In Autumn 2014, Poke was challenged to reach out to young men in the UK to activate EE’s sponsorship of Wembley and push EE’s innovation credentials.
We partnered EE with 21 YouTube influencers, leaders of the FIFA gaming community, and built a 10 episode branded programme entitled The Wembley Cup. The Wembley Cup format was carefully formulated to maximize drama and entertainment value in this script-less, ego-intensive environment and the results push the volume and quality of engagement to new heights.
What do you do when your future revenue is expected to come from an audience that watches less TV than ever, says that the one thing they could not live without is their smartphone and looks to the Internet for their role models? We knew that traditional forms of advertising and traditional channels would not work with a younger (18-30), high-value but hard to engage audience, so we had to figure out a completely new way to gain traction for EE’s Wembley partnership.
We chose to focus on a target audience of socially active, internet-obsessed, male football fans who looked to YouTube as the home of catch-up football, avidly watching the best goals and most controversial moments of their favourite teams’ games. We knew a new generation of football influencers was being created on YouTube and, armed with this knowledge, we proposed a solution that would match a highly engaged community with EE’s premium brand partnerships, Wembley stadium, in a narrative culminating with an epic football match.
Entitled The Wembley Cup, the program documented charismatic Youtuber Spencer Owen and his journey to recruit & train a team to take on fellow YouTuber MiniMinter (and his Sidemen crew) in a grudge match staged at Wembley stadium.
We chose to tell the story on Spencer Owen’s YouTube channel (not EE’s) over a series of 10 episodes, with the ultimate match screened on the eve of the new Premier League season. Each episode focused on filling different positions in the starting line-up through challenges set by team captain Spencer. These challenges ranged from training at St George’s Park with the Women’s national squad player Melissa Lawley, to trying to knock the heads off cut-outs of their opponents under the watchful eye of Matt Le Tissier. To ensure wider credibility, we partnered our influencers with FA Legends like Martin Keown and Roy Hodgson and to push innovation, we kitted them out with EE's 4G Action Cams.
Throughout the project, our key concern was keeping the content true to the spirit of the individual YouTuber ‘brands’. The main risk in an influencer-driven project of this nature is the YouTubers losing interest and straying from everything not inked in the contract. We had to allow the autonomy for them to play it their own way and, much like with reality show formats, create situations to riff off and to stimulate and motivate in order to drive the performance and narrative.
To make it “watchable”, we needed to make sure that the partnership with EE felt natural and credible so branding was light and contextual in most places, relying on opening credits, naturally occurring branding (we shot some of the scenes on the pitch at Wembley and in the EE hospitality booths) and embedding the colours of EE in the kits and team identities.
We knew that the best way to maximize reach was to use the influence of the YouTubers, so we focused on giving them real motives to share and by arming them with a suite of content to help drive conversation on Twitter and promote the content on Facebook from their own accounts instead of those of EE.
EE's own YouTube channel was the home of extra-time moments, bloopers and recaps of the main program but most of the content was created for and housed on the channels of the influencers.
The Wembley Cup achieved incredible results across all platforms. To date we have seen 20+ million view of episode content, 89% of which are organic (equating to over 290 years of view time). In addition, our behind-the-scenes, teaser and YouTuber announcement videos have received a further 15.8 million views.
With the help of our good friends at MEC, we managed to deliver some industry benchmark shattering paid media metrics (half the average CPV and double industry-average View Through Rates). On Twitter engagement rates for the paid programme announcements were 4 times higher than the industry average.
Audience participation and engagement with the story was also incredible, and the episodes and extra content received over 550,000 YouTube likes with people mostly asking to be allowed to attend the final game. The content was extensively shared and discussed through more than 77,000 unpaid tweets and over 55,000 comments on YouTube.
Finally, initial brand recall studies from Google/YouTube suggest an 81% increase in brand advertising recall among our target audience.
Above all, we’ve shaped a new format that combines content and influence into a potent vehicle, that clearly resonates with this tricky-to-reach market. Something we’re hoping to build on.