If you look closely at the myriad Barcelona shirts being worn by kids of all ages in the summer sun, you will see the name Beko on the sleeve. It’s an electrical appliance brand, one of the largest in the world and one for whom sport is an integral part of their marketing ethos.
Beko’s Head of Global Partnerships was in Dublin at the weekend, experiencing hurling for the first time at the All Ireland Semi-Final between Galway and Clare. He might wonder if the local management team had put on such a spectacular game just for him, or if not how this hasn’t been on his radar before. One certainty is that he will have left the ground inspired if not a little drained, and probably wondering if he can get back for the replay.
Sport for Business caught up with him before the game to put Beko’s sponsorship thinking under the spotlight and to see what we could learn from how the brand activates with one of the biggest sporting entities in the world.
Sport for Business: Tell us a little of how the partnership with Barcelona came about?
George Mead: Beko has a long history in sport and it was natural that when we looked to grow our global brand awareness that it would be through a sporting partnership.
We went looking for something to be part of that people were passionate about and FC Barcelona was a perfect fit. They shared our core values of teamwork, effort, ambition and integrity and went way beyond being a local team towards being one that was supported around the world.
We became an official sponsor and built our understanding of how that could benefit us over an initial three years.
The next stage was to go deeper, to look for a greater emotional resonance with fans and to make a real difference through our sponsorship.
Sport for Business: How did that process begin and where did it end up?
George Mead: Our product range can be divided in two, the ones relating to cleaning and those related to food. Food is the one where the passion lies so we focused there and went out to look for insights that could guide our next steps.
The one we found was that 70 million people by 2020 would be suffering from obesity and that this was a problem which was escalating.
We took this and looked at the causes of why people, and children in particular, were not eating healthy.
There was a lack of engagement and excitement around healthy eating. If parents and teachers told you it was good for you why would you listen? But if Lionel Messi eats well and that’s seen as part of what makes him the player he is then wouldn’t you?
We brought this basic idea to focus groups in the US, in Thailand, in Barcelona and in the UK and the concept of Eat Like a Pro was born.
We have rolled it out using the players to reach kids who will listen if they are told to act in a certain way by their hereoes.
Sport for Business: Was it possible for a brand to tackle such a big issue effectively?
George Mead: We had the basic idea but we refined the messaging through more research and testing before we were ready to go.
Working with FC Barcelona would give us the reach but we also partnered with UNICEF and that is what gave us the real credibility to step into this space.
They had been partners with the club for a decade and were great to work alongside.
We chose the Clasico last season to kickstart Eat Like a Pro to a worldwide audience. We gave up our brand on the shirtsleeve for the message and activated through social media and PR to challenge people around the world to Eat Like a Pro.
The TV audience was 650 million. We asked them to post to social media using the Hashtag #EatLikeaPro and we pledged that we would donate €1 for each post to UNICEF to go towards specific programmes aimed at tackling obesity.
We expected to get there by the end of the season. It took only ten days.
Sport for Business: So the brand awareness worked, how will the campaign move now?
George Mead: Getting to that figure gives us a budget to make a real difference. The first campaigns will be delivered by UNICEF across South America from this September. The numbers relating to childhood obesity are very high there so we wanted to go first where the greatest impact might be.
We will use our and FC Barcelona assets to engage the population through play. Messi will feature and Gerard Píque is a global ambassador for the campaign, helping us to educate and inspire towards a healthier and a better future.
Sport for Business: The social good will become evident then. Is that the sole purpose or how will the campaign be seen as positive for the company?
George Mead: It’s an important question to answer. All marketing and brand activation is complex but you have to measure against improving awareness of what you do as a brand, how you can make people’s lives easier or better, and the impact on people’s choice of you over competitor brands.
Working with Barcelona and supporting a campaign like eat Like a Pro is a major investment. Beko is a company that employs 29,000 people around the world and we cannot make decisions that are based on a whim.
Choosing to partner with one of the biggest sporting names in the world, and then choosing to address an issue of such global importance puts us in the spotlight.
A lot of consideration went into making the campaign something that would make a difference and that would make us proud to be part of Beko.
Our research shows that it has made a difference already in a business sense. We live it as an organisation as well. Our staff canteens stage ‘Eat Like a Pro’ days where we will have healthy eating options to the fore, and the FC Barcelona messages front and centre stage.
Changing behaviour is not something that can happen overnight but we have given UNICEF a chance to make a difference and the whole company, and many of those who chose to buy Beko, will be looking to see how the campaigns work that are now ready to begin.
Sport for Business: Is it one Global campaign or are you localising as well?
George Mead: Barcelona is global. It has 320 million fans around the world but we want to make a local impact as well. In Ireland, we have signed up a number of GAA players as ambassadors and we support the Leinster GAA Club Bua programme, looking to promote clubs and help them within their communities.
We also have engaged with chefs and influencers in 40 countries around the world, all backing the idea of healthy eating and looking to tackle obesity.
Having the resource to partner on such a big scale is exciting but it also brings a great responsibility to use it well. From September we will begin to see the impact we are having.
The Partnership between Beko, FC Barcelona and UNICEF will feature as part of the Sport for Business Sport for Social Good Report 2018 and Sport for Social Good Conference to take place take place in Dublin on September 27th 2018.