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GOLD: MARS Strauchanie

MarsClient: MARS Australia

Starcom Australia

Entry Category: A local brand or service in a local market with innovation solutions worthy of international adaptation or of world class standards

Names to be credited with submission:
Peter Toone, Client Business Manager, Starcom MediaVest, Melbourne
Michael Leeds, Client Business Director, Starcom MediaVest, Melbourne
Hayley Clarke, Client Business Executive, Starcom MediaVest, Melbourne
David Trovell, Strategy Director, Starcom MediaVest, Melbourne

Marketing Situation: Australia’s biggest selling chocolate bar had slipped in its “favorite brand” ratings; a worrying sign for brand health when consumers typically have only 3 favorite brands that they choose from in store. Our challenge was to increase MARS’ favorability amongst 16-44s.

In addition, MARS’ Fun Size bags were losing share to private label competitors due to lack of differentiation. With no additional budget to address this, we needed our brand campaign to have a rub-off effect on Fun Size sales and halt the sales decline.

The Australian chocolate category historically relies on innovation and promotions to excite consumers; MARS had neither. What we did have was a TV ad and a budget similar to previous years; plus a brand that most consumers knew and liked. Our challenge was to leverage this TV budget in a unique way to elevate the brand from liked to loved.

Insights: MARS loyalists told us they chose MARS to transform their mood; for a light-hearted break in their day. Importantly, this was also the role that their favorite comedians played in their life, particularly those who parodied real life events. However, simply placing our existing ad within “mood changing media” or comedy would be far too subtle an association for fickle brand switchers bombarded with chocolate ads. We needed MARS to be central to this mood changing moment.

These insights forced us to think beyond advertising and consider how to use content and personalities. Sponsorship of the AFL (our national football code and national passion) has historically been used by the category to make their brands loved (many Australians become loyal to their club’s sponsors) and could also be a great mood-changer.

Our strategy was to create a parody of the traditional sponsorship approach within the category by harnessing the ultimate mood changing character, from the ultimate mood changing show. Before The Game is a live comedy / sports show with mass family appeal. Aired before Saturday’s AFL, it transforms viewers from lazy weekend slump to pre-game excitement – a perfect fit for MARS.

Our controversial solution to harness this perfect media moment was to sponsor Strauchanie - the show’s spoof professional footballer. A character guaranteed to transform moods and put a smile on anyone’s face. A character so ludicrous he could get away with the amount of blatant in-program branding we needed for MARS to steal the show.

Key Media Tactics:
Anyone can recommend sponsoring a sports star in a sports show, but imagine the risk of a media agency recommending a fictional footballer who thinks he’s a superstar but will clearly never make the team. For 8-weeks on the show, Strauchanie appeared at the Collingwood Football Club (the AFL’s largest team) with tales of his new personal sponsorship by MARS – so "proving his greatness"! He placed MARS bars everywhere and talked up the brand so much it was comical (and that was the point).

The weekly segments featured his interaction with football’s top players and his guest appearance in the AFL Legends game (wearing MARS branded boots!) which made national TV & radio news. During the game, which was televised live in prime time, Strauchanie was wired to a microphone and commentated live from within the game. He even pulled a MARS Bar from his sock to celebrate his goal – telling the live audience, “I have to support my sponsors”! With MARS central to the comedy plot it was impossible for viewers not to remember, and smile with, the brand. Extended footage was delivered via the Channel Ten website and the clips quickly became YouTube favorites.

Worldwide Best Practices: The campaign is a real lesson in bravery. We took a client who traditionally relied on 30-second TV commercials and recommended a unique and controversial solution to parody the typical sports sponsorship; delivering fantastic results in terms of brand preference and sales.

Our template for success was based on four key rules:

1. Uncover a deep human insight that leads directly to more meaningful brand experiences: ours was the power of MARS in changing people’s moods, and how similar this was to the role their favorite comedians played in their life.

2. Create a clear, single minded strategy that influences media decisions (which channels to use and how to use them): ours was to parody the traditional sponsorship approach within the category by harnessing the ultimate mood changing character, within the ultimate mood media property.

3. Create distinctive and innovative activation of the strategy to deliver the brand experience on a large enough scale: ours was to recommend a spoof sponsorship of a fictional TV footballer who thinks he’s a superstar but will clearly never make the team.

4. Results that are meaningful to the brand, to consumers and to the client: ours were the direct effect on brand preference and purchase intent. Finally, the key learning for other campaigns is that to achieve the best results from content integration the brand must be central to the plot of the story and provide entertainment value by being there – and MARS certainly achieved this.

Results: MARS achieved its goal of increasing its “favorite brand” status. Supermarket orders increased by 30% and MARS ‘Fun Size’ sales went up 17% (halting a long term decline).