Carling’s Mobile Success Story 10 Million Entries To “Be The Coach”

Part of the beauty of football is that every fan believes they are an expert, and every fan believes they know better than the manager how to run the team. But usually fans do not get a chance to manage a team. This past summer, Carling Black Label changed all of this, and gave football fans in South Africa the opportunity to “manage” two of the most famous teams in South Africa for one of the biggest matches of the year. But would we allow it in the UK?

Carling’s Be The Coach campaign gave fans the power to choose the starting players for the Carling Black Label Cup match. This is one of the most prestigious matches in South Africa, and it is played between the two largest teams in the country – the Orlando Pirates and the Kaizer Chiefs.

With an easy to use mobile interface, the fans responded by the millions! In order to be able to vote for players, fans would purchase a Carling Black Label beer. Each bottle cap contained a code which could then be used to cast a vote for their favorite player.

The primary means of voting was via a specially developed USSD application. For those people not familiar with it, USSD is a mobile messaging facility that works on essentially every handset, regardless of cost. This is important in the South African market as fixed internet is not very widespread, nor are smartphones very common. And USSD messages can be free to the consumer!

Fans could vote for specific players for specific positions, and could vote as often as they wanted to. The results of the voting were reported each week in the press and on TV, over mobile and on Facebook. This contributed greatly to the overall excitement of the campaign, and encouraged fans to vote frequently in order to make sure that their favorite players won a spot on the team.

During the 8-week period that the campaign ran, a total of over 10.5 million votes were entered. The Kaizer Chiefs proved to be the more popular team, receiving 5,173,000 votes compared to Orlando Pirates 3,819,000 votes.

During the buildup to the game, an IVR system was used to initiate voice to fans with recorded messages from some of the key players – which the fans loved.

Selecting the starting 11 for each team was not the end of the interactivity for this campaign. Real life managers not only choose the starting team, they also control substitutions during a match. So the Be The Coach campaign did as well.

During the first half of the match, fans could use SMS to vote for the player they wanted to be substituted into the game. With the game stuck at 0 to 0, it was not surprising that fans voted for a striker (Chiukepo Msowoya – Orlando Pirates) and a left winger (Abia Nale – Kaiser Chiefs) to be brought on in the second half.

The campaign was widely promoted on TV, radio, and traditional PR, and used former Dutch International Ruud Gullit, as a spokesman.

The premise behind this campaign is clearly quite clever – everyone thinks they are an expert, so let them actually control the team. But the way the campaign was implemented was also very well done:

  • the use of mobile techniques – such as USSD – that were very appropriate to the market conditions;
  • the effective use of social media to spread the message;
  • plus the weekly reporting of player standings to sustain an ongoing, high level of buzz around the campaign over a two month period

Now we know this is great marketing and wonderful mobile marketing – but let’s be honest – would the UK fans allow this for Manchester City vs United?

With an easy to use mobile interface, the fans responded by the millions!


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