rebrand as a home yoga hub could be seen as a cynical money grab. If the authentic link isn’t there, perhaps temporary hibernation is the answer. In this sense, sport brands have an advantage. Two content streams that are in hot demand right now are home workout routines and mental health advice, and sports brands have experience producing this type of material. They can offer helpful content that has genuine value to people without cynicism.
Television will no doubt find a way to stay relevant during this period. Already we’ve seen The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon and portions of The One Show broadcast from presenters’ homes. But in situations such as this, social media really comes into its own. You sit at your computer, click record, and you’re live to the world. Compared to the complicated and cumbersome mechanics of broadcast television, this could not be easier - it’s a no-brainer.
Digital communities already play a huge role in our lives. Now they are suddenly our only form of social community. Research by the Global Web Index found that people are checking their social feeds up to 30% more in recent weeks. It therefore makes eminent sense for brands to work with established digital content creators to keep their brand part of the conversation and adding value as much as possible – for example they may have access to talent that can support, inspire and spread important messages in a time of fear and anxiety. And it appears to be heading that way already, with The Drum reporting a 76% increase in Instagram ads. But again, content and partnerships should be carefully considered in an environment when audiences are very ‘ad-sensitive’.
Companies like IMG who own or manage a vast sports archive are opening up the library vaults, real and digital, as brands and broadcasters quickly react with requests for archive-based ideas. Not only is it one of the few feasible ways to safely create new content whilst we all work remotely, but audience appetites for rose-tinted nostalgia are arguably at an all-time high. As we all struggle to stay positive during this challenging period, who doesn’t want to take a trip down memory lane to look back on the 2012 Olympics, or Andy Murray’s road to Wimbledon gold? Archive provides a wonderful tool for telling enthralling stories, as documentaries like Diego Maradona prove so well.
Branded content may not be at the forefront of our minds at the moment, but it will be a powerful tool over the coming months. To spread important messaging, to curate positive digital communities and let’s face it, to keep us entertained. Here at Evoke we may be siloed in our individual houses, but we remain open for business, available as ever to help create content with integrity now… and are on standby, ready for your comeback...
Simon Cross is creative development producer at Evoke FilmsEvoke Films, 4 months ago