Moving The Goalposts

From streetwear ambitions to curated content platforms, Crowd DNA's Gabriel Noble spots five talking points in football...

With the season well underway in Europe’s high profile leagues, we’re getting to see the innovations and cultural connections that football is trailblazing, as it looks to compete with other major global sports – and indeed for a share of audience time versus other entertainment options more generally. Here’s what we’re seeing…

Football meets streetwear

When PSG played Liverpool earlier this season, you might have noticed something unusual. Rather than wearing jerseys with the Nike tick, they were emblazoned with the Jumpman logo of Air Jordan, a brand rooted in streetwear and basketball. The PSG x Air Jordan collab illustrates how football clubs are beginning to realise their potential as brands in popular culture and, as a response, building on their own merch capabilities. PSG have set the standard, but as lines between football and fashion continue to blur – Poet & Yinka’s collaboration with Puma on their LDN City pack boots, Virgil Abloh’s Off White kit, or Nigeria’s World Cup kit – other teams will surely follow suit.

We expect to see kit sponsorship deals balloon, as the likes of Nike and adidas capitalise on this development and integrate the clubs they sponsor into their lifestyle ranges. On the flipside, as streetwear continues its journey to the mainstream, more brands like Palace (see their adidas Wimbledon collab) and Air Jordan are likely to play in this space with limited edition ranges, or, at the very least, third kits, football apparel and boots.

PSG x Air Jordan
PSG x Air Jordan

Championing football’s new cultural angles

As football continues to secure its place outside of sports culture, so the media outlets diversify also – from the likes of Versus who ‘showcase the cultural convergence happening across the worlds of sport, music and style’; to Mundial, who build on football’s casual culture and produce a magazine filled with fashion features and untold stories of the game. Diverse voices are coming to the fore too. Through the likes of Caricom, which explores the space where football and the black experience intersect; and Season Zine: dedicated to empowering female fans. This year has also seen Eniola Aluko join the Guardian as their sports columnist, giving further credence to this progressive shift. In 2019, women’s place in football will no doubt rise, as the Women’s World Cup edges nearer. 

Season Zine
Season Zine

Owning the conversation

Over the last few years, clubs and players may have been asking themselves where they fit in the content landscape, and how they can own the conversation with their fans. Through Amazon’s partnership with Manchester City in their All Or Nothing doc, we might be getting a taste of what’s to come, as top clubs put out their own long-form content. The same goes for players, as we saw the likes of Romelu Lukaku and Raheem Sterling feature on Player’s Tribune, a platform that connects them directly with their fans. However, this trend doesn’t come without others losing out. Many commentators fear it might lead to less transparency and an exclusion of traditional media, with clubs and players looking to control their own message.

Player's Tribune
Player's Tribune

Integration of football and eSports continues

Football leagues and clubs have been getting more involved in the eSport space. The MLS introduced the eMLS Cup for the first time this year, with each club being represented by a Fifa gamer. Its success hasn’t gone unnoticed, and it has now been announced that the Premier League are doing something similar. In the past, eSports and traditional sports have seemed disparate and incompatible, as League Of Legends and Dota dominate. It’ll be interesting to see whether this push by top clubs and leagues can put Fifa at the same standing as eSport’s incumbents, giving the game a more meaningful place in the eSports category.

eMLS Cup
eMLS Cup

La Liga goes global

Probably the most controversial of developments, the 2018/19 La Liga season will potentially see Barcelona play Girona in a competitive game in Miami, at the Hard Rock Stadium. As clubs and leagues look to grow their fanbase across the world, it was only a matter of time before this was trialled. But the backlash to this demonstrates that there’s a way to go before football mimics American sports like the NFL, who have been present in the UK since 2007. In the meantime, we can continue to see pre-season as a way for clubs to connect with fans across the world, through the likes of the International Champions Cup, where the world’s top clubs play matches across the US, Europe and Singapore.

