Ally’s Charlotte FC Uniform Reveal

Brand: Ally
Lead Agency: MKTG
Award Level: Silver
Year: 2022
Categories: Entertainment or Sports Marketing and/or Sponsorship

Campaign Summary

The online bank stoked anticipation for the unveiling of a new soccer team's inaugural gear.

Business Challenges and Campaign Objectives

Ally is the founding partner and front-of-uniform sponsor of MLS expansion team Charlotte FC (CLTFC). As an innovative and growing financial services brand in the heart of a traditional banking city, Ally reagarded its alignment with the most anticipated sports property in the region as a momentous opportunity that would support Ally's "hometown" business objectives:

  • Generate local brand awareness and positive brand sentiment.
  • Engage current and potential employees.
  • Demonstrate Ally's commitment to the cultural institutions residing in the same locale as its headquarters.

When the inaugural CLTFC season was delayed to 2022, fans became restless for any type of team-related updates. In particular, soccer fans were gripped with one question: "When are we going to see the new kit [i.e., uniform]?"

With Ally's name on the front, the company felt a deep responsibility to make this milestone live up to the hype. It wasn't just about contributing to the brand's marketing objectives; Ally needed to make a big, bold statement about its brand and commitment to the Carolinas.

As a disruptive, non-traditional bank, Ally's aim was to work with Charlotte FC to create the most innovative and buzzworthy kit reveal MLS had ever seen.

Insights and Strategy

Social listening on CLTFC channels revealed that speculation on the kit design was one of the biggest drivers of organic conversation among fans. Fans created custom mock-ups, sleuthed for updates, and more.

While Ally could not influence the design based on these conversations (it was fixed in 2020), the company saw an opening to authentically join the conversation and play into the mystery in a fun way.

Research on previous MLS kit reveals showed that they were often formulaic: releasing a hype video followed by an in-market pop-up shop. As a digital bank, Ally needed to do something far more innovative and tech-forward. The brand also saw an opportunity to extend its activation window beyond a single moment in time.

Ally made an early strategic decision to not rely on access to physical jerseys as part of its activation plans. (adidas production timelines were delayed due to COVID-19 and it was possible that Ally wouldn't have kits in-hand prior to the launch date.) Finally, CLTFC marketed itself as "Carolina's team"; even though Ally's physical presence is primarily in Charlotte, it was important for the brand to ensure that the visibility and impact of its programming extended well beyond that city.

Concept/Big Idea

"The inaugural Charlotte FC kit has been locked away, kept safe in the Ally Vault until the official reveal on December 9th. Your mission ... find the kit and retrieve it undetected." This was the unique, fan-centric narrative that Ally created to lean into the mystery and anticipation surrounding the kit launch.

However, the real story was how Ally was able to take this tongue-in-cheek positioning and bring it to life through a multi-week 360-degree activation campaign that put Ally at the center of one of the biggest local cultural moments of the year.

Details of Ally's integrated out-of-home, social, digital, and guerrilla tactics throughout each phase are detailed below. They all drove to the ultimate pay-off for fans — the Ally Vault Experience. This 700-square-foot interactive obstacle course featured a laser beam security system, full re-creation of the CLTFC locker room, mobile video integration, and a life-size 3D hologram of the new kit. It was the ultimate showcase for Ally as a digital disruptor and as a brand committed to making this the most innovative kit launch MLS had ever seen.

Key Tactics

Ally began with a week-long OOH marketing blitz throughout the Carolinas. Billboards, businesses, and Charlotte Douglas International Airport featured creative with a blank white jersey and QR code. Users were asked to "scan to reveal the new kit in augmented reality." When users scanned the code, it took them to a micro-site with a countdown timer ticking toward December 9th. From there, they pre-registered for the Ally Vault Experience and entered a sweepstakes to win the new kit.

Simultaneously, a paid social campaign and mysterious hype videos began appearing on CLTFC/Ally social channels.

On the 9th, Ally debuted the Ally Vault Experience as part of an exclusive launch party for season-ticket holders and Ally employees. The event featured player appearances, fireworks, premium items, and Ally-branded interactives, with the company's "Vault" as the centerpiece.

An influencer campaign, Snapchat lens, and coordinated PR push helped drive visibility beyond the on-site event.

At the reveal moment, Ally's OOH "flipped," showcasing the new jersey, and the QR code triggered a mobile AR experience through which one could virtually "try on" the new kit. This functionality, as well as Ally's various media elements, helped sustain the company's brand presence for multiple weeks.

Results

Local market buzz and Ally mentions during the activation window were four times higher than any other point throughout the year. The 360-degree activation directly contributed to a staggering 138 percent lift in brand affinity and helped spur one of the top-three highest grossing kit launches in MLS history, when measured in sales.

Ally generated over 28,000 OOH impressions, and one-in-four Charlotteans recalled seeing the brand's creative.

Ally's social and PR efforts drove over $1 million in local earned media coverage and over 40 million impressions, exceeding previous regional marketing program benchmarks. Overall brand awareness and sentiment among soccer fans in the Carolinas were at all-time highs heading into 2022.

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Source

"Ally: Charlotte FC Kit Reveal." 2022 REGGIE Silver Winner, Entertainment or Sports Marketing and/or Sponsorship. Brand: Ally. Lead Agency: MKTG. Additional Contributors: n/a.