Ad Week Europe: Building a bespoke sports marketing model

Ad Week Europe: How two would-be competitors left their egos at the door to build a bespoke sports marketing model

Our CEO, Louise Johnson, took to the stage at Ad Week Europe with Dark Horses founder, Simon Dent, this week to discuss how we worked together across strategy, creative and partnerships. Here Louise takes a look at some of the key points discussed during the session.

The chair of the advisory council at Ad Week Europe, Kathleen Saxton, opened this year’s event saying that the past year alone has ‘unveiled collaborations, collisions and consolidation across the industry, of which there will be more to come during these transformational times’. There’s certainly a lot of friction in the client-agency ecosystem right now, with both clients and agencies actively looking for new solutions to the agency model.

Over the past nine months, we’ve been working closely with Dark Horses to create a new way of working together. This has proven so successful that we’ve now developed a combined new business strategy, winning four pitches together in the past 12 weeks!

I wanted to share my top tips for clients and agencies looking to create new ways of working.

Agencies: Think about the drivers of client satisfaction

Any agency partnership should be founded in the desire to remove complexity for the client and provide them with a single, central team that can deliver brilliant work.

Before you consider finding a partner agency, you have to be clear about exactly what you are a specialist in. Once you know where your specialism lies and have identified the gaps that another agency can fill, you can begin to look for the right partner that will make you better together than on your own. Be clear from the outset on what aspects of every campaign you will each own, so you don’t risk taking a bite out of each other’s lunch.

The second thing to identify is a partner that has the same values and culture as you. It’s such an emotional decision, you can’t just treat it as a business interaction. Your teams are going to be working closely on a day-to-day basis, if you don’t share the same values and aren’t culturally aligned, it will become increasingly difficult to build the trust needed for a successful agency partnership.

Finally, according to the moderator of this week’s session, Neon Bridge founder Keir Mather, the four main drivers for client satisfaction are:

  • Quality of work
  • Speed
  • Project Management
  • Talent Consistency

Once you have found the right agency partner, you should be single-minded about working together to deliver against these four areas.

Clients: Be open to a test-and-learn model

It’s a big leap of faith to take in trusting your agencies to transform the way they work together. From the outset, you need to be honest about where your problem areas currently are and set out a clear vision on how you want that agency relationship to work.

One of the reasons the partnership between Fuse and Dark Horses has been so successful is because the client is able to physically sit with the team a few days a week. By placing themselves at the centre of this new model, the client is able to really get to know their team and understand exactly how the work is coming together.

My main piece of advice to clients is to be open to the fact that learning, adjusting and adapting the way you work with different agencies will take time. It won’t be perfect from day one but, give it time to develop and you’ll be rewarded with a higher standard of work, delivered by a team that truly understands your business and can deliver the results you want consistently and effectively.

I had a great time presenting with Simon at Ad Week Europe and I’m so excited about the work that we’re going to be delivering together this year. I’d urge anyone to swallow their pride and be open to thinking about new ways of working with their would-be competitors!