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Dazn has shown how it intends to KO sports competitors as a consequence of its five-year deal with Matchroom Boxing, with the first integrated ad campaign since rebranding. The Drum catches up with the strategists and creatives tasked with marketing this burgeoning ‘Netflix of Sports’, and gets to grips with its inherent challenges.

Dazn has launched its first big campaign, ‘Game.Changed’, to talk up how it has changed boxing broadcasting and, in effect, the wider world of sports. 

The campaign launched in mid-August and has been distributed across TV, cinema, out-of-home (OOH), video on demand (VOD), radio, digital and social across the UK, Ireland, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Italy, Japan and Canada – its primary markets.

But the creative team promises this is just the start of the Dazn charm offensive.

What is Dazn?

Dazn launched in 2016, speaking a big game about revolutionizing the future of sports in a way few have ever attempted. From its UK headquarters, it is digitally distributed to some 200 countries via CTV, mobile and online. The difficulties in growing an international sports streamer were perhaps made abundantly clear with the uneven comms and coverage of Discovery’s Olympics rights this summer – there’s a huge awareness drive and emotional connection needed to convince people to invest in over-the-top (OTT) sports. 

Ben King, chief subscription officer of Dazn, says Dentsu, which runs its integrated advertising account globally across creative, media, B2B, CRM and experiential, was briefed to “make Dazn more relevant to fans”. Underlining this was the strapline ‘Your Boxing. Your Way’.

“We want to move beyond only informing fans of the next events that we stream and connect with them more emotionally,” says King. He aims to increase brand loyalty and consideration. “We wanted this brief to allow us to tell a story through advertising and showcase what it really means to change the game.”

But Dazn’s output differs hugely across the board. It streams Matchroom Boxing in the UK and Ireland, Bundesliga in Germany, Serie A in Italy, the Uefa Women’s Champions League globally, J.League in Japan, and Formula 1 and MotoGP in Spain. It’s picked up a patchwork of premium rights across its leading markets, all of which need to be emphasized and localized by its marketers.

King says: “We want to do for sport what Spotify has done for music and Netflix has done for TV.”

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While live is the lifeblood of sport, on-demand platforms Netflix and Spotify don’t worry about driving huge audiences around events. The marketing is more tuned to getting people signed up and watching a property at a set time, which requires a greater connection and recollection from viewers. 

“We have to acknowledge that sport is different. Firstly, the nature of our offering means we see enormous audiences come in to watch live events, just minutes before they start – which is unprecedented compared to scripted and on-demand content. So we need to be prepared to scale instantly to deliver the OTT quality that fans expect from a service like Netflix, with the live sport experience, across every possible device.”

Next, once the fans come in, because of its status as an OTT streamer, Dazn is thinking about how it can best bring in the second screen, be it to “keep track of scores in other games, chat with friends about the action, review in-match statistics, check fantasy scores or place a bet”.

There’s an opportunity to make this multi-tasking more convenient, and that’s where we could see a lot of integration coming on the app. And marketers are more keenly thinking about how they can deliver real-time advertising campaigns around sports events on such apps.

Marketing the ‘Netflix of Sports’

Dazn’s creative and strategy was handled by Dentsumcgarrybowen. Its managing partner Brendan Taylor says the goal was to “make a statement to the sporting world that things will never be the same”.

To this end, a 60-second film was created by Chris Landy and Colin Smith from Dentsumcgarrybowen, and directed by Donal O’Keeffe through MPC London. UK viewers enjoyed narration from Stephen Graham in the UK, while the Irish got Cillian Murphy.

It equates the ‘Game Changing’ battles of top boxers to the category-building undertaken by Dazn in the OTT space, and looks to drive brand awareness and consideration.

And this follows through into Dentsu X’s media buy. Daniel Robinson, global client lead, Dentsu X, picks out a campaign highlight, digitally smashing London’s Piccadilly Lights with top boxing talent.

But the campaign hero video has had broad distribution. Both 30- and 60-second videos have been run across TV, cinema, social, display and gaming “given the power of the film and the fantastic voiceovers”.

But on top of flashy OTT in the capital cities, ‘regional relevance’ has seen it take up OOH placements. This approach sees Katie Taylor leading the focus in her native Northern Ireland and ROI. Meanwhile, Josh Warrington leads creative in native Leeds and Yorkshire/north west areas, and Conor Benn took center stage for London and the south.

Robinson says: “This regional strategy is one we’ve adopted across the full breadth of channels and partners across the media plan.”

And, finally, Taylor promises that this campaign is the “first step creatively” in exploring the new brand strategy. “There is work in the pipeline that will soon bring the next level of storytelling to sports fans in the UK and globally.”

It comes as the brand raises its modest subscription fees to better foot the bill for the ‘Game Changing’ content it has promised subscribers. It totalled 8m accounts at the end of 2019.