How Tissot found time for a new class of heroes

Watch brand pivots sporting sponsorship strategy to suit the context of COVID-19

Many Australian children have grown up with posters of their favourite sports stars taped to their walls. Fifteen recipients of the Australian of the Year honour have had a background in sport, and sports stars are perennial favourites as ambassadors and spokespeople for all manner of brands.

But in the extraordinary times brought on by the COVID-19 crisis, Australians began looking elsewhere for heroes, to those fighting a very different form of opponent. And brands have begun shifting their attention also.

Swiss luxury watchmaker, Tissot, has a long association with high profile sporting events such as the NBA, MotoGP and the Tour de France. But with those events thrown into disarray by COVID-19, a significant hole opened up in the company’s marketing program, which led general manager for Tissot Australia, Scott Jungwirth, to start examining where else its efforts could be directed.

“Tissot has great men’s and lady’s pieces with great price points, so we are really fortunate as a brand that we can pivot quite easily,” Jungwirth told CMO. “While our DNA is sport, we have also got product that appeals.

“We worship sports stars for most of our lives, and probably don’t give enough credit to others who deserve it. So in terms of how we promote our product, we began to look at who were the people who were most deserving of an opportunity.”

Working in conjunction with its agency, Thrive, the two organisations began to look to other segments of the community with whom Tissot could connect with. That search quickly led them to the healthcare sector and the frontline responders in the COVID-19 crisis.

Tissot has subsequently entered a partnership with St Vincent’s Hospital in Sydney and The Alfred hospital in Melbourne to distribute watches to staff, but with the program only being promoted internally within the hospitals.

“We said this is not a PR exercise, it is an initiative we feel is right,” Jungwirth says.

It also helps that Tissot has had a long association with the medical sector since its foundation in 1863.

“We are one of the few watch companies in the world that still makes pocket watches, and as an extension of that, we make nurse pendants,” Jungwirth says. “We have provided St Vincent’s with a number of those to provide to staff as well.”

While the relationship was sparked by the COVID-19 outbreak, Jungwirth expects it will continue long after the current crisis has eased.

“It has created something of a longer-term play, and it has been an eye opener for us in terms of the sort of people you can connect with outside of sport,” Jungwirth says. “They don’t need to be crazy investments, but they can bring a smile to someone’s face.”

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