Rapper L-FRESH the Lion and BWM Dentsu have played a slam-dunk for the Sydney Kings as ECD Ash Naidu tells LBB’s Laura Swinton
Is there a country on the planet that’s more sports mad than Australia? Aussie rules, rugby, cricket, surfing, soccer… Australians have a lot of sports to choose from and they take them all seriously. But there’s one sport that you may not think of when your mind wanders down under that’s become surprisingly popular in recent years. And it’s a real slam dunk. Basketball is now the seventh most popular sport by participation, with about one million Australians playing the game.
Buoyed along by this wave of interest and energised by a change of ownership earlier in the year and the recruitment of NBA champ Andrew Bogut, Sydney team, the Sydney Kings have launched a mammoth marketing exercise designed to excite fans and players alike.
‘Rise With Us’ is an anthemic campaign from agency BWM Dentsu that is hoping to use the power of music to galvanise fans. It centres on a track by rising Aussie hip hop artist L-FRESH The LION, ‘We The Kings’. It is the new walkout music for the team and is already getting air time on Australian radio.
The agency faced a unique challenge – the Sydney Kings have had a troubled history. Though they won multiple championship titles in the noughties, the team folded in 2008. It was revived in 2010 but has failed to hit its previous highs. But Total Sport and Entertainment, who took over 100% ownership of the club in March, are experienced sport marketers and were keen to really shake things up.
“I guess the challenge for us was: how do you get people to come to the Sydney Kings games and become a loyal supporter? Even the loyal fans weren’t attending as much last season,” explains BWM Dentsu ECD Ash Naidu.
With a hard deadline of the new season just a couple of months away, a tight budget and a big job to do, client and agency tackled the job with gusto. Ash said the client team at TSE and Sydney Kings was decisive and had a clear idea of what they needed to achieve. They soon zeroed in on a strategy that sought to leverage the reciprocity between the fans and the players, knitting them closer together. It was inspired by the design of basketball stadia, which brings spectators virtually onto the court.
“We came up with this organising idea of ‘Rise With Us’ – and rise with us was all about getting the fans to be involved with the team and to become part of the team almost like another player,” explains Ash. “This whole thought that the energy of the fans is transmitted to the players and vice versa so there’s this reciprocity.”
The agency team knew that a straightforward campaign wouldn’t be enough and that they’d have to be smart to amplify the Kings’ call to action and generate earned media. “You could take it two ways. You could say, ‘here we go, another small budget’, but I think it actually makes you more creative because you’ve got to find clever ways to get amplification. We had to create something sticky and social, to find the right people to work with so it would get earned media.”
That was when Rumble Studios music supervisor Sharika Toth suggested they speak to up-and-coming local rapper L-FRESH The LION, an ARIA award-nominated artist and Sydney basketball fan. The chemistry was immediate and L-FRESH jumped at the chance to write a song.
“It can be weird with artists, we were just hoping that we weren’t overstepping the mark but he was so engaged with it because he loves basketball so much,” says Ash.
L-FRESH met with the players, absorbing their stories to incorporate into the song’s lyrics. And even though many of the players come from the USA, Ash notes that the commonalities between the US and Australian basketball lovers.
Getting the team involved was important from an authenticity perspective but it was also crucial to get their buy-in. The intention wasn’t to create a jolly jingle, but a true anthem that would become adopted and incorporated into the team’s pre-game rituals. In this sense, the BWM Dentsu team hopes that the song is more than a marketing stunt and becomes part of the Sydney Kings’ team culture. And, with a chorus that’s a chant-like, repetitive and a touch warlike, the sticky, catchy track is likely to burrow in deep.
“I think it made a big difference getting the team involve because I guess they feel, rightly so, that they own the song a bit, which is really cool. You want to players to be proud because this is what they’ll be hearing every time they go out onto the court. It’s part of their identity and it pumps them up,” says Ash, who explains that creating something that the players would want to share on their personal social channels was key to boosting the track.
In terms of the production, L-FRESH was joined by producers Zig Parker and Solo, who produced the track in about three weeks. And according to Ash, L-FRESH’s energy was contagious. The rapper has spoken at the UN and has been a YouTube Creator for Change and encapsulates a positive and determined attitude that’s very much in synch with the Sydney Kings. Indeed, his stage name ‘FRESH’ stands for Forever Rising Exceeding Sudden Hardships.
The song has been played on local radio and on a 30-second TV spot. The next step may be to make a music video and Ash reveals the team is bashing a few ideas around.
As for the team, the response from chairman Paul Smith has been glowing. “To have entered into a strategic partnership with Dentsu is a truly fortuitous moment which has allowed us to use best in class agencies across creative and media buying combined with our own long-term experience in marketing sport. I think the outcome is a winning formula for the Kings," he says.
“Everything really locked together when L-FRESH become involved with our campaign, his song WE THE KINGS is the perfect fit and a song we know our fans will connect with. L has a genuine passion for basketball and Sydney's West which means we have a found a person who understands our goals and wants to work with us to achieve success”.
But while it’s still early days, the song’s upbeat optimism seems to be working. The season kicked off at the beginning of October and, so far, the Sydney Kings have won every single match. “Sport is so powerful and music is so powerful and this is the right combination with a quality product,” reflects Ash. “It’s a good start to the season. Everything seems to be lining up - so fingers crossed!”