Five steps toward using Hero Content to create an epic brand journey

hero content

By Fabio Tambosi, {grow} Community Member

I grew up in Brazil, O País do Futebol. Brazil, as you may have heard, is soccer crazy—and I am too.

Today, I am going to tell you how I used my love of soccer to help Nike create one of the most famous marketing campaigns in history, by using hero content.

Turning love into marketing

I’ll never forget that sunny day many years ago when I returned home to share the amazing news with my parents that I was going to drop out of school because I had a full-time job as a footballer. What happened next is a topic in itself, but suffice to say, I didn’t become a pro soccer player.

However, soccer became a means to an incredible life instead of the end goal.

My dream to play on the biggest soccer stage became reality when I joined Nike as the Brand Manager for the World Cup in Brazil. The World Cup is the most watched sporting event in the world, with a viewership of 3.2 billion people (for comparison, Super Bowl LII in 2018 had 103.4 million viewers). A World Cup in Brazil – the birthplace of the game – was the perfect storm for any marketer, let alone for one of the largest sports brands in the game to ignite a Futebol movement. And, as Ernesto “Che” Guevara once said:

“[Football] is not a simple game, it is a weapon of the revolution.”

When a World Cup approaches, everyone anxiously waits for the biggest brands in the industry, including Nike, to drop an epic and heroic TV ad.

This time around, it wasn’t just about the big ad, the goal was to become the brand of the people.

Defining the heroic brand

The only way to become such a brand is to know and understand what the consumers truly want and desire, then anchor the marketing strategy in this knowledge. An important insight that rose above all from a deep body of research with our core audience was personified by a 17-year old muse named Paulo who said,

“Don’t give me more heroes, make me one.”

Consumers were ready to be challenged and were inviting the brand into their lives. They were asking for a platform to become better soccer players, instead of just seeing their soccer heroes glorified on TV. This insight fueled how we took our messages to the streets and built a consumer-centric journey that became the foundation of any initiative – be it the “big ad” or the branded experiences in Brazil.

The quintessential questions we asked ourselves were, “How are we helping them feel like heroes?” and “Are we treating our consumers like the pros?”

The big videos dropped by the brand — mini-movies, really — were the most obvious manifestations of our consumer insight.

In Winner Stays On , a 17-year-old, futebol-aficionado became the hero who stepped up when everything was on the line and the stakes were the highest. Why? Because that is what the greatest do:

If you can’t view the video above, you can watch in on YouTube here: Winner Stays.

In another video called Risk Everything we introduced a thought-provoking call-to-action and hit a nerve with every soccer-loving consumer in the world.

This type of video approach is commonly known as “hero content,” one of three types of content used to build a brand (along with hygiene and hub). Hero content is epic and far-reaching. It is designed to go viral. In our case, this was a well-produced video featuring cameos from many stars.

“Winner Stays” was an amazing video … but we spent a fraction of the amount of money it cost to actually sponsor the World Cup. However, we captured much of the buzz through this fun and connected content strategy. This video has been viewed nearly 32 million times by soccer fans everywhere.

How can you leverage hero” content to ignite a movement in a meaningful way? How can you connect emotionally in a way that will result in an epic journey for your brand’s core consumer?

Five Steps to Creating an Epic Consumer Brand Journey

A single consumer proposition (in this case Nike’s Risk Everything) is critical for any brand to establish its voice that will be carried through all communication channels. A strong and consistent creative idea helps create an unrivaled brand narrative that goes beyond the “big ad”.

1. Create a cohesive visual language that transcends your content

The language will serve as a thread to connect the entire journey from product to brand stories. The messaging must be scalable at a local level by leveraging key moments and allowing local markets to amplify this work. This is well beyond just a plug and play framework. The result will be higher engagement and extended reach.

2. Approach as a digital mindset 

Remember to connect all of the dots, touch-points, and channels at the right time and places. Being easy to access when it matters is half of the battle. Use mobile and social media as the amplifiers of your message.

3. Turn products into objectives of desire

Bring emotion to your product stories and humanize your innovation stories. Make sure to elevate and worship your product in all channels. If you don’t love them – why should your consumers? Lust comes before love, make them an object of desire.

4. Be of the city, empower the local voices

Build relationships early and start at the most relevant locations of the city. This doesn’t mean at 5th Avenue or Soho. Map key areas and obsess where consumers live, shop, eat, and play. Learn how they talk and create a vernacular for each location. Knowing local dialects will help you to connect in a meaningful way. Once you have nailed it, go back and reverse engineer the entire journey. Popularity doesn’t equal influence.

5. Think beyond your traditional media – bring the partners in early

Your key partners must be brought in early so you can dream big together and leverage the latest in technology, beyond what is available for us mortals. Leverage data in order to map and segment your most influential voices across key platforms.

At the end of the day, one of the most important responsibilities of a brand marketing professional is to convert brand heat into revenue (example, high-level results: Nike Football Summer in 2014).

Think about how you will deliver an epic journey for your consumers that is more than just the big ad. Here are three questions to consider:

  • What’s your next big moment?
  • Have you identified the single most important insight?
  • How and where will you connect with our consumers?

Are you ready?

Fabio Tambosi is formerly the Global Marketing Director for Nike’s Football Brand & Digital Services. He also serves as an adjunct professor for Clemson University. He will be joining Adidas in October. You can learn more about Fabio on the following channels | Linked In | Twitter

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