#MarketingExcellenceAwards 2020 highlight: How UnionPay won consumers' hearts through football

UnionPay International (UPI) is a China-based, global payments network. An opportunity to gain a stronger foothold in Singapore presented itself in 2018 when UPI sponsored the International Champions Cup (ICC), the world’s largest pre-season football tournament. That partnership continued for the 2019 season.

As the official payment partner of ICC, UPI saw a great opportunity to engage passionate football fans in Singapore, incorporate its payments technology in supporting game ticket sales, and promote their new partnership with NETS on the NETSPay app. This resulted in UPI and its agency partner antics@play taking home the silver for Excellence in Sponsorship Activation at MARKETING-INTERACTIVE's Marketing Excellence Awards 2020. Antics@play is the key agency that managed the conceptualisation and implementation of the activation, developed a communications toolkit, and carried out media buy.

Challenge

Despite UPI being well-known in Asia Pacific, it does not enjoy the same success in Southeast Asia. For the UPI-ICC 2019 campaign, the key objectives were to:
- Increase awareness of UPI being a global payment network and an energetic brand
- Promote membership and usage of UnionPay cards and the NETSPay app

Working with both UPI and ICC, the campaign had to adhere to strict branding guidelines coming from both parties. It could not stray far from the given visual theme, while still having to give a fresh look and excite the audience. Furthermore, due to the time-sensitive nature of this sponsorship campaign, UPI and antics@play had only a few weeks to act after the release of ICC guidelines, and worked to deliver in a short time frame.

Strategy

Antics@play matched UPI’s brand attribute of nimbleness and vitality with football games, and leveraged upon ICC 2019 as a chance to relate that to the target audience. Recognising that the branding of both platforms was about connecting people and businesses together, antics@play drew on the passion of team bonding, and the sense of achievement standing alongside consumers' favourite teams to develop the campaign concept: #WinYourWay.

The team developed a phased strategy using an online-to-offline ecosystem, combining digital advertising and onsite activation:
1. Driving sponsorship awareness and hype: Build anticipation with teaser ads to guess the teams, announce sponsorship and exclusive benefits, and unveil the teams
2. Brand engagement: Increase understanding of UPI’s brand attributes and brand engagement through an online challenge to win exclusive ICC prizes
3. Onsite brand engagement: In-stadium activation to connect the football community and drive downloads of NETSPay app

Execution

1. Driving sponsorship awareness and hype

To tease football fans as a prelude to announcing the sponsorship, the team made online fans “guess the teams” coming to Singapore to drive anticipation and curiosity. As anticipation was building up, the team announced that UPI was the official payment brand to increase brand exposure, and proceeded to reward loyal customers with the cardholders’ private presale and 10% discount.

Towards the end of March, the teams were unveiled, and early-bird sale discount was announced to all UPI cardholders. A retargeting plan was put in place to convert audience who have seen private pre-sale ads but not responded.

2. Brand engagement

To augment the pre-sale efforts, ads were launched on the ICC website to promote the sponsorship, and drove click-throughs to the UPI Facebook page for latest fan exclusives.

To further fan the flames, the team launched a UGC contest to let fans express their love for their favourite clubs, and rewarded them with prizes such as training passes. Local football fan clubs of the four teams coming to Singapore were also engaged to submit cheer videos onto social media. Football fans rose to the challenge by submitting enthusiastic entries that exuded their love for the club.

3. Onsite brand engagement

On match days, the team ran a tactical on-ground activation, with fan boys and girls wearing UPI swag roaming at the stadium to encourage app downloads for a lucky dip. That further pushed effective engagement and app downloads. Post-match, as the activation drew to an end, the team thanked fans on social media for the love and support, and invited them to stay tuned for more exciting opportunities.

Results

The campaign succeeded in driving brand awareness and affinity, with impressive sales numbers to boot. The story of UPI enabling football fans to pursue their passion fared well with ICC fans and enabled UPI to be recognised as an energetic brand. The team managed to weave a coherent campaign of "Win Your Way" through the multiple touchpoints and foster multiple levels of participation with the community.

Within a week of its launch, the campaign pushed 6,000 pre-sale tickets. The team also challenged and engaged fans from Singapore and beyond with ads and social media contest, to which they answered with a 40% increase in spending. For in-stadium activation, the team also achieved high brand impact, with 60% participants recalling UPI as a sponsor, 56% finding UPI brand more exciting, and 52% more likely to consider UPI products.

Related article:
#MarketingExcellenceAwards spills: antics@play on being brand-led and play-inspired