Howler Head, launched in 2021, is a high-quality Kentucky straight bourbon whiskey with a natural banana flavor.
They are also the official flavored whiskey partner of Ultimate Fighting Championships (UFC).
For this challenger brand, WePlay developed an integrated marketing approach to delivering the playful, irreverent Howler Head message whilst raising its presence on social media and driving sales.
Our approach focused on creativity and media, to tell the Howler Head story across social, whilst utilising paid media to amplify the brand and drive sales of the product.
As a partner to Ultimate Fighting Championships (UFC), our media team used data and market research to identify the core audience as UFC/MMA-interested individuals. We then activated against this audience andbuilt our growth and acquisition strategies around their geography, media consumption habits, and attitudes towards brands – phasing our communications primarily around the UFC schedule and wider eco-system.
Creative content was developed to reflect the brand’s distinctive character with bold typography, bespoke stylised graphics and impactful messaging.
Our strategy was initiated by a comprehensive marketing plan that focused on
Building awareness of the brand amongst the core UFC fanbase
Expediting social growth by reaching relevant audiences with captivating creative
Driving engaged Howler Head fans to purchase with direct messaging
Identifying and connecting with audiences outside of UFC fans
Amplifying reach and engagement of competitions and organic content to build the brand
Additional activity focused on activation around live events, pay-per-views, and dialing up the engagement with core UFC and fight fans.
To extend the reach further, we partnered with a variety of in-market influencers whose followers connected with the core Howler Head demographic, as well as UFC athletes and UFC President, Dana White. We worked closely with the influencers to produce content that drove engagement, social growth, and, importantly, bottle sales.
For the historic return of UFC to the world’s most famous combat sports arena, Madison Square Garden in New York City for UFC 281, WePlay created an awareness campaign to maximise exposure of the UFC partnership.
Our creative team produced bespoke UFC 281 assets for the big screens in and around the arena, as well as producing content for UFC 281 to engage our target audiences across paid and organic media, podcasts, social channels and digital out-of-home displays.
Our work with Howler Head has supported the growth of the brand into one of the fastest-growing whiskey brands on the market today. This brand growth has also led the Campari Group to purchase a 15% stake in the flavored Bourbon brand and pledge to take Howler Head global in the coming years.
What a fantastic success story!
Unique impressions across social, programmatic display and video
We started our journey with FIFA in 2019, executing an ambitious YouTube strategy.
We expanded our relationship in 2020, and with the impact of the pandemic, alongside FIFA we conceived what would become the multi-award-winning #WorldCupAtHome campaign. This campaign would go on to become one of YouTube’s top 3 most successful campaigns of 2020 and achieve several industry awards.
In 2021, our relationship with FIFA expanded again, as we became their partner for all Digital Platform Services. This included:
Developing the content strategy for FIFA’s digital channels
Growing the size of the global audience and engagement
Driving commercial opportunities through direct and indirect revenue streams
Supporting media rights licensees (MRLs) with content and consultancy
Managing the relationship between FIFA and the platform partners (Facebook and YouTube)
Providing regular business intelligence and reports on content and channel performance.
The partnership with FIFA and our innovative approach proved to be a resounding success.
FIFA’s digital channels achieved record-breaking results in reach, video views, watch-time and audience growth in 2021. We manage to surpass every record for performance in a non-World Cup year and our 2021 performance was the second-highest ever, behind only that of the 2018 World Cup.
new fans on Instagram, Facebook and YouTube
global reach in 2021
video views – a new record for FIFA
Working with WePlay has been fantastic, they have integrated into the digital content team at FIFA as real partners.
Dunlop Sport, established in 1910, is one of the UK’s most iconic British racquet sport apparel brands. It is the Official Ball of the ATP Tour, whose events include the Intesa Sanpaolo Next Gen ATP Finals, the annual year-end men’s ATP exhibition tennis finals for the best eight 21-and-under players of the ATP season, in addition to the Nitto ATP Finals, a round-robin format featuring the best eight ATP players from the season.
As the lead digital comms agency for the brand activation, WePlay managed on digital and influencer strategies alongside creative and content supported by an onsite activation, as well as planning, operations and logistics to deliver a digital fan wall on the Dunlop Sports stand at both back-to-back ATP Finals events in Italy.
