Rematch! EE’s 2016 Wembley Cup scores big with hard-to-reach millennials

November 2016

After the huge success of last year’s Wembley Cup series, EE return to the home of football with a line-up of YouTube stars and the goal of creating deeper emotional engagement with their millennial audience.

From the brand’s launch in 2012, YouTube has been central to much of EE’s marketing activity. As Pete Jeavons, EE’s Brand Director explains, the intention from the very beginning was for the business to “behave like a true digital native”, making YouTube a natural home for the campaigns that established the brand’s presence and personality, such as Fenton Remastered and Bacon Don’t Buffer.

With a core audience of 18-30 year olds, EE are faced with a problem familiar to many marketers. This audience watch less television than ever; they prize their smartphones above almost any other object in their lives; they look to the web for their role models. Using traditional channels and methods to achieve broad reach among this group is increasingly difficult, and increasingly expensive. In 2015, the brand launched The Wembley Cup, a campaign that built on EE’s sponsorship of Wembley Stadium to create a genuinely original and engaging web series starring Spencer FC and other YouTube football stars. Between them, the ten episodes achieved phenomenal viewing figures, helping the Wembley final achieve its goal of becoming the biggest football match in YouTube history.

In 2016, the brand set out to build upon the proven success of The Wembley Cup, using the insights from the previous year to create an even more emotionally involving experience for viewers. Partnering again with Spencer FC and fellow YouTuber Joe Weller, The Wembley Cup 2016 added FIFA legends such as Robbie Fowler and Peter Schmeichel to the mix, and in one of the biggest developments from the previous year, invited a crowd of twenty thousand fans to watch the final in the stadium. As befits a digital native campaign, this crowd weren’t just a passive audience, with the fans turning into managers, picking the team and choosing when to make substitutions. In the words of Nick Farnhill, CEO at EE’s digital agency, Poke, the goal for the final was “to fill Wembley with YouTube fans.”

The Results

When the 2016 episodes went live, they immediately began to gain attention on social media, with the content attracting 380k comments on YouTube and generating some 300 reaction videos. As Nick Farnhill remarks, the level of excitement and attention generated online made the days before the game feel like “a genuine build up to a cup final.”

The second series of The Wembley Cup proved to be a huge hit, with the eight episodes achieving 45m total related content views, including 3.8m for the final, which was also livestreamed by an audience of 1.5m. In addition to attracting a viewership for the final comparable in size to the audience for a top televised Premier League game, the campaign also produced meaningful results in EE’s key brand performance indicators. Brand Recall increased by 7.8% and Brand Favorability rose by 6.3%, while search volumes on EE brand terms rose by 36% within the exposed group. In addition to this direct behavioural impact, the campaign also provided a sizeable retargeting opportunity for EE, building on the prospecting pool amassed in 2015 of over 12m cookies.

For Pete Jeavons, two successful seasons of The Wembley Cup have imparted some clear lessons about the importance of online video. “We created The Wembley Cup knowing that TV wouldn’t engage this audience, and what’s exciting is that it has genuinely deepened the emotional connection with our customers. TV and the rest of our media do an awesome job, but they’re a moment in time - this was something that people came back to over and over again to engage with and enjoy.”

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