Miami's Hard Rock Stadium
Miami's Hard Rock Stadium

As well as these five areas, other interesting developments include the way tech is being used to produce immersive fan-focussed experiences as Siemens, The Economist and Bayern Munich provide the opportunity to track a game’s big moments through the voices of fans. Amazon have also finally made a break into Premier League rights, while OTT service DAZN continues to expand and grow in size across the globe, most recently setting up shop in Italy. From the pitch upwards, a lot is changing in football.

We're ten years old, so we're taking a journey back to where it all started...

We’re all about culture here at Crowd DNA, so we wanted to celebrate our ten years by flashing back on the good, the bad and the random (we’re looking at you mannequin challengers).

We’ve created ten videos, each covering a year of the last decade, highlighting key moments – from the news stories that shook the world to the fads that became viral. You’ll laugh, you’ll cringe and then you’ll remember that in 2008 Katy Perry kissed a girl and Barak Obama became president…

2017

2016

2015

2014

2013

2012

2011

2010

2009

2008

Taking notes at Brandalism in Singapore...

We headed along to The Drum’s Brandalism event, held in partnership with HP, when in Singapore this week, where a panel session at the ArtScience Museum had those agency and client-side rubbing shoulders with artists, seeking a shared view on the role of art (specifically street art) in advertising. Inevitably, this was not easy to find, and much of the challenge centred around if the value exchange between creativity and commerce could ever really be set right.

Art and advertising have in fact been dancing around each other for over a century (Toulouse-Lautrec, Rockwell, Warhol etc), but some new perspectives never hurt. Here’s a few quick notes from the session –

It was suggested that a brand’s values must match with those of the artist – easy to say, seriously tricky to deliver against, we’d suggest.

Alternatively, and likely a more realistic exchange, that the secret lies in the brand creating an opportunity that the artist would not otherwise have had; as a modern-day patronage of the arts, you could say, with Coke, or UBS, or Beck’s, taking the role once occupied by Renaissance-era establishment.

Most on the panel cautioned against brands thinking that collaborating with artists could function as a kind of shortcut to cultural relevancy. And Didier ‘Jaba’ Mathieu, the street artist on the panel, said that it often wouldn’t help an artist’s credibility within the scene if they’d notched up a track record of working with brands

Shaky ground all round, then. Though some examples (not specifically current, admittedly) were put forwards of art/brand collaborations that had appealed:

Art House: an Airbnb initiative at Art Basel Hong Kong a couple of years ago, that saw 11 artists given a disused store to set up studio in. The scary, but ultimately rewarding part, explained panellist Matthias Schuecking (consultant and former Airbnb marketer) was just allowing them to do whatever they wanted.

Art House
Art House

Favela Painting/Let’s Color: AkzoNobel-backed initiative with Dutch artists Haas&Hahn which turned 34 houses of a hillside favela into a huge community art project. For the month of painting, community members ‘received an education as well as a paycheck’.

Favela Painting
Favela Painting

eL Seed: the French/Tunisian artist is known as a ‘calligraffiti’ pioneer, working on everything from Arabic script art in New York proclaiming ‘The only thing people have in common is the fact that they are different’, to painting across 50 buildings in Cairo. He collaborated with Louis Vuitton, creating designs over the classic monogram scarf and LV trunk cases (ok, so not advertising really).

Coca-Cola: their quest for personalisation went into overdrive when they set a target of producing two million unique bottles of Diet Coke. Physical pieces of art were first created that, though abstract, featured brand relevancy in the form of bubbles and visual interpretations of fizz. HP then digitised the designs, creating an algorithm that could generate infinite new variations of each design to adorn bottles.

From original art to two million bottle variations
From original art to two million bottle variations

The common ground here? Perhaps a higher than normal level of investment in the cause by the brand and/or surrender of control. Commitment and humility, then – two factors for brands to bear in mind when engaging with art; though there’s a tension in this space that, we imagine, won’t be solved anytime soon.

Brand Beef

How Burger King takes curious pops at its (golden) arch rival...


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Competitor brands normally do a good job of completely ignoring each other in their communications, but it’s intriguing when that’s not the case. Burger King has quite a history of beef (flame grilled, natch) with McDonald’s, and their latest swipe is one of strangest yet.

