The digital story behind Hisense's NRL sponsorship agreement

TV and appliance manufacturer's head of marketing talks through the new three-year with NRL and the brand's go-to-market approach

Hisense executives with NRL players
Hisense executives with NRL players

A digital-first approach, content play and commitment to sports marketing as a vehicle for emotional consumer connection lie at the heart of Hisense Australia’s new major sponsorship with the National Rugby League (NRL), its marketing chief says.

The TV and home appliance manufacturer this week confirmed a three-year sponsorship agreement with the NRL, a deal stretching from live match branding to digital and content integrations, and social media.

Specifically, NRL sponsorship includes naming rights for the Thursday night football broadcast, a State of Origin major partnership for 2020 and 2021 including stadium branding, digital integrations and social media, official partner status on the NRL Telstra Premiership and all 192 matches and eight finals this year, kicking off from 12 March.

Importantly, it also sees Hisense become inaugural presenting partner of NRL TV, a deal with encompasses content integrations across the NRL mobile app, NRL TV and Nrl.com.

Hisense head of marketing, Andre Iannuzzi, told CMO the deal firstly is a continuation of the brand’s strategy locally and globally to align itself to sports and a consumer’s engagement with sports content. In Australia, the brand has previously been naming rights sponsor of the Hisense Arena and Australian Open. At a worldwide level, it’s been a sponsor of the Red Bull Formula 1 team, UA for Europe in 2016, the upcoming UA for Europe in 2020, and sponsor of FIFA World Cup (2018).

“Sports marketing is part-and-parcel of the local and global go-to-market. It drives live engagement, particularly in today’s diversified attention spans across multiple devices,” Iannuzzi, who has been with the brand since it was established in Australia in 2006, said. “Sport still drives that passion and attention. And it’s become more relevant today as a tactic for a brand than when we founded. It’s very relevant to the TV category as well as TV content.”

The NRL’s massive reach as a sport, particularly across Australia’s east coast, was a key reason for choosing such a sponsorship. But Iannuzzi said the partnership was also born from an increasingly more digitally pointed brand approach. Given the brand’s growing penetration and maturity in the Australian market, Hisense has been investing in skills and activities in the performance and digital marketing realm and exploring ways of harnessing digital channels.

Read more: Hisense strives to bolster challenger brand status by reaching the right audience at the right time

“This is about using consumer insights to inform channels and amplify and improve our engagement strategy with the wider community,” he explained. “It’s critical to us to be digital first and that’s how our initial conversations commenced. It then expanded into larger rights as a sponsor after our initial talks with NRL.”

Content player

Iannuzzi pointed out NRL’s highest engagement asset is the mobile app and NRL TV platform, which gives consumers access to match replays, highlight reels, player profiles and archival content. Hisense is the first brand to be partners of the NRL TV section within the digital platform.

“It’s not just about branding, but about product and category ownership as well as content,” Iannuzzi continued. “As a device manufacturer, content is at the forefront of everything we are doing.”

It’s also for this reason Hisense pursued integrations with content streamers such as Netflix and Stan, pushing these services through its device platform as well as remote controls.

“We are well aware of the changing landscape with consumers as we are seeing it. And we are facilitating that in many ways through our devices,” Iannuzzi said. “Having the ability to provide relevant content to consumers is critical.”

In addition, the NRL sponsorship extends not only across TVs but all major Hisense appliance categories. While the brand today is a well-known TV manufacturer that’s tripled sales in the last six years in Australia, the company has also been extending into other product categories including refrigeration, laundry, air conditioning, sound bars and even property development.

Of course, while sports marketing is a clear area of commitment, it’s not the only activity Hisense will take to market this year.

“We have many different experiences of going to market and a growing need to keep investing in the brand itself,” Iannuzzi said. “We are evolving quite rapidly, and we have to look from a wider perspective. We have also witnessed brands recently exiting the market in our industry as well as others, such as automotive for example. It is a shifting landscape.

“We have taken an enormous amount of market share as we’re bringing better value, quality and reliability to the industry and consumers are rewarding that. That brand perception is therefore shifting. Our-go to-market has always been to over-deliver on consumer expectations in areas like quality, value and after-sales service.”

Not only has the landscape changed, as a brand Hisense is increasingly focused on positioning itself as a premium product provider.

“We see the opportunity to evolve into that space. A lot of brand campaigns this year will be in line with that across multiple product categories,” Iannuzzi said.  

 “Our unprompted brand awareness has increased significantly, but we’re entering emerging categories for us too. So while our marketing continues to be brand-based, we are also driving a shift to dial up more performance-led activations. Expanding into a new product category means we don’t have immediate credibility – we have to build that. Where brand awareness is high, we can go into many more performance led campaigns – we have to.”

Driving the marketing strategy are three elements that haven’t changed however: Quality, service and value.

Meanwhile, key metrics of success for Iannuzzi include sales volume increase, but also growing the brand in the premium space and improving average selling prices.

Follow CMO on Twitter: @CMOAustralia, take part in the CMO conversation on LinkedIn: CMO ANZ, follow our regular updates via CMO Australia's Linkedin company page, or join us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CMOAustralia.   

 

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