Working closely with Dunlop’s Italian team, we delivered a two-week onsite digital brand activation. Our objectives included creating and managing daily content for Dunlop’s digital fan wall on their stands, engaging with tennis fans and consumers through social media, growing Dunlop’s social media channels and creating and sharing daily content through partnerships with leading Italian influencers.
On the Dunlop stand at each event, we managed a Digital Fan Wall, publishing social media and branded content using our own trackable ‘#DunlopOnTour’.
Across both events we hosted eight of Italy’s most popular tennis influencers, providing them with tickets to matches and VIP hospitality so that they could share Dunlop branded content across their social media audiences, featuring our hashtag.
Our influencer activation included delivering an off-site coaching clinic at Milan’s top private member’s tennis club, led by a Dunlop brand ambassador and current professional ATP tour player.
Throughout both ATP finals, we took charge of the community management for Dunlop Sports’ social media channels, creating reels, photos and other short-form content on the ground to capture the amazing atmosphere at both events.
Our branded video content was boosted online through a targeted paid social media campaign through the duration of both events, increasing audience reach and enabling channel growth and fan engagement.
WePlay’s work with UFC Fight Pass in 2020/21 delivered a 30% increase in subscriptions at a cost per acquisition (CPA) 60% lower than the pre-campaign target.
However, new challenges quickly emerged in 2022, calling for an adapted strategy. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine brought sanctions – most notably the freezing of the SWIFT payment system in Russia – that would translate into a projected 25% loss in the subscriber base in a core UFC market and hit projections for growth in the year ahead.
Rising gas prices that resulted from the conflict also accelerated a global cost of living crisis, increasing pressure on consumer spending power and making discretionary purchases such as OTT subscriptions less attractive to general audiences. This was especially problematic in markets with solid UFC coverage elsewhere through media rights partners.
This necessitated a recalibrated campaign with a focus on highly engaged UFC fans in historically underserved territories.
We began by filling out the picture of the UFC’s international audience using platform, panel-based and partner insights.
The goal was to identify territories with a strong UFC and mixed martial arts (MMA) fanbase. However, we wanted to prioritise markets with low barriers to entry for a dedicated SVOD product – such as an absence of local TV deals – and where UFC Fight Pass would be produced in local languages and carry coverage of MMA events from regional partners.
We then overlaid a consolidated list of target markets with those where core biddable platforms from companies like Meta and Google were in heavy use. We also planned campaigns that would reach those markets at moments of peak interest in UFC Fight Pass, such as in the build-up to major fight nights or locally relevant promotions such as UFC London.
Creative assets were adapted to foreground regional stars like Israel Adesanya in Australia or Paddy Pimblett in the UK, while social content was also translated into the languages that UFC Fight Pass was available in locally.
We then optimised campaigns to enable more effective retargeting, prioritising social and search platforms that had historically delivered better conversion rates. We developed video content at three different lengths for the first half of 2022 – at 15 seconds, 30 seconds and 60 seconds – and used watch times to sort tagged viewers by levels of engagement.
We then retargeted those viewers with paid social campaigns and programmatic videos to turn the strongest prospects into subscribers.
With pandemic restrictions preventing supporters from attending matches, AC Milan needed to find new ways to grow.
Our solution was a best-in-class D2C strategy to convert interest into action and build loyal audiences.
We unearthed insights revealing the club enjoyed a 170% increase in return on ad spend (ROAS) for social followers compared to general audiences. Social followers also spent twice as much online at the AC Milan store.
We also discovered purchase likelihood was increased by fan engagement. Those who downloaded the AC Milan app, for example, showed a 2.5x higher conversion rate than social followers.
Our commercial growth efforts aimed to convert new audiences into social followers, and social followers into loyal fans:
Ticketing strategy to bring fans back to the San Siro, using CRM, first-party data, search and social engagement, and creative visuals with strong CTAs
Merchandising with full-funnel audiences to drive engagement, traffic and sales through the online store via paid social campaigns on Facebook, Instagram and TikTok
Social growth efforts on the club’s Facebook, Instagram and TikTok channels to increase the size of commercially valuable engager segments
Amplifying club content – MilanTV on Amazon and the Racconti Rossoneri podcast – utilising paid media to drive traffic to official landing pages.