American agency David Miami has crafted a print campaign which features real pics of rather large homes owned by former McDonald’s big cheeses (so many burger puns on offer in this post), each boasting a patio grill and the assertion that “flame grilling is hard to resist” – flame grilling, of course, being Burger King’s point of difference.

Previous Burger King pops at their rival include dressing a Queens, New York, outlet up as the ghost of McDonald’s on Halloween. There’s a fine line in getting this type of stuff right – if you’re not careful, you can come across as bitter, twisted and perhaps a little overshadowed. But we reckon the rather random, and unexpected, nature of these executions sees them coming out well.

 

 

From launching an NYC office to unveiling our thought leadership study for Spotify, we’ve had an amazing year at Crowd…

At this time of year, everyone’s waistbands expand a little. At Crowd, we’ve been happily growing all year. Of course we can’t talk about all the incredible projects that have seen our team travel from South Korea to Argentina and back again (several times). What we can say is that we’re happy to welcome several weighty global clients to the roster.

January kicked off with the release of the Power of Audio project on Spotify for Brands. The study, which saw us travel to US, Brazil, Japan and Manchester, investigates and celebrates the role of sound in our lives, as well as looking at what the future of audio holds for brands and consumers. It’s a great example of the power of socialising insights: the trailer has been viewed 326,000 times on Twitter and counting.

At Crowd we believe that understanding visual culture is essential for getting to grips with consumer culture. In February, Matilda Andersson, head of insight and innovation, shared our thinking when she presented ‘A picture paints: understanding visual culture’ at Atlantic Monday, a Festival Of NewMR webinar.

March saw us proudly open an office in New York, headed by former Flamingo Kiosk NYC lead Hollie Jones. The move to Cooper Square consolidates existing US client relationships and has already resulted in building several new ones. We’re off to a great start, with Hollie joined by Isabelle Kage of the Insight Strategy Group and senior consultant Tom Eccles from London’s Socialise team joining them both in January.

Our first Rise breakfast event in London took place in March. ‘Superfans’ saw Anna Chapman, Socialise director, map the journey of fandom, drawing on our work around influencers and passions.

Gender empowerment has been a huge theme this year both within Crowd and in wider culture. In May, associate director Jake Goretzki discussed the changing face of masculinity in ‘How to speak man’. His session explored changing attitudes to masculinity and, in particular, what being a man means among millennials.

In June, products and services expert, Tom Morgan teamed up with our service designer Essi Mikkola to discuss how we tackle consumer journeys at Crowd, combining a cultural, behavioural science and visual approach.

At Crowd, we’re well known for our work researching millennials and increasingly Gen Z, so it might seem a little odd to debunk traditional demographics with an event called ‘Agelessness’. But as an insights and innovation agency, we know that as the world changes, so do our beloved cohorts. In September, our brand and communications expert, Eleanor Sankey tackled this delicate subject by exploring the idea that understanding consumers by age traits can be a little limiting at times.

Over the year we hosted a number of Rise events in London and Amsterdam. Each one, supported by Crowd content, including downloadable PDFs. Please email hello@crowddna.com if you’d like to be sent these.

What better time than the summer to make a short film about what we do? Edited by our head of film, Tom Eccles, it’s definitely worth just over one minute of your time.

September saw the launch of CrowdStars our global network of thinkers, influencers, creators and culture-shapers. We work with them to shake up conventional thinking within businesses in areas including immersive workshops and co-creation sessions, expert interviews and forecasting.

Huge congratulations to our head of insight and innovation Matilda Andersson who became a doctor this year. In September she appeared on a panel at the Jaguar Land Rover TechFest where she spoke about millennials and mobility. Have we reached the end of car ownership? Not yet it seems.

In October Sabrina Qureshi joined us as online communities director. We’re not actually new to online communities. We’ve been running them for years for the likes of IKEA, Booking.com, Sony Music and Channel 4. But now we’re giving the offer an even stronger position within our business – recognising the value of online communities in developing deep and continuous relationships with target audiences for our clients.

And as the year draws to a close, we can unveil another great piece of insights work for Facebook, which this time saw our team travelling across Canada on an icy road trip.

