Last week's clash between Celtic and Rangers might have been just another big game of football north of the border, but it had added significance for Zoo Media Corporation. It used the game to kick-off the Scottish marketing campaign for its new sports site ZOOfootball (www.zoofootball.com).
Zoo Media Corporation (www.zoomediacorp.com) is spending some #2.5 m this year to boost the number of visitors to its sport site by capturing the attention of its core market - male football fans between the ages of 25 and 35.
Brendan Moffett, marketing director for Zoo Media Corporation, says: "Our strategy is simple. We follow the major football matches and build our activity around them. We did this in London a little while ago and last week in Glasgow. We focus our attention on leading football fan sites, advertise with banners, and then draw in visitors to our own site, where we make money through competitions and games."
Unlike most campaigns, where online spend has been just a fraction of that spent on marketing via traditional media, Zoo Media has integrated its campaign and is currently spending around a quarter of its budget online.
Moffett is pleased by the response: "We're pulling in great traffic by letting the fans set the agenda. It works incredibly well. We pick topics and then open them up. We can then move the subject onto a dynamic chatboard and break it down into chat pieces, which we can then ask for a vote on."
The focus of last week's Glasgow campaign was to stimulate interest around the big game. This was done by working with various third-party sites (see panel) and national newspaper The Daily Record, to get users and readers to vote for the city's greatest football player.
The banner ads provoked debate and encouraged users to go through to ZOOfootball. Both The Daily Record and the sites published the results.
Moffett hopes an integrated campaign will send the message to fans through a variety of channels, and be entertaining at the same time. So while part of the campaign is through traditional media, on local radio station Radio Clyde and national radio station talkSport, the campaign also uses stickers published in three magazines: Match Of The Day; Total Football; and Loaded.
Each magazine gave fans 12 stickers with short captions such as "part-time supporter" and "fair weather fan", to wind up their friends. Zoo Media even carried the message on beer mats, pint glasses, and even a urinal "football game", which apparently doesn't require too much imagination to play.
Moffett said: "It's becoming difficult for many online companies to stand out, so we try to be a bit cleverer, and integrate our message into people's everyday lives. By making the world of the fan more fun, we make it easier for them to know what we're about. We have to be intrusive because we want to be on their conversational agenda."
Twelve banner ads are being used to target fans on different sites in different ways. Martin Calpin, creative director for Zoo Media Corporation, explains: "The online campaign aims to develop recognition of the brand name to establish trust, value and honesty. We're totally upfront about what we can offer. We're all football fans - in fact, we're all season ticket holders - so we're targeting fans at each club as we would want to be approached, through relevant pages and top prizes." Targeting users north of the border, the online campaign started last week using a branded Zoofootball.com banner on Scotsman.com, Celtic FC (www.celticfc.co.uk), the Scottish Premier League (www.scotprem.com), and Rangers FC (www.rangers.co.uk). The generic banners use three frames: "zoofootball.com", followed by "true football fans" and then the instruction "choose".
Banners for the Celtic and Rangers club sites, in particular, are tied into an exclusive competition with Kitbag.com that gives away limited edition prints of legendary footballers Jimmy Johnstone of Celtic and Jim Baxter of Rangers. To attract clickthroughs, the banners feature the brand name ZOOfootball, supported with a picture of the signed prints followed by the instruction "get this".
A virtual team of footballers has been created to appeal to younger fans. The virtual team can be seen on the front of one banner which uses a revolving image of some kids' characters alongside the caption "kidsunited.com". Once a user has clicked on it, they go through to a competition or a news page.
The key to the campaign, according to Calpin, is widening the appeal of competitions and improving the hit rates on prizes. "Most people don't know anyone who's won something when they enter a direct mail competition in, say, Readers Digest," he said. "The key to this campaign will be putting in enough prizes that they will want, like WAP phones and PlayStations, and making sure that enough of them win."