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How Iniesta, Thiago Silva and Yaya do the job for Nissan

Japanese automotive giant has embarked in what is probably its most expensive sponsorship project ever. Replacing long standing sponsor Ford requires a major effort, both in terms of activation investment and creativity, to try to rapidly associate with UEFA Champions League, the most successful club international competition in the globe. Assuming a fees investment of around €50m per season, at least the same amount would be needed in activation for Nissan to become the “Champions League car” in consumers’ minds, following 21 years of continued wise activation by Ford.

But besides the actual activation money (primarily spent in advertising money globally), Nissan has understood well that engaging content is instrumental to properly take advantage of this high profile sponsorship project. And that’s why it has signed up to 4 players as ambassadors for their Champions League activation: Andres Iniesta (FC Barcelona), Yaya Touré (Manchester City), Thiago Silva (PSG) and Max Meyer (Schalke 04). Here are the reasons why I believe that, despite the additional investment needed, Nissan’s decision is a really smart move:

1) Sponsoring major tournaments brings along whopping media value, but lacks engaging content for activation. Consumers connect emotionally with players and clubs rather than tournaments themselves.

2) The roster of players assembled by Nissan is highly relevant to 4 top European markets –UK, Spain, France and Germany- and also Brazil (thanks to Thiago Silva).

3) Selecting a group of players eliminates the risks associated to the selection of just one player (even if a big name), such as early exit from the competition or bad injury. At this stage, 2 of the 4 players (Iniesta and Thiago Silva) continue competing in current Champions League edition (quarterfinals).

4) Content developed with players is unique and linked with lots of technology and statistics (ie ambassadors liaising with Nissan engineers), which obviously has to do with the message that Japanese automotive brand wants to convey.

5) And finally, extensive usage of social media, which makes it highly compelling to younger audiences.

It is yet too early to make an educated guess on whether this sponsorship is working or not, and unfortunately we should not expect to learn about return on investment figures. But it is fair to say that Nissan’s strategic decision and initial activation steps tick all the boxes of a successful marketing and advertising project, where players’ usage has a major contribution.

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