A new brand Eldorado? In recent years, sport has become an essential element of communication. The values conveyed by sport, uniting, virtuous, fun and open to all, make it possible to bring people together and distinguish themselves, regardless of their sector of activity. How to use it intelligently and make it a topic that is both interesting for brands and profitable for customers?
ibis budget has placed an innovative concept at the heart of its strategy: Smart Sport. A simple and fun method for turning routine and everyday objects into so many opportunities for exercise: doing squats while doing the dishes, turning your daily journey into a workout class, using your furniture to build muscle. At the same time, ibis customers budget can take advantage of Decathlon sports uniforms for free to practice a sporting activity. Free Smart Sport sessions were also provided by professional coaches in 2021.
How can sport create value for brands? We interviewed two leaders in their markets to understand the keys to strong co-branding success.
What are the keys to successful co-branding?
Antoine Dubois, Marketing & Customer Experience Director Southern Europe at Accor : First, there is a human will: our teams, at ibis budget and Decathlon, which belong to two different sectors, wanted to get closer together.
Furthermore, we first look at sharing values if we want to do co-branding. We all have marketing goals in our universes and suddenly there is a shared values around democratization. On the one hand, that of the democratization of the hotel industry with ibis budget and, on the other, Decathlon’s desire to encourage all French people to exercise. This makes co-branding negotiable and successful.
On the other hand, there is complementarity in terms of sectors, our offer and the needs of the customer. We can have successful co-brands in terms of communication, but not in terms of customer needs. In this case, sport is a need and a passion for our respective customers, which allows us to be complementary in the proposal. It is a key element of success.
The third point is the unexpected side. The co-brand must surprise. If it is too obvious, it will fail to impose itself. We are a priori in two very different universes, and it amazes people to associate them.
Erwan Soquet, France Communications Leader for Decathlon: Bringing sport to places where it is not found is one of our missions. Everyone knows that sport is a virtuous activity, but how do you bring it everywhere, to all the French? This was one of the objectives of this project.
Karine Wisel, Communications Manager Decathlon France : Our commitment is indeed to bring the sport where it normally isn’t and where the people are. When we were presented with this Smart Sport project, we thought it fit very well with our strategy. That said, to answer the question, for successful co-branding it has to be done with the right organization, around a common project and good co-communication. All these elements came together during our collaboration with ibis budget†
If you had to define this sharing of common value?
Anthony Dubois: There are three core values. The first is accessibility: making the hotel industry on the one hand and sports on the other hand accessible to as many people as possible. The other two values are the economic and fun character of the two brands. In addition, the ‘smart’ nature of the two brands allowed us to combine them while maintaining the necessary consistency.
Erwan Soquet: Generosity is also part of our company values and it was important to emphasize this during this co-branding. A brand is always talked about, but we strongly believe in sharing, in the fact that we are better together. Brands often want to do it alone and we thought it was important to do things together, because you can be better together.
How did the rapprochement around this idea of Smart Sport come about?
Antoine Dubois : We had, at ibis budget, have already introduced elements around sport. But we failed to find a really relevant device around sports activity. We transformed the customer journey by integrating Smart Sport tutorials in the different spaces, then we continued with Decathlon to offer free sports accessories to our customers from 2020 onwards.
Understanding that there was a real demand and that this added value for customers’ stay, we decided to deepen the experience with the Decathlon teams.
How is sport an interesting activation area for brands?
Erwan Soquet : At Decathlon, we believe that sport makes the world a better place. It’s not a matter of pride, but because we believe that sport has taken on another dimension today. It has become a value in itself.
Whatever the subject, the field of activity, we can solve problems through sports. By letting young people who feel bad about themselves exercise, we help them gain confidence. By organizing sporting events to clear up natural areas, we make a job a lot more fun. Through sport we can create social ties, allow people to exchange.
So many reasons why sport is becoming universal, open to all sectors, because it has a benefit that goes beyond. It is a vehicle to access other things.
Antoine Dubois : It is often said that music brings people together, and it is. I think sports federations. When we exercise, we do something together. It is this connecting side that is important.
Erwan Soquet : It’s very interesting, doing it. Sport is one of the rare activities we do together that appeals to both our soul and body.
Karine Wisel : Once upon a time, the big brands only sponsored top sport. But today we see them moving closer to this social and community engagement. It also shows that brands are not only there to make people consume, but also to bring people.
Erwan Soquet : Being an almost universal foundation, sport is also an infinite field of exploration and innovation. Inventing new ways of exercising, new experiences, is limitless territory for brands. Sports can be done in many ways and we have not yet figured out all the ways to get there.