With a full-service approach that combines strategy, creative and paid media to deliver success, we are proud to have been able to drive scaled growth for the club, attracting more fans to the glorious San Siro, increasing average revenue per user and growing the overall AC Milan fanbase.
Ticketing – Return on ad spend
Retail and official merchandise
"Our relationship with WePlay has helped us to welcome new fans into the AC Milan community, which is an important part of our ambitious plans to drive revenue for the club."
Yokohama Tyres is a global tyre manufacturing company based in Tokyo, Japan. Ahead of the 2015/16 Premier League season, Yokohama announced a £200m, five-year partnership with Chelsea FC, making it one of the most lucrative shirt sponsorships ever signed.
This partnership gave Yokohama a compelling opportunity to showcase its brand to a global audience, thanks to Chelsea FC’s ever-growing popularity.
We were appointed lead digital and social media agency to activate the partnership, creating outstanding social campaigns to amplify the brand to new audiences.
Our work with Yokohama Tyres is a seven-year story of client services and best-in-class content marketing that mirrors Chelsea’s on-field success.
When first partnering with Yokohama Tyres, we identified key target audiences to produce an engagement-led, social-first content strategy. This was the key to driving significant growth in global brand and product awareness.
Our objective was to engage, excite and delight audiences around the world, telling the brand’s story through the lens of football. The strategy involved owned and paid channels, and was activated across Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
Content was designed to reach a global audience of fans. With an ‘always-on’ approach, we developed digital and social campaigns around Chelsea fixtures, player birthdays, seasons and cultural celebrations. We also rewarded fans’ participation with free tickets and merchandise.
Our seven-year relationship with Yokohama Tyres has delivered some remarkable results for the brand.
As of January 2022, Yokohama Tyres has a following of more than 740,000 engaged fans on social media, with a reach of more than 400 million people globally.
We’re proud to say WePlay has helped the brand surpass many rivals in the tyre industry as the second-most followed company in the category.
engaged fans on Yokohama’s social channels
most followed tyre brand in its category
"WePlay have provided Yokohama Tyres with digital marketing expertise since 2015. Our relationship with the agency has helped activate the shirt sponsorship with Chelsea Football Club and increase the brand awareness of Yokohama Tyres around the world and more importantly, our key markets"
Kazu Sekiguchi, Head of Chelsea FC Task Force, Yokohama Tyres
WePlay is a Growth Marketing Partner for the global leader in sports and entertainment, ESPN. Our main remit is the ESPN Player, where our brief is to drive subscription sales for the SVOD product.
This remit covers four areas:
Our campaigns promote the full catalogue of ESPN Player’s content, to grow revenues and generate year-on-year subscriber growth, aligned with monthly targets determined by the live rights and on-demand content release schedule.
As ESPN Player broadcasts a variety of live sports, audiences tend to behave in a seasonal pattern. Many fans subscribe before their preferred sports season begins – but unsubscribe once it ends.
This is a consistent trend across the subscriptions, live rights and OTT landscape, given that major sports leagues have a fixed start and end date. That means there is a short window when the platform is most valuable for specific fans.
Our search and programmatic campaigns therefore need to be highly targeted to each sports season and fan depending on the time of year.
To solve this, we employed advanced planning and strategy development, alongside our own proprietary data, to create the perfect platform for campaign expansion and growth for ESPN Player.
We used a data-led approach to pivot and plan campaigns based on current sports seasons, promoting content that would actively drive engagement for our target audience. This strategy ensured that ESPN Player would capitalise on relevance and demonstrate immediate value to prospects.
Our Creative Studio developed customised assets for each sports season, which helped ensure campaigns were optimised. The work included assets for individual high-profile games, which were promoted alongside key search terms immediately before the events took place.
During periods without premium live rights, we implemented a strategy to promote the depth of archive content on the platform – attracting new subscribers and mitigating churn.
Our strategy has enabled us to deploy learnings throughout the partnership, which has led to incredibly successful performance, including significant reductions to the CPA for a new subscriber as well an increase in year-on-year subscribers.
