Paddy Power advert

The Positives and Negative of Piggyback Marketing

Game of Thrones advert

Piggyback marketing isn’t a new phenomenon, it’s has been around for years. It involves a brand using the popularity or attention garnered by another brand, event or special occasion to promote their own brand.

When done well, this can be an incredibly effective way to achieve a vast amount of publicity for a small investment. However, when done badly, it can make your brand seem desperate, out of touch and mercenary.

Over the next few weeks, there are a lot of potential piggybacking events for brands to jump on. The football transfer deadline day, Winter Olympics, Super Bowl, Oscars and World Cup. Now is a great time to get your piggyback marketing strategy sorted for the year. We’ll be taking you through some great and not so great examples and giving you some tips to make your campaign as successful as possible.

The announcement a football (soccer) teams’ new signing has become a pretty big deal over the last few years. Clubs seem determined to outdo each other with the campaign to announce their latest outrageously expensive man who kicks balls around. Some of the more creative/bizarre can be found here. For teams that can’t afford to sign global superstars, or to spend a small fortune promoting them, a big Premier League signing presents the opportunity to ‘jump on the bandwagon.’

When Alexis Sanchez moved from Arsenal to Manchester United in January, Yeovil Town — Manchester United’s next opponents jumped on the bandwagon welcoming him to their away dressing room via Twitter. This message took advantage of the hype around the transfer and resulted in over 11k likes and 5k retweets. This is significantly more social media attention than Yeovil Town typically receive, and must go down as a successful piggyback marketing move.

Kendall Jenner Pepsi Advert

One of the most successful piggyback marketing campaigns of last year was Ikea’s Game of Thrones spoof. Game of Thrones is arguably the biggest TV series in history with a global audience that is in the hundreds of millions. After one of the costume designers revealed that many extras wear Ikea fur rug capes, the Swedish brand seized on this popularity, producing a guide to create your own and a number of images showing their most Game of Thrones-esque employees donning the rugs. For a small budget, the brand achieved global attention. Although we don’t have access to sales figures, we bet sales increased significantly.

On the other hand, getting piggybacking wrong and crowbarring a reference into your marketing can make your brand look needy and desperate for attention and to seem relevant. A debt collection company tweeted about the last season of Game of Thrones, ‘If you don’t have a dragon handy to collect your debts, use us!’

When you’ve finished cringing let us know.

A Bad Brand tweet

Pepsi committed probably the biggest piggybacking fail last year, trying to jump onto the Black Lives Matter/general protesting taking place last year. Their protest ad seemed to trivialise what was a very serious and impassioned time and situation. A lesson we can take away from this is if you’re trying to hijack a news story or something serious, you must be sincere and actually have an opinion. Otherwise, it will be clear that your marketing efforts are only to improve your brand, not make a stand on an issue. This is incredibly unpopular and should be absolutely avoided (we’re looking at you Pepsi).

The Super Bowl is fast approaching. This is the biggest sporting event in the US, and brands are spending millions of Dollars on advertising spots. This event offers an opportunity to provide some advice for all piggybacking marketing efforts.

1. Know your audience. 
If the audience for the event/brand/news story you’re hijacking is totally unrelated to your own, chances are your piggybacking efforts will be at best in vain, and worst damage your brand.

For example, if you’re an English Country Hotel, your target audience is unlikely to know, or care about the Super Bowl, whilst those that care about the Super Bowl in the UK are unlikely to be interested in your brand. There must be some overlap between the two audiences.

Oreo Ad

2. Be genuine
Whether you’re using a topic, news story or event, it’s crucial that you are genuine in your approach. Are you offering an opinion, is it a tongue-in-cheek spoof, or is your product or service related? Know what you’re trying to do and what the outcome you want is. If you don’t, you’ll just seem like you’re namedropping in a desperate attempt to seem relevant or get attention. If your brand isn’t ‘down with the kids,’ don’t try to be.

3. Plan in advance
There is nothing worse, or more obvious than a last-minute, panicked piggybacking campaign. Whilst some opportunities to come out of the blue (Alexis Sanchez and the Oreo Superbowl blackout ad), if you’re not prepared it’s unlikely you will produce anything of quality. When Oreo produced their wonderfully agile response to a power failure at the Super Bowl, they had an entire social media team on standby ready to report on anything that happened.

If you do have a flash of inspiration after browsing the news, write down your idea and run through it with someone else to make sure that your idea is a good one and well thought out.

Many of these piggyback-able events are annual, this means you can mark key dates on a calendar to plan your campaigns in advance. This will make sure they are relevant to your brand and audience. You can even get calendars with key Twitter days to make sure you never miss #nationaldoughnutday ever again.

Twix and Starwars advert

Piggyback marketing can be a great strategy which can bring you a lot of attention for a small budget. Be careful though, doing it badly can take you to the Darkside (#starwars) and damage your brand’s reputation — see what we did there?