The Australian Open digital playbook: Kia’s starring role, new assets and brand integration

The first Grand Slam of the tennis year, the Australian Open draws to a conclusion this weekend but while the champions have yet to be crowned, the tournament can already be considered a major success from a digital perspective.

Across Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Periscope and YouTube, the Australian Open has been a hive of activity over the past fortnight, informing and entertaining with text, photographic and plenty of video content. As Andreas Plastiras, Digital Consultant in Repucom’s London office, notes, organisers have proved themselves innovative, not only delivering high-quality content but through canny integration of official tournament partners.

At the heart of the delivery has been the tournament’s online “tone of voice”. As Plastiras explains: “It’s known as the ‘fun’ Slam, the ‘happy’ Slam and that’s definitely been reflected in the output – even in the case of McDonald’s, whose partnership has been leveraged through the Australian Open’s accounts; its official handle is @Maccas. They’ve done a really good job of leveraging what the event stands for culturally – one of the key events of the Australian summer.”

Repucom has identified key ways brands and rights-holders can unlock value through social assets in 2016: a clear approach to Fan Stories, the creation of new assets and video. This year’s Australian Open has showcased an effective approach to all three.

Kia Open Drive - bite-sized content

The tournament’s digital team has been busy delivering frequent videos, everything from clips of key points, post-match on-court interviews to additional behind-the-scenes content. By Tuesday morning, the tournament’s official YouTube channel had been updated 209 times with video since the start of the tournament.

Car manufacturer Kia, one of the tournament’s long-term partners, has been front and centre of some of the most compelling video content. The ‘Kia Open Drive’, in which players are interviewed on their way to the tournament each morning in a Kia, is not in itself a new concept, but the way the content has been repackaged has caught Plastiras’ eye. “Where previously content like this have just been YouTube campaigns – at the French Open, for example, where Peugeot has been integrated – here they’ve opened that out into shorter formats on platforms like Instagram and Twitter.

“On YouTube you’ll have a full interview in the car, for three minutes or so, but what they’re doing on Instagram for example is packaging up 15 seconds of a really funny answer or a key moment and maximising the value for Kia through that platform. They’ve been very good at producing bite-sized content which integrates key partners for different platforms.”

Fan Stories

A Fan Story is a type of online content – in the case of the Australian Open anything from a player Q and A, to live match scores, to behind-the-scenes video from a press conference or locker room.  Across its platforms, the Australian Open has integrated its partner brands effectively into the delivery of that content. “They seem to be giving all of their partners a clear window to leverage activity through their channels,” Plastiras says. “One really nice example was Yonex, a partner of the tournament and also the provider of Nick Kyrgios’s racquet, where the brand was aligned to both Kyrgios and the event via social. That was a good way for the Australian Open to boost exposure for Yonex as well.

“They’ve integrated a broad variety of brands – it’s been a dedicated effort to integrate partners of all types, for example McDonald’s and the ‘Legendary Moments’; their Fan Story is effectively the best five moments of the day.”

Creation of new assets

This year’s Australian Open has seen the launch of a new official app, which allows users to download and install a new tennis-themed emoji keyboard, compatible with platforms including Facebook, Whatsapp and iMessage, onto their smartphone. “It’s been a very noticeable effort to tap into new assets,” says Plastiras.

“For something like Whatsapp, for example, this is giving you a whole new keyboard, a whole new set of emojis – and the next step is for brands to become integrated in these emojis, for example a fries emoji for McDonald’s. That’s an example of thinking outside the box.

He adds: “It’s not a platform-specific relationship. It’s not like they’ve only utilised a specific social platform’s feature, this is accessible to anyone with a smartphone.”

The tournament has also made use of Twitter’s live video app, Periscope, to broadcast behind-the-scenes footage such as press conferences as they happen. On Periscope the usual ‘like’ bubbles which float up the screen have been replaced by tennis racquets. “The tournament’s had good timing,” Plastiras points out. “Twitter recently adapted so that Periscope videos autoplay on your timeline. The fact a big global sports event has tapped into that already is really positive.”

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