By Melinda Varley.
Printing brand Xerox was one of the headline sponsors of the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, but European head of sponsorship David Mitchell said the sponsorship was not working in getting the Xerox message across.
There were a total of 12 ‘top tier’ sponsors of this year’s Beijing Olympics, totalling around £500 million in sponsorship. But while this level of sponsorship allows a brand to inundate spectators with marketing messages, for some brands, exposure doesn’t always work.
Mitchell said that the Olympic sponsorship was generated a huge amount of exposure for the Xerox brand on a global scale, but didn’t really suit its values.
He said, “Our last Olympic sponsorship was the Athens Games in 2004. After that we decided that the effort and amount of work that went into just four weeks probably wasn’t, for a brand like Xerox, the best way of getting our message across. It’s a huge amount of work for four weeks, although you do get a huge amount of coverage, but we wanted something that had more leg.”
The brand, which claims to be a global leader in document management and is probably best known for its office printers, was looking for a global sponsorship deal - something that was cool, but also had elements of subtlety to remain exclusive to its customers.
It came up with racing, “We looked at formula one and other racing sports but found bike racing had that cache about it and excitement,” explains Mitchell. “At the time it talked about performance and technology and that’s really where the Xerox brand was at the time.”
Xerox started its racing sponsorship with the Satellite team in 2004 and then in 2005 signed up with the Factory Ducati team in the World Super Bike Racing Championship.
“We’ve enjoyed a lot of success with Ducati. We had a World Championship in 2006 and we’ve had one Championship win with James Toseland. This season we’re leading the Championship with Troy Bayliss,” said Mitchell.
The Xerox business is split into three parts, office printing, production printing high end printing) and services. Earlier this year, the brand re-launched itself with a brand refresh in a bid to change the perception that Xerox was just an old fashioned photocopier brand.
“The company has really reinvented itself since 2001 as a services led technology company. We are one of the leaders in colour printing in the world, we’re the leaders in high end digital printing and we also have a whole service division that is taking people document management and outsourcing it.
“Where we are today is very as a very modern services led company so the challenge has been to reposition the brand from where we have been in photocopying to being services and technology led.”
With the brand refresh being repositioned, the sponsorship had to take on a new meaning also. Mitchell said Xerox has since moved the sponsorship on from talking about performance and technology - which was fast bikes on the track equals fast printers.
He decided to turn the attention to the more human element behind the team, focusing on the team members who make the Ducati race team successful. The sponsorship now carries the strapline, “Many people, one passion, one team.”
Media agency Mediaedge:cia worked with the printing brand earlier this year to come up with the new strapline and have helped Xerox make a success of the partnership with Ducati.
Some might not be able to see the direct connection between a printing brand and a motorbike company, but Mitchell said there is a very strong following for bike racing among most high-end customers.
“Ducati is a very iconic brand. We find that most of our customers, if they can invest £100,000 for a high end printer for their business they are the sort of people who might well have a high-end Ducati in their garage.
“Amongst our customer base we do have some very passionate Ducati owners and bike racing enthusiasts. plus It doesn’t have such a high profile of something like Formula One but we’re not a consumer brand, we’re a B2B brand. We do find that there is a surprising cross over between our business audience and followers of both Ducati and world super bikes.”
Ducati as a business is one of Xerox’s biggest customers and the printing company produces all of Ducati’s technical manuals, brochures and also runs its printer fleet, something Mitchell says is an important element in transcending it’s overall message.
“We work behind the scenes to help them be successful in business. With our sponsorship, we focus on the engineers, the chefs, the physiotherapists - the people behind the scenes that make the race team successful - and we use that as an analogy as starting to talk more about Xerox and where our brand positioning is today.”
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