Red Bull endorsed Brazil captain Neymar Jr to engage the global 16-to-25 football market. After conceiving ‘Neymar Jr’s Five’ as a new way to play five-a-side football, we were appointed as a strategic growth partner to bring the brand and event to life through digital and social growth strategies.
Our objectives included:
Build Neymar Jr’s Five brand and community across Facebook and Instagram
Drive growth and participation among the 16-to-25 demographic
Liaise with 63 countries to provide localised content and strategies
Measure and provide monthly reports on results and KPIs
With the overarching theme of ‘outplay them all’, social sits at the heart of our strategy for acquisition and organic growth. We deliver a strong content and engagement strategy to grow awareness, drive fan engagement and facilitate participation in key global markets.
Calendar planning is key. It enables us to co-ordinate content output and community management globally. Using available content libraries as well as WePlay’s in-house creative studio, we strategically plan content with the clear objectives of driving event awareness, engaging users to the website and boosting sign-ups.
Serving as an extension of the Neymar Jr’s Five global communications team, we liaise with all 63 countries, co-ordinating content output to provide each market with social video, animated and static creative, copy translations and localised strategies. This commercial growth partnership helps the brand build and monetise relationships with new and existing audiences.
The European Club Association (ECA) – the sole, independent body directly representing the interests of 246 professional football clubs across Europe – appointed us to help develop and deliver a new social media strategy.
The organisation wanted to align social campaigns with its purpose of ‘Placing Clubs at the Heart of Football’, by bringing Europe’s leading clubs together as friends off the pitch to drive and inspire the development of the game.
Our primary objective was to drive brand awareness across Europe, achieved through social media content strategy and production. We have also evolved the KPI management framework, and consistently measure and report on all relevant social activities.
Creating and monitoring engaging content has been central to our work with the ECA.
We have produced and published dynamic social content (including educational and informative videos) on an almost daily basis, as well as static and animated social media templates.
As part of this content remit, we conducted a social media audit to better understand how the ECA was performing online, which included audience segmentation and analysis of messaging. Based on these insights, we provided the ECA with a host of well-received recommendations for the future.
We also helped the ECA launch its maiden women’s football strategy, ‘Be a Changemaker’ in 2021. The programme aims to help clubs create a better tomorrow for women’s football through creative actions that deliver lasting change.
Our other activity has included providing communications support during the European Super League breakaway crisis and facilitating live streaming events and General Assemblies.
Thanks to our efforts, the ECA has continued to grow its reach and influence at a time when digital acceleration is driving fundamental change in the structures that underpin sport.
Increase in channel reach
Boost in profile visits
Increase in channel audience growth
"The appointment of WePlay is a statement of our intent to help our clubs to connect the dots between the sporting and commercial landscape. WePlay bring a strong track record in delivering targeted digital growth outcomes for leading rightsholders across Europe and beyond.”
The National Basketball Association (NBA) approached us with a brief for strategic growth consultancy work in key emerging markets including Mexico, Latin America (LATAM) and Brazil.
Our objective was to conduct a social media and paid media audit for each region, analyse current performance, benchmark existing data against key metrics and provide strategic recommendations for future growth.
The auditing strategy for paid and organic social followed five stages: data harvesting, segmentation, scoring, benchmarking and recommendations.
We measured Facebook, Instagram and Twitter performance for each region based on specific criteria such as:
SEO (YouTube only)
optimisation (YouTube only)
Regional scores were benchmarked against other NBA regions and sports, and we presented strategic growth recommendations for these emerging markets.
NBA LATAM’s YouTube organic social, for example, needed to be stronger. We aimed to take the channel to 80%-90% optimal, focusing on key attributes such as content distribution strategy, increased frequency of posting and format experimentation.
Our analysis also revealed a major over-reliance on in-season fixture periods to drive social performance.
We harvested previous-years data, split into pre-season, in-season, NBA play-offs/finals and off-season categories. We discovered the vast majority of reach, engagement and growth occurred during the season and play-offs. A compelling growth opportunity to explore out-of-season and pre-season content was identified to increase engagement rates and lift performance across the year.
NBA LATAM, for example, had only achieved a 4.8% market penetration on Facebook and Instagram. Data showed 77 million users were interested in basketball in LATAM, yet only 3.7 million follow the NBA LATAM social pages. Similar growth opportunities existed across Mexico and Brazil.