Thanks to a campaign that married television with online and viral components, the Vodacom Bulls made a 209 000-strong impression on South African rugby fans in just a few weeks.
Conceptualised and executed by 1886, a small hot shop within the Draftfcb South Africa fold, it was aired and shared in the three weeks preceding the first game of the new season, the clash between the Vodacom Bulls and DHL Stormers.
Within days of the critical component of the campaign being added to YouTube and Facebook, it notched up a phenomenal 209 000 views (209 700 on March 11, 2013), a number many professional local musicians would be proud of.
Rugby players and fans through the country loved the campaign; it even drew compliments from the team's arch rivals. Importantly, the campaign attracted the interest of a younger set of fans as well as non-traditional, less 'hard-core' rugby fans.
According to 1886 general manager, Wimpie le Roux, there is no doubt that the Vodacom Bulls is one of the most successful sports brands in South Africa. But, as a brand, it has a need to grow and reach new markets.
"Every year, the home of the Vodacom Bulls, Loftus Versfeld, sees many true-blue supporters and season ticketholders go all out to support the team. And every year, the players return this support by facing the most brutal opponents and putting their bodies on the line, week in and week out.
"It's a tough job facing charging Maoris, larger-than-life forwards and razor-sharp backs at full pace. Being a Vodacom Bulls player isn't for the faint-hearted.
"Our big idea was to take this do-or-die attitude a step further. We wanted the Vodacom Bulls to do something so outrageous, fans would stop at nothing to support them."
The agency asked the Vodacom Bulls players to face their most terrifying fear in the lead up to one of their most crucial games - make a music video.
The campaign kicked off with a teaser ad (www.youtube.com/watch?v=SLEc-fb1u1w
) and various online and email components. This featured the Vodacom Bulls talking about fear, about something in their future which was going to be 'the scariest thing they've ever done'. The setting and tone of the ad encouraged the viewer to think the players were talking about the upcoming clash with the DHL Stormers.
A week ahead of the game, the 'reveal' was aired (www.youtube.com/watch?v=cYRRAvi3cpw
). This opened in the locker room with the players looking rather nervous, stressed and serious. Then, captain Pierre Spies steps forward and begins to ... sing a rendition of 'Stand by Me'. The team joins in with a raw, open-hearted, bare-all, humorous appeal to the fans to support them.
"Making a music video was a strategic decision; we know music appeals to the youth, music is also engrained in the Vodacom Bulls brand through the Hougaard/Liefling connection.
"The Vodacom Bulls now stand apart from other teams, the video is creating great likability for the players and the brand. It's a brand property which the Vodacom Bulls own and which can be activated at live events throughout the SupeRugby season," said le Roux.
Blue Bulls Company Marketing Manager, Richard Papo, said the team - players, coaches and coaching support and management - is relishing the opportunity to connect more personally with their fans using online platforms.
With back to back victories for the Vodacom Bulls against the DHL Stormers and Western Force respectively, opinions and analysis has been shared by the Bulls faithful via Facebook, Twitter and www.thebulls.co.za
He said the Facebook page (www.facebook.com/BullsOfficial
) is loaded with team and player news, live score updates and photos which have attracted fans to the page like a moth to a flame. The number of Likes on this page grew by 6 248 since January with just over 10 000 talking about the Vodacom Bulls. @BlueBullsRugby
has seen an increase in Twitter followers from 14 000 in January 2013 to just over 20 000 in the beginning of March.
"In addition to the phenomenal response to our 'Stand By Me' video, our fans have expressed their thoughts and opinions on the video as well as on the team's SupeRugby results on Facebook and Twitter.
"It's a great way to connect with our fans, gauge their thoughts, wants and needs from our Union, which is particularly important for us in 2013 as we celebrate our 75th Anniversary. We have a host of special events lined up throughout the course of this year in celebration of our 75 year history which leads me to believe that our online presence will further increase in the months ahead," he said.