Thanks to all of you who made 2017 our best year yet. If you want the opportunity to join our journey into 2018, we’re recruiting for this and various roles so please do get in touch.

Facebook asked us to find out what makes Canadian millennials tick. This is what we learnt...

We’re delighted to post some recent insights work for Facebook about Canadian millennials.

The research involved a road trip across Canada where we conducted in-depth interviews with generational experts and Canadians aged 18-34, as well as a quant survey.

We learned that millennials rely on mobile, find strength in online communities and take pride in their country’s multicultural identity. We also found that when it comes to defining success and spending money, they hold surprisingly different views than older generations.

Read more here.

Catch us at the MRS day devoted to discussing and debating social media behaviours and trends on February 8, 2018...

Our head of insights and innovation, Dr Matilda Andersson, will be presenting at the event; furthering our recent agelessness work and looking at the role of social media in forging cross-generational communication.

Social media is often described as the new bus stop or park bench: a space for teenagers to hang out with each other, away from their parents. However, Matilda will be proposing that social media can also be important for bridging gaps between generations, bringing them closer together. Her insight is grounded in demographic trends, which show the gap between young and old decrease as Gen Z grows up faster, millennials delay adulthood and Gen X and Boomers live in very different ways to their parents.

More info here

Millennials & Mobility

Crowd DNA’s head of insight and innovation, Dr Matilda Andersson, talked millennials and mobility at Jaguar Land Rover TechFest...

When I was first asked to speak at Jaguar Land Rover Tech Fest, I was pretty sure they’d got the wrong person. The truth is I don’t own a car: I can’t even drive. But when I realised the panel was going to discuss millennials and mobility I felt more confident I could contribute to the debate.

As we know, owning a car isn’t the traditional marker of the transition to adulthood that it once was. The same can be said for getting married and having kids. They’re all still happening, just later or in non-traditional ways. Even if cars still play a significant role in the life of today’s millennials, the difference lies in what car ownership means: the values assigned to it, the expectations surrounding it and how it elevates the life of its driver.

But have we reached the end of the road for car ownership? This was the pressing question we were asked to talk about. Beside me on stage were some pretty impressive millennials: online star Daniel Howell, YouTube vlogger Jim Chapman, broadcaster and writer Alice Levine, Neil Sharpe (director of mobility solutions at Bosch), Yihyun Lim (associate director MIT Design Lab) – and Sebastian Peck (managing director Jaguar Land Rover InMotion), who hosted the panel.

While preparing for the debate I summarised mobility into three major shifts which formed my point of view on the day:

SPACE FLEX

Millennials want flexible spaces where they can live, work and relax.

Many millennials live in smaller spaces with fewer rooms than their parents. Most live alone or with flatmates instead of their family. Others save money by living in multi-generational households. They travel more, work more and spend more time outside their homes than previous generations. As a result, millennials crave places to relax, socialise and provide privacy on the move.

As our living spaces continue to shrink and commutes get longer, the car can play its own role in creating a ‘home away from home’ for the millennial cohort.

SEAMLESS

Millennials want products and services that enhance their life experiences more fully by saving them time and reducing hassle through simple design. Technology plays a crucial role in facilitating the idea that every moment counts and that they can accomplish more in less time. Brands that enable drivers to move seamlessly from one space to the next without interruptions to their connected lifestyles are those that will succeed.

LUXURY EVOLVED

It’s not only the concept of time and space that millennials have redefined, but the idea of luxury and symbols of status. In the eyes of millennials, luxury is no longer just about expense or scarcity. A fatigue from too much luxury is driving consumers towards more casual brands and more conscientious purchases that nurture the health of themselves and the planet.

What if as the luxury market shifts, ownership of exclusive goods will increasingly compete against a demand for experiences and digital bragging rights? What if one ride in a luxury supercar posted on social media was preferable for aspirant millennials than owning vehicle themselves?

At the end of the debate, the audience at TechFest voted and – surprise, surprise – 77% of those in attendance didn’t think we’ve reached the end of the road for car ownership. I managed to get the final word: ‘Ownership might still be relevant but it’s going to change. Shared ownership is the future.’

Here’s a short film we made about these trends: